I’ve wanted to do a write up of some kind for a while, just never had anything major done that I thought would be worth of a write up. Anyways!...This write up will talk about the process of removing your stock YJ steering box, and replacing it with a Dodge Durango Steering box.
Now I'AM aware there a couple out there right now, however, I personally feel it’s always good to have more than one resource. I'm not trying to steal anyone's thunder to take credit away from anyone. I will be adding info I’ve learned from the previous write ups to help minimize the amount of “what do I do” or the “!@*&” moments lol. So now that the boring section of the write up is over…..I know right? Let’s begin!!
Sockets/Ratchets/Torque wrench (Highly Recommend)
Pipe Wrench (Highly Recommend)
Pitman Arm Puller (Highly Recommend)
Screwdrivers (I needed them)
Vise Grips (Always comes in handy)
Line Wrenches (Pretty useful but not a big deal)
A helper (Not needed, but it’s always nice)
About a full days’ time (Never know what can happen)
Ok, so your here cause you want to replace your steering box or just for a fairly inexpensive upgrade. I’m here to try and help you with that. The reason were going with a Dodge Durango steering box and not the stock YJ steering box is cause of the following:
1) Perfect fit
3) Better gear ratio
4) More Durable
5) Looks identical to the stock YJ steering box*
Now we can’t just install any year Steering box from the Durango. We have to choose from 2 available years, the 1998 and the 1999. It can be the 5.2l or 5.9l, but it does have to be from the V8 with 4WD. The difference between the 1998 and 1999 is pretty simple. The 1998 offers 2 different classes of the steering box. One comes with a snowplow option which has the slower turn ratio 3:1/4 (if I recall) where the other has the quicker ration which if I remember right is 2:15/16. Which means it takes 2 full turns and 15/16’s of a turn to turn the steering wheel all the way to the left or right. The 1999 version just offers the 2:15/16 ratio, which is the one I went with. I also would like to mention that I somehow got mine to have a 1:1/2 ratio lol, don’t ask. Ok so now let’s tear into this project and get the ball rolling.
(Optionally you can take the bars that go from the grill to the firewall off to give more room. Just loosen the two nuts, lift up on the bar and you should be able to swing them out of the way, without having to remove the back bolts on the firewall)
To start, I took off my radiator, just to make things so much simpler and cluttered. Getting at the pressure hose’s themselves or even the nuts would be a pain otherwise.
To get the radiator off we have to first drain it. We do this by unscrewing and pulling the black screw plug located on the bottom left of the radiator as if you’re facing the Jeep.
As that’s draining out (into a bucket I might add ;P) we can pull off the top radiator hose. A pipe wrench might come in handy in case the hose is stuck
And then we can pull off the bottom radiator hose, which more fluid from the motor should come out as well.
Now that the radiator is drained and the hoses are off, we can now remove the shroud (big black thing between the radiator and fan) remove the following screws on each side.
Yaay the shroud is off! Now to take off the radiator. I can’t speak for everyone but, mine was held up by screws with small nuts on them which we ended up changing to small carriage bolts with small nuts.
Once those are out there are two bolts on top that have to come off as well. Once those are out the radiator should just lift out. I was surprised how light it was lol.
Now it’s time to take the black plastic piece that says Jeep on it, off. Once that’s off there is a metal piece that goes from the left side of the frame to the right, which comes off as well. Just 2 bolts!!
Now we can finally start tackling the steering box. The following part is kind of determined how stubborn your steering box is. Ill first explain how to remove it as if everything is going without problems. Then I will explain how to do it if things don’t really go that well, which is what I ended up doing.
The best way is to start off by taking the vacuum hose off that connects the power steering reservoir to the steering box by disconnecting the nut. This is where a good set of line wrenches would come in handy.
Then take off the nut that connects the high pressure hose from the steering box to the power steering motor
Now it’s time to remove the pitman arm from the steering box…yay!!!!!!!!!!!! I’d like to mention that I didn’t even remove it from the drag link at all, didn’t even touch that end of it, so it will come off without having to do that. The picture shown is old. The nut for mine was a 34mm socket, but if you don’t have one, I also used a pipe wrench and a cheater bar to take it off (when I did my lift) once the nut and lock washer is off, it’s time to do the most frustrating part of this whole project….removing the pitman arm. Get yourself a decent pitman arm puller, not a cheap Autocraft one, as mine broke with in 10mins of trying lol. However, what actually made my pitman arm come off was using a BFH and a lot of time. Unfortunately there is no magical thing we can do.
Next loosen the nut on the steering column that holds it in place to the steering box. Make sure it’s loose enough to where you can move it freely using a pry bar. This just insures it’s loose enough for the following steps.
Next, take the 2 bottom bolts off that connect the steering box the harness.
Then take off the 2 bolts that connect the steering box to the frame. (The missing right bolt will be explained) when taking off the last bolt if you have a helper, have him support the steering box so it doesn’t fall down.
Now it should just slide out from the steering column and you should have now completed the removing process of the stock steering box.
If everything went the way it should, then the installation part should be a piece of cake. As a side note, when you bought the new steering box, it should have come with new O-Rings. If yours are still good then don’t even bother with them. If yours are bad, I would suggest replacing them as that’s one cause of leaks.
The rest of the installation of the new box is pretty much doing the opposite of the removal process except for a couple of things. First put the steering column back onto the new steering box and tighten up the screw so it can’t slide back and forth.
Now you will notice when you bolt up the new steering box to the frame, there is no hole for the top right bolt that goes into the frame, as I showed you earlier, this is fine, so don’t worry about that.
After you got everything all secure and snug, it’s time to put back on the pitman arm. Now in one write up someone claimed they had to shorten their drag link in order to line it back up with the steering box as the new box is indeed wider. However, I’m not sure why this was, but I didn’t have any trouble with this and found no need to do it. So I hope this goes for you guys as well. Now once you get the pitman arm back on, torque the nut to 185 ft/lbs.
Now that everything is back together it’s time to put in new antifreeze, new power steering fluid, and to bleed out the steering box.
The antifreeze took about 2 bottles for me to fill everything up to the top, and If I remember right it took only one 32 oz. bottle of power steering fluid to fill the reservoir, even after the bleeding process, but I did by 2 just in case.
Bleeding out the steering box is really simple and should really be done with two people. However, poor the fluid into the reservoir until its full, leave the cap off, and have one person start the Jeep and turn the wheel back and forth until the liquid stops bubbling and until the steering box makes the very noticeable whining noise every time you turn the wheel. I personally just took the Jeep for a ride to do all this and it stopped making the whining noise by the time I got back, probably took about 10-15mins.
Well hopefully after all that you have yourself a beautiful new working steering box! Good luck and enjoy!!
Worst case scenario way:
Hopefully you don’t have to come to this part of the write up, but for me I didn’t get that lucky. During the process of taking off the nuts for the hoses, the one that connected to the power steering reservoir would not come lose at all, and during one of the attempts to make it budge the metal line bent causing a bad kink. Well we ended leaving it on and just taking the steering box off with it on. Now since I wanted to get a new High pressure hose (the one that connects to the power steering motor) anyway I just used my old one for the vacuum hose.
Well since the High pressure hose nut that connects to the steering box is way longer than the one on the vacuum hose, we had to cut a tiny bit off the radiator to make it fit right, not a big deal. Hooked the new line back up and she was running like new!! Maybe not the “worst case scenario”, but still bad enough to make even the simplest of projects take that much longer lol.
Well I hope this helped you guys out looking to do this project, and if not I’m sorry. If anyone has anything to add feel free to let me know, and Ill update this to accommodate for lost or misinformed information to get this to be the best and well informative guide.
Thanks for reading, good luck with everything, and happy trails
*Because this looks very similar to the stock YJ Steering box, we can get away with not such an honest thing, but it saved me 75 dollars! At Advance auto parts the steering box I got went for $179 with a $75 core charge, well I’m now down with that. So I just gave them my stock YJ steering box pretending it was from the Dodge Durango and didn’t have to pay for the core charge, thus making it a fairly cheap upgrade!