CJ7 steering upgrades, replace tie rod bushings or upgrade entire setup? - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 16 Old 09-21-2021, 09:40 AM Thread Starter
Picknasty
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CJ7 steering upgrades, replace tie rod bushings or upgrade entire setup?

I have a new to me 1981 CJ7, straight 4, manual braking, manual steering, dana 44 front, AMC 20 rear, SR4 trans and dana 300. Stock lift height on 31s for now, will be installing the OME YJ spring conversion kit in the next 2-3 months. In the meantime, I want to fix the sloppy steering and likely convert my front drum brakes to disc. Lets face it, its an addiction, I'll never be "done" fixing/improving my ride. As a little background, this is a road jeep mostly getting me to and from work, any trail use will be up some hunting camp roads but nothing more strenuous than that. The first item on the list to improving is the steering, its sloppy to say the least.

My question is, in looking to reduce the play in my steering, would it be better to replace the tie rod/drag link bushings and keep the stock rods OR change the links to something more heavy duty? I will also be installing a borgeson steering shaft w/ vibration reducer and replacing the busted stock steering stabilizer. If it would be best to replace just the bushings I have read that the poly bushings are good, just need to be lubed before placement to prevent squeaking? The previous owner had a new steering box installed prior to selling so hopefully, I can eliminate that from the steering chain of things to be replaced.

I appreciate the feedback and direction.

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post #2 of 16 Old 09-21-2021, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Picknasty View Post
I have a new to me 1981 CJ7, straight 4, manual braking, manual steering, dana 44 front, AMC 20 rear, SR4 trans and dana 300. Stock lift height on 31s for now, will be installing the OME YJ spring conversion kit in the next 2-3 months. In the meantime, I want to fix the sloppy steering and likely convert my front drum brakes to disc. Lets face it, its an addiction, I'll never be "done" fixing/improving my ride. As a little background, this is a road jeep mostly getting me to and from work, any trail use will be up some hunting camp roads but nothing more strenuous than that. The first item on the list to improving is the steering, its sloppy to say the least.

My question is, in looking to reduce the play in my steering, would it be better to replace the tie rod/drag link bushings and keep the stock rods OR change the links to something more heavy duty? I will also be installing a borgeson steering shaft w/ vibration reducer and replacing the busted stock steering stabilizer. If it would be best to replace just the bushings I have read that the poly bushings are good, just need to be lubed before placement to prevent squeaking? The previous owner had a new steering box installed prior to selling so hopefully, I can eliminate that from the steering chain of things to be replaced.

I appreciate the feedback and direction.
Post up some pictures of your front axle. If it is as you say, a Dana 44, then that's not the stock option as it would have came with a Dana 30.

Any idea what the Dana 44 front axle is out of? This might mean that you may need custom drag link and tie rods parts if you go to replace them as well. Might also mean your caster is out of spec.

Can't go wrong with the borgeson steering shaft and disc brake conversion. Take a look at your steering column's lower bearing as well.


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post #3 of 16 Old 09-22-2021, 05:24 AM
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If slop is your issue, then you need to to do the wiggle test.
Have somebody move the wheel back and forth.
Fall under the rig and inspect all the components.

Repair/replace anything that isn't stable.

Shackles moving, steering box loose/frame bad, steering box worn, steering box not centered, loose tie rod ends, steering box coupler/rag joint, etc.

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post #4 of 16 Old 09-22-2021, 09:38 AM Thread Starter
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Post up some pictures of your front axle. If it is as you say, a Dana 44, then that's not the stock option as it would have came with a Dana 30.

Any idea what the Dana 44 front axle is out of? This might mean that you may need custom drag link and tie rods parts if you go to replace them as well. Might also mean your caster is out of spec.
I'll get under there this afternoon and take some pictures of the setup. I am now the fourth owner of this jeep so I'm unsure of which owner did what work but someone did a little bit of upgrading. Sucks because the old man I bought it from was a little on the goofy side.
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post #5 of 16 Old 09-22-2021, 04:15 PM Thread Starter
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Well, although I was told it was a 44, it looks like a Dana 30... I couldn't expose any numbers in the bottom right corner of the housing however it did measure right at 9 inches, also the housing doesn't have the dip in the middle, seems to be a Dana 30.
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post #6 of 16 Old 09-22-2021, 04:19 PM
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Also a stock 81 would have disc brakes

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post #7 of 16 Old 09-22-2021, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Picknasty View Post
Well, although I was told it was a 44, it looks like a Dana 30... I couldn't expose any numbers in the bottom right corner of the housing however it did measure right at 9 inches, also the housing doesn't have the dip in the middle, seems to be a Dana 30.
Yep, looks like a narrow track Dana 30. Saves you some headache trying to figure out what parts you need.

If your tie rod and drag link are straight I'd probably just replace the ends. There are beefier options for replacement rods out there for off-roading rigs if you so choose.

Since your doing an OME spring conversion you might consider doing the drag-link flip while you're in there.


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post #8 of 16 Old 09-22-2021, 08:49 PM
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The tie rods on a CJ contain no bushings. If you detect play in the tie rod ends, change the tie rod end. If your use will be street and hunting, I don't see why you should have to resort to aftermarket heavy duty items. Stock steering components will last a long time if maintained (greased) at suggested intervals and not subject to added strain from excessively large tires and abusive driving.
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post #9 of 16 Old 09-22-2021, 10:40 PM Thread Starter
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Also a stock 81 would have disc brakes
I bought this "How to build and Modify Jeep CJ" book by a guy named Michael Hanssen and I've been reading through it all afternoon. I saw on there that disc brakes were standard on the dana 30 for the 1981 year model. must have been out of a 72-76 donor??
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post #10 of 16 Old 09-22-2021, 11:16 PM
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Your spring U bolts have a lot of excess length sticking down waiting for a rock or other obstruction to hit and break them off. I would cut them off about 3/8" from the nut.
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post #11 of 16 Old 09-23-2021, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Picknasty View Post
I bought this "How to build and Modify Jeep CJ" book by a guy named Michael Hanssen and I've been reading through it all afternoon. I saw on there that disc brakes were standard on the dana 30 for the 1981 year model. must have been out of a 72-76 donor??
Most likely, who knows, maybe one of previous owners liked drums better


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post #12 of 16 Old 09-23-2021, 06:26 PM
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An easy way to cut these off nice and square is to get a thin nut (or turn one down on a lathe) and screw it on the threads up against the other nut and then use an angle grinder with a cutoff blade and use the thin nut as a guide to cut it off square. When you remove the thin nut, it will straighten out the last couple of threads. A couple of touches with a file makes a professional looking job.

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Your spring U bolts have a lot of excess length sticking down waiting for a rock or other obstruction to hit and break them off. I would cut them off about 3/8" from the nut.
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post #13 of 16 Old 09-23-2021, 06:29 PM
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You can piece together a Chevy caliper upgrade with 1-1/8" thick rotors for about $250.00 if you source the pieces yourself. It will cost you about $600.00 if you buy a kit. It is one of the best upgrades I have done to my Jeep and I had AMC disks in the front to begin with. The upgrade is that much better and cheaper and easier to source parts for in the future.
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post #14 of 16 Old 09-23-2021, 08:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StoneTower View Post
An easy way to cut these off nice and square is to get a thin nut (or turn one down on a lathe) and screw it on the threads up against the other nut and then use an angle grinder with a cutoff blade and use the thin nut as a guide to cut it off square. When you remove the thin nut, it will straighten out the last couple of threads. A couple of touches with a file makes a professional looking job.
Good idea StoneTower. Something like a 1/2x20 jam not would do the trick.
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post #15 of 16 Old 09-24-2021, 09:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the tip. I’ll be replacing the suspension with the OME YJ conversion kit soon and it’ll come with new hardware and U bolts. However I will definitely trim off any excess.

In news on the steering, I replaced the old steering stabilizer yesterday with a skyjacker single unit. The old stabilizer was done, I could easily move the plunger with minimal effort, the 50/50 seal was totally gone and it was providing nothing to dampen the steering feedback. I have already noticed a small improvement on steering feedback.

I think I’ll look into replacing my front steering bushings next and see what that does.
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