|Install and Review of Sam's Heavy Duty Steering Box Bracket for '76-'86 CJs||Short Cuts|
By: John Nutter - 12/2001
Solve your steering box bracket woes, permanently.
While the stock '76 - '86 steering box brackets are fine for moderately sized tires, the reliabilty of the 2 piece, .18" thick stamped steel brackets comes into question when used with the large tire sizes seen on todays extreme trails. Sam's Offroad offers an upgrade over the stock brackets in the form of their one piece, .5" thick heavy duty bolt on steering box bracket.
|The Sam's bracket and hardware.|
|The factory brackets.|
|One of the holes on the original bracket was starting to crack.|
|The original brackets. Note the bolts dropping down out of the frame to fix an old problem with broken off bolts in the frame.|
I was surprised at the weight when I picked up the box with the bracket inside. I knew it was beefy, but you really need to hold this part to appreciate the amount of steel that was used. After the box was opened I could appreciate the craftsmanship that went into making this part. The cuts and welds on the bracket were very professional looking, all the bolts were grade 8 and the spacers were cut from very thick tubing.
Installation was fairly easy. If you have a winch bumper, you may want to remove it for better access to the steering box and brackets. The first step is to remove the original brackets. This is very straight forward, except that you will need an E-14 external (female) Torx socket for the upper 2 bolts on the steering box itself. The fit of the socket will be tight on these bolts, tap the socket on with a hammer to make sure that it's fully seated before attempting to remove them.
Once the factory brackets are off, it's time to install the Sam's bracket. Sam's includes detailed instructions, including optional instructions for adding in an extra bolt between the bracket and frame. Locating the new bolt hole is easy. Make a template of the top of the bracket and screw a bolt into each of the holes. Set this template on the frame and drop a bolt through the two exiting holes to locate the template. Center punch the new hole and drill to 1/2". After this follow the instructions for install. Start with upper rear bolt on the steering box since this is the hardest to reach. Use the bolts and spacers provided to attach the steering box to the bracket, the instructions detail which bolts and spacers to use in which locations. Finally, bolt the box to the frame. Once again, follow the instructions to be sure you use the correct bolts and spacers at each point.
|Locating the additional hole in the frame.||The hole after drilling.||Top view of the old holes plus the new hole.|
My installation was complicated by the fact that the three bolts on the bottom of the frame had broken off long ago. My solution at the time was to knock out the nuts and drop bolts down through the holes, from inside the frame. This worked well for a time, but eventually the holes wore and the bolts were nearly pulled through. Surprisingly, I never had any troubles becuase of this. Adding in some thick washers or steel spacers inside of the frame would have prevented this problem. I made some thick steel inserts that were put inside the frame, hopefully this will be a permanent solution. Longer bolts were dropped down through the inserts and frame again. Wedging a screwdriver between the bolt head and the side of the frame worked well for holding the bolts while tightening.
|Bolts sticking through the frame.||The holes in the frame were getting pretty large.||My solution was to make some 1/4" thick plates to sit inside the frame. The bolts will still drop down through the inside of the frame.|
This bracket was defintiley worth the cost. I've helped a couple of friends make their own heavy duty steering box brackets, back before the Sam's bracket was available. It's just too much trouble to make these on your own. The design time, required accuracy to ensure all the holes line up, plus the cutting, drilling, tapping and welding makes the $99 (at press time, plus shipping) that Sam's charges seem like a bargain.
|Front view of the installed bracket.||Side view of the installed bracket.||One thing that I really liked is that Sam's took the time to get the bolt lengths perfect on the steering box. The old bolts were hard to remove becuase the extra length that stuck through the box had rusted.|