Let's talk about steering, more specifically, upgrading your steering on your Jeep. I moved pretty quickly to 35's and a 3.5" lift. After spending some time with this set-up, I began to wonder if I could improve upon the steering feel of the stock Jeep. The addition of the larger tires, greater wheel offset, weight, all contribute to putting a bigger load and stress on the stock steering components.
Fox racing ats
My first steering mod was the addition of the Fox Racing 2.0 performance series ATS steering stabilizer. This stabilizer features an adjustable through shaft design (ATS). This design mitigates any unwanted "push" that is present with a traditional style steering stabilizer.
The Fox ATS stabilizer allows for 24 increments of fine tuning of the internal flow of the stabilizer. After a good deal of experimentation, I settled on the firmer side of things. I'm currently running the stabilizer at 18 of 24 on the firmer setting. The effect this stabilizer has on steering feel is to firm up and reduce the "over boosted" feel of the stock set-up. The ATS will also help dial out the bump steer that wants to come back through the steering as a result of running the bigger tires (35"s). This was a really nice improvement to the steering feel. I also really like the idea of being able to dial in a firmer steering feel for when I'm on the pavement, and then dial in a softer feel for running the trails.
Here's the specs on the fox racing ats:
- Aluminum shock body to disipate heat
- External reservoir design separates shock oil from high-pressure nitrogen
- Adjuster - 24 clicks of adjustability
- Shaft 5/8" Hard Chrome plated heat treated alloy steel
- Oil: specially formulated for ultimate performance at variable temperatures
After I installed the ATS, I took a week long trip to wheel in Moab Utah. This trip included extended high speed interstate driving getting from Chicago to Utah, and then wheeling on the fantastic Moab trails. This trip confirmed my love for this upgrade. As previously mentioned, I run the ATS on the firmer settings for the interstate and pavement, and then quickly dial the settings to a the softer side which allows more "feel" through the steering wheel for trail work.
After my first wheeling trip to Moab, I knew I wanted to build and upgrade my Jeep to run 37" tires. That much tire on a Jeep will be putting stresses on the stock steering components that will exceed what they were designed for.
After plenty of research, I settled on the Yeti linkage by Steer Smarts. Here's what I liked about this set-up.
-Steer Smarts Yeti linkages-
Steer Smarts has century long legacy of designing and manufacturing components for Detroit's automotive giants. Their products are manufactured right here in the USA.
- "No Drill" Reverse Taper Mount
- Made in the USA
- 30mm 1-1/2 Ton Ball Joints
- Induction Heat Treated Ball Studs
- Steel on Steel Bearings
- Fully Greasable
- Powder Coat over e-coat finish
- Unique "reverse pin" design prevents linkage from flopping or rocking
- 4130 chromoly 1/4" thick wall steel
Griffin XD Attenuator
- Reduces harsh and negative feedback to your steering wheel
- Recommended for Wranglers equipped with 33" or larger tires
Here's a look at the Yeti HD pieces. The parts arrived beautifully boxed, in great shape...
And here are some detail shots...
The beefiness of these Steer Smarts parts is truly impressive! They are finished in a nice powder coat over E-Coat finish. That should allow them to hold up well to the Chicago winters they will be seeing. In the pic on the right, you can see the size of the steering dampener bracket next to my iPhone 6S. Steer Smarts didn't skimp on the material.
So what's it like to drive? I had a local garage do this install for me. When all was installed and an alignment done, the mechanic took my Jeep out for a road test. When he returned to the shop, he came up front to hand the keys to the shop manager. As he came through the door he exclaimed, "wow, I wasn't expecting it to steer like that!". The shop manager who is a Jeep owner reply, "yeah, lifted Jeeps tend to wander around". No the mechanic replied, the steering is so direct and precise, it surprised me! That kind of sums it up, the Yeti will tighten up the steering feel on your Jeep, getting rid of the vagueness of the stock set-up. This is because the no-flop ball joints are removing unwanted play from the steering linkage. The Griffin attenuator will help cancel out bump steer from the large tires. This was a really fantastic upgrade that provides the improved steering feel I was looking for, as well as having the strength to handle the 37's, on and off road.
Steer Smarts HD-N Steering Stabilizer
Optimized to work in conjunction with the Griffin XD Attenuator
Neutral Action (no push)
Improved Damping for smoother driving experience
Easy Bolt On
I recently had a discussion with Andy at Steer Smarts regarding me running the Fox ATS stabilizer with the Griffin Attenuator. They have found that the ATS, when run on the firmer settings can cause a pre-load situation in the attenuator. This can result in a vague steering feedback or even a “darty” feeling at the wheel.
I was curious about this, and wanted to see if I could improve steering feel. I will say that up to this point, I really liked the way Rubi was steering, could it be better? Let’s find out.
Steer Smarts sent me their new HD-N stabilizer to test out…
The HD-N is designed to work in conjunction with the Griffin XD I’m running. It’s a no push(neutral) design.
I wanted to do a test that would help me get an idea for how these different components are working on my Jeep. Once something is installed, I find you can get used to it pretty quickly, and that becomes the new norm. Doing a back to back comparison would highlight any differences with the different components.
Here’s the specs on my Jeep at the time of this test.
Yeti Top Mount Drag Link w/Griffin Attenuator
Yeti XD Tie Rod
TeraFlex Tera44R Front Axle, Geometry Corrected for 4-6” Lift
PSC Big Bore XD Steering Box
PSC Upgraded Supply Side Hose Kit (no Teflon lining)
37” M/T Tires
I used the same route for each drive, approximately 30 min in duration. I drove various city roads from smooth to rough, and then freeway driving at 70mph.
1) The first part of this test involved removing the Fox ATS and driving without a steering stabilizer(SS). This would give me a baseline for the Yeti w/Griffin linkages. *As a note, I was not able to get the ATS to align perfectly with the tie rod. I was able to move it over via the rubber bushings, but I suspect a little bind here*
Freer feeling at the wheel
Steering felt lighter, and would return to center after a turn
More feedback was definitely making it’s way through to the steering wheel
2) Re-installed the ATS, dialed it down to it’s softest setting. My thinking here was to not add a lot of resistance/load on the Griffin with a firm setting.
Tighter steering feel
The Jeep won’t completely self center after a turn
Steering feels locked down in a way that has taken some of the directness out of the steering feel
3) Installed the new Steer Smarts HD-N SS. I was able to get it lined up perfectly with my tie rod. Torqued it all down and off I went.
Pleasantly firm wheel feel, easier to turn than with the ATS
Very controlled/planted feel. You can easily steer with one finger, Rubi tracks straight
Jeep self centers after a turn
Bump steer, harshness over bumps, potholes is dampened way back. Is this a Jeep?
Feels completely dialed in
This was a real eye opener for me. To say I’m surprised is an under statement! Going into this I was thinking that there was no way what looks like a garden variety SS was going to work so well, especially against $400+ Fox ATS. I’m thinking I might have had a little bind occurring with he ATS, but that was the only way it could be mounted and made to work.
Credit this performance to Steer Smarts matching parts and component characteristics…similar to suspension companies that design and match spring rates and shock dampening to achieve a desired ride and handling. This is what I will run on Rubi. The HD-N got my steering completely dialed in…it feels great! I’m looking forward to testing it more on my next trip to Ouray and Moab very soon.
If you are looking for a steering stabilizer perfectly matched to compliment your Yeti Griffin, this is the best choice. Bravo Steer Smarts, they really know steering!
PSC Big Bore XD Steering Gear
Making the move to 37" tires meant that my stock steering gear was not going to be up to the task. Especially when the front axle is locked while wheeling. The stock steering gear was never designed to generate the power needed to wheel with 37" tires. To address this, I have upgraded to the PSC Big Bore XD steering gear. PSC rates this steering gear for up to 37" tires. I chose to go this route versus using a ram assist unit for two reasons. 1) I was not wanting to have an overboosted feel at the steering wheel, as I have been building my Jeep for expedition work. I want to keep the handling/steering feel close to stock or better. 2) I like the simplicity of a bolt in swap, and that is what this mod is.
Here's a look at the XD next to the stock unit...
As you can see, the XD is a lot bigger and beefier than stock. Here's some details on the XD:
- 35% more turning force than OE.
- Sector shaft diameter has been increased from 35mm to 45mm.
- 16:1 turning ratio.
- Significantly beefed up mounting areas, weighs 15lbs more than Oe.
I also installed a new PSC supply side hose. On 12'-16' models, the factory uses a teflon lining on the OE hose. This lining has been known to melt under the heat/pressure of running larger tires.
So how does it feel on and off the road. on pavement, the 16:1 ratio has improved steering feel, making Rubi feel more stabile at high speed. Offroad in Moab on trails like Top of the World, Kane Creek and 7mile Rim, it performed flawlessly. It has enough power to allow you steer the front wheels while having the front axle locked. One of the things I really love about these steering upgrades, is the fact that Rubi drives and handles better than stock, and I am built to handle the rigors of 37" tires both on and off road.
PSC XD Steering Pump Kit
I had been running my stock steering pump with my Big Bore XD steering gear. Recently I began getting what felt like “dead spots” or no boost in the steering. I suspected that the stock pump was on it’s way out. It was time to upgrade that stock steering pump with something better equipped to steer those 37” tires.
Here’s the specs on the new pump kit.
50% Volume Increase Over Factory Pump
Direct Bolt In Replacement
Larger Filtered Remote Reservoir
Made In USA
Here’s a look at the components and install. This is a direct bolt in installation, and all components you need are provided in the kit.
As you can see, these are quality made pieces. The reservoir tank is an especially beautiful piece. Too bad you don’t actually see more of it once it’s installed!
In this next pic, you can see the size difference between the stock pump and the PSC unit.
Here’s the pump mounted to the new bracket and ready to install. I used blue Loctite on those bolts.
PSC includes a longer belt to accommodate the larger pump pulley. To install the belt you will need to remove the alternator/bracket. This is not a big deal, just make note of how the belt is routed around all the idler pulleys. Be sure to torque those bolts to the factory 30ft.lbs when re-installing.
Here’s a shot of the pump installed. I’m ready to begin measuring and cutting the new low pressure lines. Be sure and add a little power steering oil to the barb connector as well as the threaded connectors to aid in assembly.
With everything bolted in, it’s time to fill the reservoir and purg the air. I used PSC’s recommended Swepco fluid.
Bleeding System instructions:
With the wheels raised, cycle the steering lock to lock 3-4 times to purg any air. Check the fluid level in reservoir and add fluid as needed. Repeat this until fluid level remains constant.
Next, start the engine and let it run for 30 seconds with no steering input. Shut off and check the reservoir and add fluid as needed. Fill the reservoir to about one inch from the top.
If you are getting a constant level, you should have all the air out of the system. Recheck the system for leaks.
I am running the Banks Ram-Air intake. Because of the new reservoir size and location, I had to modify my air box to make it all fit. Not at all hard to do with my Dremel and a cut-off wheel.
Here it is all put back together…
The crew at PSC are great to work with, and will take the time to answer any questions and make recommendations. That’s something I really appreciate as a customer. I was working with Gatlin at PSC for advice on this install. He did mention I should add a cooler with this set-up. I’m gong to run this and see how it performs without the cooler. If I see a lot of boil over while on the trail, I’ll add the cooler. I like to be able to test each additional mod to assess its performance. I’ll most likely be adding a cooler down the road.
So how’s it feel to drive? I’ve only been able to drive it on the street, and you can definitely tell its more powerful than the stock pump. On the pavement it’s one finger on the wheel easy. It also turns a little quicker than the stock pump/Big Bore set-up, courtesy of the +50% volume increse.
The Big Bore XD steering box has the really nice 16:1 ratio that makes for a nice firm, controlled steering feel which I love.
The real test will be when I can get it off road. This is where I expect to see improvement in turning power locked and in the rocks. Stay tuned for an upcoming report on that after my next Moab trip!🏜