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Hydrostatic Steering

Last year, at Dinkey Creek, I broke my AGR steering box.  The field fix solution was to buy a stock steering box from a scrap yard.  All we could find was a '88 Jeep Wagoneer, so I bought that box.  It steered the wheels, but sucked.  At a stop the steering was weak.  At speed it was super powerful, basically the opposite you're looking for in a steering box.  Over the last few months, the pump was been whining and the steering power was getting weaker and weaker.  I had a decision to make.  Either drop more cash into a stock steering setup that never worked all that great with 38.5" tires at 5psi, or upgrade to a "full hydro" or hydrostatic steering setup. 

06/11/05 - I went the cheap and easy route with an 8" stroke, 2" diameter push-pull (unbalanced) piston and an Orbitrol.  I kept the AGR "Super Pump", the stock reservoir and the 1" solid bar tie-rod that I have been running all along on this front axle.  I mounted the Orbitrol down on the frame near where the steering box use to be.  It's a bit further back, and higher so it shouldn't interfere with anything.  Basically, it's directly under the radiator.  It was a lot of work to get the air bubbles out, but now that they are (as far as I can tell) the steering is great.  The stock steering box gave me about 3.75 turns lock-to-lock.  This setup is about 1.75 turns, so it's very quick.  It's a little touchy at 50MPH, but I don't drive that fast very often.  Most of the time when it's going that fast, it's on a trailer :)

10/25/05 - Over the past several months I've been getting more and more disappointed with the steering.  My main concern is the air bubbles that keep coming back (at least I believe it's air).  When I shut the engine off, about half the time the steering basically goes to neutral (for lack of a better term).  When I start the engine, I turn the steering wheel slowly to the left or right and it "catches" within a quarter turn or so.  After that it stays functioning until I turn the engine off again.  A couple weeks ago I was wheeling at Cougar Buttes and I lost steering for a little bit while the engine was still running.  I was facing pretty steep down hill and I think I got air trapped somewhere.  I blame these bubbles on the stock power steering reservoir.  The capacity is way too little and I don't think it offers any aeration control at all.  Solution: Decent reservoir.  I found one at Performance Off-Road that I liked.  It has a larger reservoir, a filter and cooling fins.

Another issue with the steering that is only slightly frustrating is the unbalanced cylinder.  When I drive down a curvy road and I'm steering often, the wheel "walks" around to the left.  This is because turning left is slower than turning right.  Lock-to-lock, left to right is about 2 turns.  Lock-to-lock, right to left is about 1.5 turns.  This means that every time I turn a little right, I have to turn more left to get back to center.  Solution: Balanced cylinder.

Today I ordered my parts from Performance Off-Road.  A reservoir, balanced cylinder, (2) cylinder mounts, (2) clevis ends, (2) heims, (2) tubing ends for the heims and (2) tubing ends for 7/8"-18 tie rod ends.  The cylinder will mount on 1 3/4" tubing after I make a bridge, so that's the two cylinder mounts.  The clevis ends attach to the ends of the cylinder and mate to the heims.  The tubing ends for the heims will go to 1.5" x.25" wall tubing, then to the other tubing ends for the tie rod ends.  Performance doesn't stock the tie rod ends, so I'll have to get those somewhere else.  He's also back-ordered on one of the parts, don't recall which one.  I told him just to hold the order until everything is in and ship it all at the same time.  Should be a week or two.

10/31/05 - I called PartsMikeParts today and ordered my tie rod ends.  I wanted the shortest ones possible so I got two of the ES2010L tie rod ends and two jam nuts.  The lady on the phone said it would ship today.

11/02/05 - The tie rod ends and jam nuts arrived from PartsMikeParts today

11/15/05 - I called Performance Off-Road today because I still haven't seen my steering parts.  (also I was concerned that my credit card was charged on 10/27).  Sean told me that the parts shipped on 11/8 and gave me a UPS tracking number.  I checked UPS and they're due to arrive today.  If I were just a little more patient I wouldn't have needed to call. I'm still a little disturbed that the charge card was rung up 12 days before shipment, but I didn't bother mentioning it again (we talked about it a week or so ago.

I also logged on to Summit's website to look at power steering coolers.  I found a nice kit with hoses and mounting hardware for $40, so I bought it.  I also saw a throttle body spacer for a lot less money than I've seen anywhere else, so I ordered that too.

Update: The parts from Performance Off-Road arrived as promised, well almost all of them.  According to the receipt the cylinder shipped separately.  I'm sure it'll arrive tomorrow.  For now take a look at the parts I have so far:

From left to right: ball joints and tube adaptors, heims and tube adaptors, clevis', cylinder mount, reservoir / filter / cooler.

The ball joints are from PartsMikeParts and everything else is from Performance Off-Road.

11/15/05 - I called Performance again today.  Left them a message asking about the cylinder.

11/21/05 - I called Performance again today.  Unfortunately he didn't return my call from last week.  Sean told me that the cylinder was drop shipped a couple days after my other stuff shipped, so maybe it'll arrive today.  On the one hand I feel I'm a pest when it comes to these things, but on the other hand I wish vendors would give me too much info, instead of leaving me wondering.

Update:  The UPS guy didn't bother ringing the door bell.  I opened the door to go get the mail and my cylinder was sitting out there.  It was probably out there when I was asking Sean where it was :)

12/06/05 - I ordered steering arms today.  My old steering arms measure 6" from the center of the ball joint on the knuckle to the center of the ball joint on the tie rod.  The new ones will be 7.25".  This will help slow the steering down.  I was hoping the new steering cylinder would do that since it's 2.5" diameter and the old one is 2", but since the new one has a shaft with a larger diameter, it's not going to change much.  The new arms should take me from approx 1.5 turns lock-to-lock, to around 2 or 2.25 turns.

12/08/05 - The steering arms arrived today.  Gotta be pleased with the turn around time at PartsMikeParts.

12/20/05 - I finally got to work on the steering today.  I stripped the unbalanced cylinder off the Jeep along with the tie rod.  Then I cut off the monster bracket that I had for the cylinder to mount to and cleaned up the area with the grinder.  Next I bent up the tubing that the new balanced cylinder mounts to.  Then I used a hole saw to cut the ends to mate up to the axle tube.  After it was welded on I painted everything.  Next I cut the tubing to go between the heims and the ball joints, welded the tubing adaptors in and painted them up.  Now it was time to limit the cylinders travel so it doesn't overpower the steering stops and break something (like the ball joint).  1.75"x0.120" wall tubing fits perfectly over the 1.5" O.D. cylinder shaft, so I measured up each side and cut them out.  I welded them to the clevis' then painted them up.  I also figured out how the new power steering cooler and reservoir will mount up.  I drew the bracket for the reservoir, but I'll cut it out tomorrow.  I also measured the two hoses I need to get from Topline tomorrow.  Last thing I did was I installed the throttle body spacer.

12/21/05 - After picking up the coil-over springs from Jack today I stopped by Topline to get a couple hoses.  When I got home I worked on the Jeep Paint project, and the steering.  I built the bracket for the reservoir that I designed yesterday.  After painting it I installed the reservoir and the power steering cooler.  All the hoses worked perfectly.  I disconnected the hoses at the Orbitrol that go to the cylinder.  I poured fluid in there to fill both sides of the cylinder and the hoses.  After assembling everything I poured 2 quarts into the reservoir and fired up the engine.  It was real simple to bleed and I didn't even have to crack a fitting anywhere in the system.  The turns lock-to-lock ended up being 2.5, exactly what the calculator said it would be. :)

04/21/10 - It's been a few years since I've worked on the steering, but it needs an update.  I've been dealing with the current steering valve for too long and it's time to put a nice one in there.  What I don't like about the current valve. I have to prime it everytime I start the engine.  When I first start the engine, the steering wheel free-spins.  What I do is spin it real slow until I find that magic spot and it engages.  Next, it's not load reactive.  Sometimes that's a good thing, but the downside is that it doesn't self center.  It makes driving down the street challenging.  There is no such thing as driving straight.  My friend Quinn hooked me up with a discount at Howe.  I called and placed the order today.  It's going to be 10 days before they get it in stock, then they have to ship it to me.