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Unread 08-05-2012, 05:42 PM   #1
Jerry Bransford
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Black Magic Brakes power steering cooler installation and review

I was reminded again last weekend just how stiff my steering gets while wheeling on difficult terrain when my tires aired down. It's caused by an overheating power steering system. I could barely turn my steering wheel after a short but difficult section of trail and decided to install a power steering cooler to cure the problem once and for all.

Whenever you’re wheeling on rocks or difficult terrain, the added load on the power steering system can be significant when you have any or all of the following… large tires, aired down tires, a warm day, a tight twisty trail, and/or a front locker. Those can place enough load on the steering system that it heats up and loses much or all of its effectiveness. Even hot enough to boil over. My steering system hadn’t boiled over yet but it was hot enough that I could barely turn my steering wheel. It was so bad that I stopped to check my power steering system to make sure it hadn’t blown a hose or boiled the fluid out. Everything was fine, it was just too hot to be of much help steering.

Rather than re-invent the wheel on putting together a power steering system on my own, I went with a subset of parts from a kit made by Black Magic Brakes. You can see the entire kit at http://shop.blackmagicbrakes.com/TJ-Nearly-Bolt-in-Hydro-Assist-for-Currie-Steering-STEERING-COOLER-BRACKETS.htm which is what a full-on ram-assist system requires.

This kit should be considered the first-step towards “good steering” which is ram-assist. Since many here are interested in ram-assist, this will show the cooling step of that process. Mine is not ram-assist yet so my installation did not require all of those parts.

The below show the parts used for my stock power steering system, which requires fewer and slightly different fittings than would be needed for ram-assist. The required two quarts of fluid shown are not included. For 2003 and newer TJs, your power steering system requires ATF+4. For 2002 and older, they require a good quality synthetic Power Steering Fluid. Most ram-assist power steering systems will require a synthetic Power Steering fluid.

The cooler is placed in the low-pressure side of the power steering system. The power steering fluid passes from the low-pressure output side of the power steering box and back into the top of the PS fluid reservoir at the rear of the power steering pump.



The above pic shows the subset of parts my stock PS steering required. The special bracket included that makes attaching the cooler to the V-shaped braces easier than other approaches. To use an engineering term, the cooler’s attachment method takes advantage of a very elegant design.





The above grooves machined into the cooling fins are part of Black Magic’s very elegant design. Some aftermarket coolers may look similar but they don’t have those V-brace grooves machined in which makes it fit securely into, instead of on top of, the V-brace used to hold the radiator in place.

The first task is to remove the headlight bucket, three small nuts on the rear hold it in place. Removing the bucket instead of just the headlight makes for an easier/faster job.



Next remove the bolts that hold the top of the brace and the top four bolts that hold the radiator to the grill. Then loosen the two bottom radiator mounting screws. The job will go faster if you remove the fan shroud first. This allows the radiator and condenser to be moved back to give enough room to insert the cooler through the headlight opening.



Position the mounting bracket in and position it over the V-shaped bracket rods.





Apply Teflon tape only to the fittings that screw into the cooler itself. These fitting need to be tightened very firmly, holding the cooler in a vise while you do the final tightening will help. Not crazy tight but no worries about the aluminum cooler’s threads either, they are very strong.

Push back on the top of the condenser and radiator to create more room and insert the cooler. Be careful not to damage the cooling fins as you insert it.





The cooler mount goes on the V-bar first and then the plate goes on the front face of the mount and slips under the bar so the mount can't come forward. Or put another way, it will stay in place without the stud plate. Place the cooler in place so its bolt holes are over the screws that are part of the bracket, then finger tighten the stainless steel nyloc nuts over the screws.

Use a nut driver to tighten the four nuts, not a ratchet driver. The use of a ratchet driver could create enough torque to snap a bolt off from where it is spot welded to the bracket.



Next unbolt and, if possible, swing your bumper out of the way for access to the fittings on top of the power steering box. With many bumpers, you can just unbolt it and swing it out towards the passenger side. My Savvy Offroad bumper worked well for this. Leave one bolt inserted in the passenger side so you don’t accidentally pull the bumper off if you have a winch or driving lights mounted onto it.



The lower end of the low-pressure hose is removed and drained into a bucket. The low pressure side is on the passenger-side of the steering box. This only drains the hose and reservoir, not the steering box itself.



The upper end of the low-pressure hose is connected to the plastic port on the rear of the steering reservoir. Cut the steel clamp and remove it. Then VERY carefully work the hose off. Be careful here, that plastic port can be brittle and snap off if you are careless. If it doesn’t come off easily as mine did, carefully cut it off with a razor blade or very sharp knife. The above photo shows the new hose in place and secured with a stainless steel hose clamp.



The hoses are pushed onto their fittings after lubricating the inside-end of the hose with a dab of the appropriate power steering fluid. Not a lot force is required to push them into place but even so, they can withstand 400 psi of pressure or the hose rating, which ever is lower. Either way, it can withstand way more pressure than the low-pressure side of the PS system has in it. Do not add hose clamps to any of these fittings, they can only make them more prone to leakage. The only hose clamp needed is at the upper end of the cooler’s output hose where attaches to the PS pump reservoir as shown above.



This is the new hose that goes between the steering box and cooler.



Hoses are attached to the cooler at this point. Again, do not use Teflon tape on these fittings. The only fittings that need Teflon tape are those that thread into the cooler as described above. Give the fittings one final tightening and you’re done.



Fill the power steering reservoir with fluid and then start the engine for 2-3 seconds and then immediately shut the engine off again. Add more fluid to bring it back up to level, then run the engine a few more seconds and then shut the engine off and top the fluid level off again. Running the engine more than a few seconds at a time before getting the system refilled with fluid can damage the PS pump. It should take just over a quart to refill the system.



All done and leak-free, it’s a big relief now to finally have a cooler for the power steering system. For those Jeeps that do moderate to difficult trails, I consider this a must-do upgrade.

The special mounting bracket makes what can be a difficult mounting task easy. I previously installed the same type of cooler in my previous TJ for my transmission but this time, the job went much faster and easier due to the special mounting bracket kit and V-bar grooves machined into the cooler’s fins.

In closing, the quality and design (!) of the kit is outstanding. The cooler itself is made from high-quality aluminum which is a highly efficient conductor of heat, and all the mounting hardware is a mix of aluminum and stainless steel. The included hose fittings are pre-angled where needed to make the installation easy.

Click on http://shop.blackmagicbrakes.com/TJ-Nearly-Bolt-in-Hydro-Assist-for-Currie-Steering-STEERING-COOLER-BRACKETS.htm for more information.

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Unread 08-05-2012, 05:53 PM   #2
RubiconRazorbac
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As usual, nice write-up Jerry.

Now I'm looking forward to your install with the ram!
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Your shaft isn't long enough to handle that kind of droop...
My build thread: http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f9/ru...thread-792423/
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Unread 08-05-2012, 06:04 PM   #3
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Nice write-up Jerry.
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Unread 08-05-2012, 06:07 PM   #4
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Along with Stu, Mr. Bransford always has the best write-ups.
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Unread 08-05-2012, 06:36 PM   #5
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Nice write up Jerry. An excellent idea for warm/hot climates. I didn't know there was one marketed that was made for the V brace. I had to make my own.....
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Unread 08-05-2012, 06:39 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sduncan View Post
Nice write up Jerry. An excellent idea for warm/hot climates. I didn't know there was one marketed that was made for the V brace. I had to make my own.....
Did you know that someone besides the dealer sells the t-case skid nutserts and also makes JJ washers, bolt in hydro assist for Currie steering, and raised mounts for doing a tie rod flip?
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Unread 08-05-2012, 06:41 PM   #7
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My basic maxim is this: if I arrive at a solution to a problem that I find to be inelegant, I know it to be wrong. I like the design, here...very nicely done, and nicely installed. Great write-up.
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Unread 08-05-2012, 07:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrblaine View Post
Did you know that someone besides the dealer sells the t-case skid nutserts and also makes JJ washers, bolt in hydro assist for Currie steering, and raised mounts for doing a tie rod flip?
Now all of THAT I did know. I even know who to call to get it from...and I heard they sell some pretty cool brakes too..
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Unread 08-06-2012, 09:49 AM   #9
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nice!
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Unread 08-06-2012, 11:40 AM   #10
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What trail were you on when your steering gave you problems? To get an idea of the limits of the stock system
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Unread 08-06-2012, 11:47 AM   #11
Jerry Bransford
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My steering has overheated on a number of rock crawling trails but last weekend's happened on John Bull above Big Bear Lake.
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Unread 08-06-2012, 11:56 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
My steering has overheated on a number of rock crawling trails but last weekend's happened on John Bull above Big Bear Lake.
how exactly do you know if your power sterring is in fact overheating....i get a lot of overspray underneith my hood from pressure building in the power steering pump when I play in the rocks but that is all i see...is this normal?
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Unread 08-06-2012, 12:12 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
My steering has overheated on a number of rock crawling trails but last weekend's happened on John Bull above Big Bear Lake.
I just ran JB Saturday with my nephew and let him do some of the driving. We both noticed some feeling of steering lock or very difficult steering that we attributed to the front locker. It was worse than I normally feel with the front locked.
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Unread 08-06-2012, 12:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillGOTD View Post
I just ran JB Saturday with my nephew and let him do some of the driving. We both noticed some feeling of steering lock or very difficult steering that we attributed to the front locker. It was worse than I normally feel with the front locked.
Nobody that plays in the rocks should be without a steering cooler.
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Unread 08-06-2012, 01:50 PM   #15
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Added to the FAQ.

Nice work Jerry.
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