Jeep Wrangler YJ High Clearance Steering for SOA Suspension
Getting the steering up and out of the way Short Cuts
by: Ron Hollatz - 03/2001


knuckle before Machining
Chevy flat-top knuckles before machining.
Photo by Author
Tom Steiger machining
Tom Steiger from 4x4 Unlimited making sure too much material isn't removed.
Photo by Author
machining complete
Knuckle after machining, drilling, and tapping.
Photo by Author
drag link connection
Drag link connection on tie rod allows more movement with less bind.
Photo by Author
completed steering
Completed steering system.
Photo by Author

Now that I had my front reverse-cut Dana 44 ready to go back into my Wrangler, it was time to set up the brakes and steering. I had two goals here. The first was to get the common 5 on 5 1/2" bolt circle. Most of the people I wheel with drive Jeeps with this bolt pattern, so if I needed to borrow a spare, I shouldn't have any problem. Since I was doing a spring over suspension at the same time, I also wanted to get the steering up and out of harms way while eliminating the steering quirks associated with this type of suspension. Both of these goals are easily accomplished by mixing and matching brake and steering components from several vehicles. John Nutter has detailed this setup in his High Clearance Steering for Dana 44s and CJ Dana 30s article, but my setup is a little different.

Time to mix and match some parts

I started by gathering the different components needed. I had been planning this conversion for quite a while, so I had lists from a variety of sources. I started out with hubs, rotors, and wheel bearings for a '78 Ford F-150. You can use any year F-150 or full size Bronco from '76 to '86. You can also use the spindle seals from the same vehicles, but a Ford mechanic I know recommended the '92 or newer F-150 seals. They have been updated and seem to seal better. I purchased the bearings, seals, hubs, and rotors direct from my local Ford dealership. There wasn't much of a price difference between the chain stores and the dealership, so I went with the better quality OEM setup. The caliper brackets, calipers, spindles, spindle seals, and knuckles are from a '74 Chevy 1/2 ton truck. Supposedly you can use the parts from a '73 to '77 Chevy Blazer, 1/2 ton truck, or full size Jeep. The easiest way I've been told to identify the caliper brackets is to look for the full-circle brackets with very little offset, and dust shields built in. This bracket is real common, so if the first set you try doesn't fit just get another. I also used new bearings, seals, and calipers. These are all critical components and I felt more comfortable with new ones.

The knuckles are the most important component for the high clearance steering. Both of the knuckles will have large flat areas on top. The driver's side already has a steering arm attached with 3 long studs. The studs will not be present on the passenger's side, but the bosses will be in the casting. The passenger's side knuckle will need the top surfaced machined flat and the holes drilled and tapped for the studs. This machining is critical, so it should be done by a competent machine shop. New steering arms will also need to be made for both sides with tapered mounting holes. This is not a common taper size (making it expensive), so make sure your machine shop has the correct one. The steering arms also need to be angled in to provide tire clearance. The arms are attached to the knuckle using studs, conical washers, and lock nuts.

Now it was time to build the steering

Some people prefer to have both the tie rod and drag link attached to the passenger side steering arm, but my drag link connects to the tie rod a few inches from the passenger side. After looking at both types of systems, Tom and I decided there was less chance for bind with this steering setup. We also chose to use tie-rod ends instead of heim joints on the steering linkage. Heim joints will give you a little more travel, but at the expense of durability. We used a tie-rod end with a mounting hole for a steering stabilizer for the tie rod. Tom enlarged the mounting hole and reversed the taper to fit a matching tie-rod end. This setup also allows me to replace only the damaged components, instead of the whole assembly when damaged.

The tie rod and drag link were both made from 1 1/4" diameter, 5/16" wall DOM steel tubing. This material was chosen because it is much easier to repair on the trail than chrome-moly. Tom also machined a flat spot into each piece, making adjustment a snap. The full-size truck tie-rod ends and heavy tubing should be able to handle anything I can run into.

Putting it all together

Now that all the pieces were built, it was time for assembly. First to go on were the knuckles with a new set of ball-joints. A special tool is required to install the ball-joints, but it can be rented or borrowed from most parts stores. Next we bolted the steering arms to the knuckles using new studs, conical washers, and nuts from the local Chevy dealer. We then installed the tie rod and drag link. I was using a drop pitman arm with my 4" lift, but this ended up being to much with the new steering. Tom bored out the hole in a stock YJ arm so it would fit the larger tie-rod end.

Once the Warn axle shafts were installed, the axle was ready for the brakes. I trimmed the dust shield off the caliper and bolted them to the knuckles along with the spindles. Before installing the hubs and rotors, I roughed up the surface of the rotors so the pads would break in sooner. All that was left was to bolt on the calipers and a new set of Warn locking hubs. After assembly everything looked like it came right from the factory.

While my Jeep was up in the air we did some testing of the steering system. Even with the Revolver Shackles we couldn't get the steering to bind in any direction. The tie rod and drag link are now far enough out of the way, I shouldn't have to worry about bending them when running into things. After a quick alignment we used a ramp for some more testing with the same results. On the road the steering feels great with little or no bump steer and no wander, even without a steering stabilizer. I was concerend how my Jeep would handle after the spring-over, but so far it feels great. I don't think any spring-over vehicle should be without this steering conversion.

Contacts: Related Links:
  • 4X4 Unlimited
    Dept. ORN
    10025 40th Ave. NE.
    Elgin
    , MN 55932 USA
    Phone 507-285-1231
  • Warn Industries, Inc.
    Dept ORN
    12900 S.E. Capps Road
    Clackamas, Oregon 97015 U.S.A.
    Phone 800.543.9276


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