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Unread 08-12-2010, 10:35 PM   #1
robsjeepxj
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Fixing a leaky steering box- write up w/ pics

OK so here's the problem

My steering box started leaking from the sector shaft seal last time out at Rausch Creek I'm sure many of us have had this same problem I know I have a few times now already. But this time I decided to try and actually fix the leak instead of just getting another new (to me at least) box. A rebuilt steering box goes for $150, the gasket kit I got for this repair cost about $20 so this was worth it at least to me.

I'm going to start this with the box already out so this is what we have, your typical jeep steering box. I cleaned it up a little already.

You'll want to put it in some kind of pan since no matter how hard you try you'll never get all the fluid out of it and it will just wind up getting everywhere. Before you start taking anything apart you need to find the center point on the sector shaft. This is done by rotating the sector shaft back and forth until you find the center. There should be a flat groove in the center of the shaft facing you when it done right like this. If you don't do this you won't be able to get the shaft out because the gears will not clear the housing.

Now flip the box over and remove the adjuster nut on the top of the case you need to use an allen wrench on the inner shaft so it does not spin or you will have reset the overcenter torque when you are done. (the one in the center, more on that later) and the four bolts holding the cover on.

Once these are out tap the side of the cover with a hammer to break it loose from the case. You don't want to use anything that will damage the gasket you'll be reusing that if you can, I did. Then remove the cover, gasket and sector shaft as a unit. Now is a good time to clean them, mine were kinda gunked up.

I cleaned out the inside of the case as well with some brake cleaner. I know it looks nasty but aside from the leak all the bearings seem tight so I'm just going to fix the leak for now.

Ok now that everything is as clean as it's going to get it's time to flip it over and start on the actual leak. You should see something like this.

This is the part # for the kit I used

There are 4 parts to this repair, an outer dust shield, a snap ring, a thrust washer and an oil seal. They are removed in that order and replaced in the exact opposite. You can just pop out the two seals with a screwdriver. You'll need a snap ring plier for the snap ring and the thrust washer just falls out once the snap ring is out. This is the outer dust shield.

The snap ring. It got kinda trashed trying to get it out good thing I'm not going to need to reuse it.

The thrust washer.

And the oil seal. The oil seal came out in two pieces. There is a teflon washer to protect the seal from getting worn by the trust washer and the actual oil seal. Both were together one the new one.

Once you get all that out you should be able see just the tapered bearing the sector shaft rides on. Inspect it for wear and clean out the seal bore with brake cleaner to remove any gunk, mine was again pretty gunky. This is after I cleaned it.

Now it's time to start replacing stuff. Here is the kit I used. It came with a new gasket for the front cover too but since it wasn't leaking I left it alone. You can see the four items in the order they are installed from left to right (top to bottom)

I put some oil in the bore to help everything slide back in easier. I did this for both seals. First goes the oil seal with teflon washer attached and facing up. I found that a 32mm socket is the perfect fit to help (carefully) drive them in. Make sure that the seal is fully seated.

Next is the thrust washer, it's not a pressed in fit it just fit in there kind of loosely.

Then the snap ring. Be sure that it is seated properly in it's groove.

And finally the dust shield. (Which I forget to get a picture of installed) OOPS!!! Anyway that's all there is to it. Flip the box over and slide the sector shaft back in, install the four cover bolts and the adjuster bolt and you should have something that looks like this again.

Now about the adjuster nut. If you did wind up turning the center shaft a little by accident like I did either while was loosen or tightening it you'll find that box feels either too loose or too tight. On my test drive I found that mine was too tight. Good forbid a steering box that's too tight right? Well it was just that much too tight that the wheel had more drag on it than I was comfortable with and it would not return to center as easily as it did before so I experimented with it a little and found that it was a half turn too tight (the inner shaft that is not the nut) The right way to do it is to use a torque wrench to measure the amount of torque necessary to turn the steering shaft but I knew it was close since I was pretty careful not to turn it when I loosened it. I'm guessing it turned a little when I tightened the adjuster nut when I was reassembling it.
Well with that said the box is finished. all that;s left is to hook up the lines (make sure you replace the o-rings or it will leak), bolt it to the frame, hook up the steering shaft and start the fill and bleeding process. Here's the box all bolted up again.

The best way to refill & bleed the PS is to jack up the front tires, fill the reservoir, start the engine and turn the wheels lock to lock about 50 times or so checking the fluid frequently to make sure it stays full. You're done when there are no more air bubbles in the fluid. It takes awhile but it is necessary, if you skimp on this step you could burn out the pump. They don't do well with pumping air instead of fluid and it will whine. I'm glad to say that I now have a leak free steering box again and am very happy with the repair and especially the price tag. All told the whole deal cost me $40. $20 for the kit, $10 for fluid and $10 for an assortment of o-rings plus tax.

So that's my .02 cents on how to repair a leaky steering box I hope it will help someone who's having the same issues. If anyone has anything it add or if I've missed something or you have any questions feel free to ask. Thanks RJ


Last edited by robsjeepxj; 08-12-2010 at 11:37 PM..
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Unread 08-13-2010, 11:35 AM   #2
robsjeepxj
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So far still leak free. I'm getting a good feeling about this.
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Unread 10-22-2010, 09:09 AM   #3
lowicz96
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My steering box just started leaking and I need a quick, cheap fix.

How hard was it to get the pitman arm off? How long did it take you and do you have to remove it from the jeep to do it?
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Unread 10-22-2010, 11:07 AM   #4
robsjeepxj
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You need a good quality pitman arm puller, it's on there really good, you can buy one on EBay. The whole job takes a couple hours and yes you need to remove the box to work on it.
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Unread 11-15-2010, 09:41 AM   #5
lowicz96
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I did this this past weekend and it was really easy. I just rented a pitman arm puller and used a 24" adjustable wrench to remove the pitman arm nut. The hardest part was reinstalling the box by myself. Stupid chrysler did make the steering linkage telescoping
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Unread 11-15-2010, 05:17 PM   #6
Whistler31
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I didnt bother to pull the box when I did mine. Though I did make a custom seal puller for the job.
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Unread 11-15-2010, 05:27 PM   #7
austinaubinoe
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This is an AWSOME right up! Steering boxes seem so harmless now LOL. Oh and also I didnt realize how simple it is to get the air out of the power steering system.
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Unread 11-15-2010, 07:37 PM   #8
Azzy
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If you got a plug made up for it, you can put a vaccum on the resivoir while it is running. Gets messy, but will pull oll of the air. Supposed to be how to bleed fords and chevy pumps, dunno if Chrystler work with that.
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Unread 11-15-2010, 08:23 PM   #9
robsjeepxj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by austinaubinoe View Post
This is an AWSOME right up! Steering boxes seem so harmless now LOL. Oh and also I didnt realize how simple it is to get the air out of the power steering system.
Glad that I could help. Been a while now since I did this and still no leaks, sweet.
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Unread 01-23-2011, 12:57 AM   #10
tonymartin
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Gotta do this on my ZJ this coming weekend. Great write up mate, thanks in advance!
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Unread 01-23-2011, 06:44 AM   #11
xjokee
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Excellent write up!
Mike
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Unread 09-17-2011, 03:47 PM   #12
jramos964
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Re: Fixing a leaky steering box.

I own a 1990 Cherokee and it has the same problem you addressed, can anyone tell me if that year can also be fixed in this manner. Awesome write up by the way. Thanks, John.
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Unread 09-17-2011, 06:59 PM   #13
AZ Jeff
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jramos964 View Post
I own a 1990 Cherokee and it has the same problem you addressed, can anyone tell me if that year can also be fixed in this manner. Awesome write up by the way. Thanks, John.
Yes. All XJ steering boxes are the same, and made by Saginaw Div. Of GM.
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Unread 01-19-2012, 09:37 AM   #14
bravojmc
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Is there not seals where the steering linkage connects to the box? Mine is leaking at the pitman arm area and where the steering linkage connects...? Anyone?
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Unread 01-19-2012, 10:43 AM   #15
Azzy
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You can replace seals under the cap at the input shaft, but you may have to get a full rebuild kit to get them.
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