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Unread 01-09-2013, 05:05 PM   #1
massarosareloud
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1996 ZJ 
 
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Red Head Rebuilt Steering Gear Review

Hello, everyone, I feel like I've taken a lot from this forum, and I want to give some back. And with my lack of mechanical knowledge, this is one of the few ways I am capable of doing that right now.

So here is the story, I bought a used 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, Inline 6 cylinder engine with 105,000 miles. When I got into the drivers seat I knew there was something funky with the steering. I would constantly have to over and under steer to keep my Jeep in my lane. It would wander with a mind of its own, and the steering wheel had an enormous amount of play in it. I could move the steering wheel from 12 o'clock to nearly 2 or 3 o'clock and back in the other direction without engaging the wheels at all.

After doing lots of attempted diagnosing I ended up taking my Jeep to a local family owned shop that I've used before. Their diagnosis was that a new steering gear box was necessary. So the search began for a replacement power steering gear box, and I found that most companies would simply replace the o-rings, not do any checks on the worm gears or sector shaft (my attempt to sound knowledgeable...), and just sandblast them, paint them, and send them back out and hope the buyer is too incompetent to notice the poor condition.

Not wanting to be stuck in the same exact position I was in before, I decided I would take a risk and try out a Red Head Steering Gear, rather than cheap out and get a Lares or something similar. Apparently they custom fit the ball bearings that are used in the box, I asked what custom fit meant and they said they use 6 differently sized ball bearings, and figure out which one each box needs. They also inspect for wear and tear, and other damage, according to the questions I asked and their website. I placed the order on Friday afternoon, it was shipped a few hours later, and on Monday afternoon it was at my doorstep. Impressive considering it came from Washington state to Pennsylvania. The packaging left a little bit to be desired, thankfully I doubt the mailperson could damage a 65 pound steering gear. Just a sidenote, you have to order through the phone, it looks like the online ordering links to Javascript which does nothing.





When I opened up the box I found a very nice looking steering gear box. With absolutely nothing to compare to, besides the 16 year old, filthy box in my car, it looked clean. Here are some more pictures to those that wonder what they look like:







I am not sure what that red liquid is, educated guess is power steering fluid. But it leaked straight through the box.

For those wondering about price, I paid $245 for the box, $100 core charge, and $35 (holy crap!) for shipping.

I have only put a few miles on the box so far, but first impressions are that it is tight and responsive. It eliminated my steering wheel looseness, but there is still some wander on the road. That might be caused because I did not have the shop reinstall the steering dampener they removed, in order to save on labor costs and because I might replace it. The wheel did not seem to perfectly return the center, I had to help it out, and it is rather stiff. Not unbearably stiff, but noticeably so. That also might be caused because my power steering fluid reservoir dry rotted straight through and broke apart when the shop was working, so they had to replace it. I also asked for new power steering fluid hoses. Not to mention that the previous owner has a new tie rod end (from pitman arm to other tie rod end), which is way off alignment.

I will try to put a lot more miles on the vehicle soon, and report back with a more definite review of the box, as well as some installed pictures. I'll also put the dampener back on, and see if letting the power steering fluid run through helps out any. I'll also need to get an alignment and hopefully will get all that done soon so I can report back with a definitive review.

Anyone with any questions, please feel free to ask! I hope this helps someone else out with making a decision.

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Unread 01-10-2013, 09:19 AM   #2
HighLonesome
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Thanks
Kind of cool that steering gears is all they do.
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Unread 01-10-2013, 10:45 AM   #3
PolkaPower
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65 pounds? Really? I would have guessed 64 pounds but 65? Looks nice. Did you put it in yet?
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Unread 01-10-2013, 01:53 PM   #4
massarosareloud
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It is nice to know that they don't do anything but steering gears. Makes me feel like they really want to focus and get it done right, at least I hope.

Haha, yup 64 pounds is more accurate! I guess I should've said that it's heavy! Really hurt my back when I lifted it off the ground, not expecting it to weigh that much. I have it in right now, take a look:




And when I say "I" have it in, I should say, the garage has put it in. I was a little weary of getting the pitman arm off. Didn't think I could do that...

Brand new hoses, and fluid reservoir:
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3.55 axles, stock pretty much everything, except for a PSC steering gear and fuel injectors
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Unread 01-10-2013, 10:16 PM   #5
PolkaPower
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So how in the world does that box weigh 64lbs? I got the info for my PSC steering box from Fed Ex an it says 24.1 lbs
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Unread 01-10-2013, 10:42 PM   #6
3xX
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holy large pictures batman
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Unread 01-10-2013, 11:12 PM   #7
bananaslug
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PolkaPower View Post
So how in the world does that box weigh 64lbs? I got the info for my PSC steering box from Fed Ex an it says 24.1 lbs
Polka I just got mine. Youre gonna like the way it looks, I guarantee it. I didnt know it had a fourth hole. Mmmm.
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Unread 01-11-2013, 08:10 AM   #8
PolkaPower
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Originally Posted by bananaslug View Post
Polka I just got mine. Youre gonna like the way it looks, I guarantee it. I didnt know it had a fourth hole. Mmmm.
A fourth hole! Alright!
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Unread 01-11-2013, 08:52 AM   #9
massarosareloud
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Yeah sorry about the large pictures, figured it would be better than compressing them ridiculously.

And yes, 65 pounds was an exaggeration, to make a point. If you guys want I'll throw it onto a scale this afternoon... (:
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1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Edition 4.0L
3.55 axles, stock pretty much everything, except for a PSC steering gear and fuel injectors
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Unread 01-11-2013, 09:09 AM   #10
PolkaPower
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Quote:
Originally Posted by massarosareloud View Post
Yeah sorry about the large pictures, figured it would be better than compressing them ridiculously.

And yes, 65 pounds was an exaggeration, to make a point. If you guys want I'll throw it onto a scale this afternoon... (:
No. We are past that now. The only thing I want to know now is how big of an improvement is it?

I am going to have to take my gear off and have a shop remove the pitman and put it on the new gear maybe. I don't have a vice and the shop is closer than the autozone to rent the tool. I'll see how lazy I feel .
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Unread 01-11-2013, 04:42 PM   #11
massarosareloud
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The improvement is significant, I can no longer move the steering wheel as much before it engages the wheels and begins to turn them. I still have some road wander, but I think that must be caused by something else (I'm thinking control arm bushings and track bar bushings, both of which I plan on replacing when it gets warmer out), and not the steering box. One large disappointment for me is how tight the wheel is. It is not a pleasure to steer, it requires some oomphf to turn it and it doesn't completely return to center by itself. It feels like the top adjusting bolt is tightened down a lot, only problem is that I can't loosen it because that will void my warranty. Overall I think that it was worth it, mainly because I had a little bit better of an idea of what I was purchasing, rather than going with a Lares box or something similar.

I just want to point out though, that I am choosing Lares as my comparison point because of its low cost and vague reputation, not because of it's quality, which I know nothing about.
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1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Edition 4.0L
3.55 axles, stock pretty much everything, except for a PSC steering gear and fuel injectors
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Unread 01-11-2013, 06:34 PM   #12
zjrog
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I need to replace my steering gear, lines, reservoir and pump later this spring. Giving some thought to rebuilding a steering gear I have in the shed, its the original to the ZJ. Nice review of the Rehead. Never heard of them before.
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