Durango Steering Box Writeup
Finally got around to swapping in my durango steering box today. Overall I'm impressed but it could be because my other one was junk. It bolts up without a hitch. Same bolt pattern just a wider box. 3 full turns lock to lock. To do this you will need...
A steering gear box from a 99 Durango 5.2L
Pitman arm puller
1 and 5/16" socket
ft/lbs torque wrench
power steering fluid
Jack and stands
Steering gear to frame: 65 ft/lbs
Pitman arms to shaft: 185 ft/lbs
Stabilizer bar to frame: 55 ft/lbs
Stabilizer bar to link: 27 ft/lbs
Center link to pitman arms: 55 ft lbs
Start by Jacking up the front axle and getting the wheels off of the ground. Then secure jackstands under the vehicle.
Then remove the cotter pin on the castle nut holding the draglink to the pitman arm, followed by removing the castle nut.
Then drop the draglink from the pitman arm by using a pickle fork.
If you have sway bar disconnects, disco them and pull them down to swing the antisway bar out of the way of the pitman arm nut. If not then you must drop the swaybar by removing the mounting bolts.
Remove the nut and washer from the pitman arm.
Remove the pitman arm using a puller
Position a drain pan under the steering box then remove the power steering lines going into the steering box, then allow it to drain.
Remove the sheild going over the steering shaft behind the steering box by removing the 13mm bolt holding it on. Then rotate the steering shaft until you can see the other 13mm bolt at the joint on the input shaft on the box. Remove the 13mm bolt and slide the steering shaft back and out of the way of the box.
Remove the 3 mounting bolts for the steering box from the uniframe rail. Make sure you have a hold on the box as you remove the last bolt. Lower the box and pull it out.
Now you have the two next to eachother.
Reinstall everything in reverse. When reattaching the steering shafts collar to the input shaft of the box it was a tight fit for me. I jammed a flathead in the crack in the collar to open the gap up a bit so I could slide it on. Not sure why it didnt line up for me. Maybe a different spline count? Make sure you bottom out the steering shaft and drop in the 13mm bolt.
Once everything is installed and torqued down you then add fluid to the steering box. Turn the wheels from lock to lock with the front end still off the ground. Do this for a few times and check the fluid level. I had to do this for about 10mins to get out all of the air. Dont overfill the reservoir. If you do, pull out the excess with a turkey baster. After you burp the system for a bit and dont see the fluid burping up in the reservoir then start the vehicle. Turn lock to lock for a bit more just to make sure no air is left in the lines. Drop the vehicle off the jackstands and check the fluid level once more. Take her for a drive and see how it goes.
Thanks for doing that Gunth! Let us know what you think of it as time goes on!
Any difference in the steering feel?
Well I took the zj last week and beat the bag outta it in some mud, puddles, watercrossings, and a bit of crawling testing out my approach angle. When I left there was a wandering problem that had developed. I added air to my tires and greased the front end, tightening the joints, checking the ends, antisway bar, trackbar, and basically everything. Every day for the last week the thing has wandered worse and worse on the highway. So i figured the only thing left was the box. Now that its in I can notice a great improvment in how well it turns the wheels when i'm stopped. But the wandering is still there. I'm going to replace the tie rod ends tomorrow and get a alignment. Hopefully that will be the cure. Once the front end is balanced again I will have a better opinion on how I feel about it. Right now I'm just disgusted with the zj and how bad it can handle even when you put about a grand, maybe more into the front end :brickwall.
My new phone takes nice pics. 2mp camera and thats a normal resolution. I can up it to 2m-1200x1600 for next time.
Wandering could well be loose trackbar bushings or trackbar bracket.
I had the same symptoms on an early Bronco, repeatedly, until I welded the trackbar brackets to the frame.
Replaced the tie rod ends at each knuckle today. Took it in for a alignment. I asked how long and they said it depends how good I am at replacing ends :rolleyes:. I then asked them to check the toe and keep it at 1/16 to 0 and to roll the caster back between 4-6*. Guy came back and laughed, everything was dead on. Even the caster which I did by eyeball a few months ago. I asked him about the wandering and he took a look at it. Said it was the box and I have play in the wheel before it actually moves the pitman arm. I knew the box had a bit of play. He told me to screw with the preload adjustment. I had made a 1.5 turn adjustment already. He told me to keep adjusting until everything gets better or it begins to bind. I adjusted it another 1.5 turns today. Thats 3 full turns tighter :eyebulge:. Still feel a bit of wandering. The steering is much tighter once the box kicks in after the play and my return to center is zero. I may swap in the new durango box that I ordered. Or I may swap back to stock. I just want my jeep at 6.5" to drive straight as a arrow :rolleyes:. But in all seriousness it jumps lanes when I sneeze. I put light pressure on the wheel holding the wheel to the right to keep the jeep tracking straight. Out of nowhere the jeep jumps left about half a lane width and the steering wheel goes slack about 2" :thumbdown:, just sucky.
There is a correct way to adjust the steering play. From what you wrote it does not sound like you did it correctly.
here is the correct way:
basically that whole thing comes down to what they say at the bottom. It is supposed to be setup on a bench properly before installation. My box is remanufactured so im sure the guy did a sucky job. It says to adjust in the car should be done with the correct torque wrench for a proper job or by small increments and done by trial and error. I did this in 1/4 turn increments then wheels turned lock to lock followed by figure 8's in a large parking lot. They did tighten up because I no longer return to center. BUT I still have play. Might try another durango box as they already ordered one for me :brickwall .
Not trying to further your frustration, but why not a waggy box or if you can find one a J-20 box?
The whole reason you are doing this is for stronger steering right?
ZJ box = 3 holes.
Durango box = 3 holes.
Waggy/J-20 box = 4 holes
I went for the bigger bore. Durangos stock with like 31" tires. Thats what I went off of. I figure if I wanted to beef it up I could plate the outside. Although 4 mounting tabs would offer a better balance. I think I may just go the waggy route to end all frustration.
Adding a steering brace with help a ton.
I made one for my ZJ, and I used the waggy box. (note: it only rolls! I have not driven or wheeled it!)
However many have used the waggy box (braced of course) with 37"+ tires with fine results. Even drilled and tapped for hydro assist.
Bought a waggy box today. Decided to ditch the durango box. I bought the first one from advanced auto and it was a remanufactured unit. They ordered another for me but with my luck this one could be bad also. I checked out the waggy box and it was like 100 bucks less than the durango and a different rebuild shop made them. So I went that route. I also picked up a piece of steel to make the bracket out of to strengthen the bolt holes. The zj has a thin reinforcment plate already but I believe it will not reinforce the 4th mounting point so I will take the box and trace it out on the steel, marking the bolt holes. I will then drill out the holes and cut out the bracket. Then I will need to check if the bolts will be long enough to bite thru the box and the bracket. Box should be getting done tomorrow.
Swapped in a waggy box today. Out of a 83 wagoneer 360. Everything bolted up proper until I got to tightening down the pitman arms 1 5/16" nut. Apparently it is a different thread count or something because the ZJ nut would not thread on. So I had to disassemble everything again and I swapped in the stock box again. I'm getting good at this steering gear thing. Looking at the 3 boxes there are only minor differences. Not sure about the different thread count and why it is like that but the differences are that the durango box is larger. The waggy box I used is the exact same size as the stock zj box. The only difference is that the waggy box uses the fourth mounting ear. All three boxes are roughly 3 turns lock to lock. The durango box is exactly 3 turns, yet the waggy and zj box turn about 3.25-3.5 turns lock to lock. I have to try and hunt down a waggy box pitman arm nut tomorrow to get it in there and see how it works. My fingers are crossed as this is getting aggravating, I can now swap a box in about a half hour. But now my pump is screaming and thats no good.
This is very interesting because mine wanders all over too. It gets to be a real handfull over 50 or so. I have 5.5", adj LCA & UCA front and rear, KOR track bar, Performace Unlimited's tie rod and drag link with spherical rod ends in place of tie rod ends and a new (not reman) steering box from Summit. There is zero play in the box (if the steering wheel moves the tires move). I'm running 285-75/16 Pro Comp X terrains. I have the toe set and the alignment done twice at two different places. I can't figure it out. We did my old 5.9 with 9" Clayton long arm on 35's and it tracks true with no wander.
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