Junkyard Power Steering Swap Tips & Tricks
Power To The Steering!
From the May, 2012 issue of Jp
By Trenton McGee
Let’s face it: The “total driving experience” is one of the best parts of owning an old beater Jeep. Old Jeeps weren’t designed to place you in a warm, comfortable cocoon that isolates you from offending road noises in order to deposit you safe and refreshed at your destination. Instead, they are transportation in its purest form: brakes that take a couple of pumps to always keep you on your game, a clutch that eventually develops your left leg into that of a linebacker’s, and steering that has to be constantly manhandled like the valve on a giant water main. Maybe we’re just getting old and lazy, but that last part gets old pretty quickly and leaves us wishing for at least one creature comfort from the modern transportation age: power steering.
Regardless of what you’re...
Regardless of what you’re working on, this is basically everything you need to do a power steering conversion. You will need a pump; bracket(s) that bolt it to the engine; a power steering box (a.k.a. steering gear); bracket(s) to bolt the box to the frame; a pitman arm with the correct spline count, clocking, and tie rod taper; a steering shaft with the correct splines and diameter U-joints; and a high-pressure feed and a return line with the proper fittings.
Fortunately, performing a power steering swap isn’t all that hard and can be accomplished almost entirely with junkyard parts. In many cases, including this one, it’s almost entirely a bolt-in affair. You just need to know what to look for, but there are also a few areas where it would be wise to spend a little extra cash on upgraded aftermarket parts rather than risk using worn-out used stuff. Follow along as we gather up the parts needed to hang a power steering pump and box on an ’84 CJ-7. Even if you’re not working on CJ-7, most of what we found here applies to just about any power steering conversion.
The most complex portion of...
The most complex portion of the install is getting a pump mounted on the engine. The easiest way is to source a pump and related brackets that originally came on the engine, even if that engine wasn’t originally offered in a Jeep. This is especially true of later accessory drive systems, where the brackets are largely integrated. Unless you have some bizarre combination or massive tires, a stock pump should provide adequate performance in most instances.
Most engines and accessory...
Most engines and accessory drive systems since the early ’60s already have a space and/or provisions to mount the pump. This means it’s relatively easy to make a power steering bracket even if you can’t find one in a junkyard. The AMC four- and six-cylinders in CJs, for example, mounted the pump high on the passenger side using these mounting points (arrows). An Internet search can usually net pictures showing factory pump and bracket configurations for your engine.
If custom is your only option...
If custom is your only option and you’re on a junkyard budget, it’s hard to go wrong with a P-series “canned ham” pump. Used in approximately five billion vehicles, you can’t swing a dead cat in a junkyard without hitting one. They’re plentiful, reliable, and available with a variety of reservoirs, both integrated and remote. They’re also easy to hotrod (see sidebar, “Modding a P-Pump for $0”). After learning that our anemic AMC four-cylinder shares accessory brackets with the more common 258-cube six-cylinder, we were able to score a pump with a reservoir and factory brackets for $80. Craigslist and eBay are your friends.
Saginaw 700- and 800-series...
Saginaw 700- and 800-series steering boxes (bottom and middle) are strong, extremely plentiful, and cheap. Used in both cars and trucks for decades, the internal ratios can vary. While sector shafts are nearly all the same, the input shaft spline and diameter vary, so check before ordering your steering shaft U-joints. They can be found with both three-bolt (middle) and four-bolt (bottom) frame mounting points. They are interchangeable but four-bolt boxes are arguably better for strength.
There are three possible fittings...
There are three possible fittings you’ll encounter: SAE flare, metric flare, and metric O-ring (shown). Unless you’re working with something really old or really weird, most likely it will be metric O-ring. When sourcing the box and pump, nab the pressure line and the return line fitting for the box, especially if the pump and box came from different vehicles. Even if you don’t end up using the lines, the fittings will be handy for identifying what you need when having a custom line built.
Manual and power Saginaw boxes...
Manual and power Saginaw boxes share the same frame bolt pattern (though manuals are all three-bolt mounts). So, if you’re swapping Saginaw-to-Saginaw, it’s a bolt-on conversion. If not, off-the-shelf steering box brackets are available for most Jeep CJs, even the early ones. The ’76-’86 CJs have stamped-steel brackets that prove vulnerable with big tires and hard use, so getting a heavy-duty steering bracket like this Sam’s Off-Road unit (left) is a good option if budget permits. The 1⁄2-inch-thick steel dwarfs the thin factory bracket.
Pitman arm selection is important...
Pitman arm selection is important since they are not interchangeable between manual and power boxes. Although Saginaw power boxes have sector shafts with the same diameter and spline counts, the pitman arm clocking differs. The XJ Cherokee boxes (left) use pitman arms that are not clocked properly to work with TJ and CJ applications. Keyways in the factory pitman arms prevent re-clocking. We again turned to Sam’s Off-Road for one of its massive 7⁄8-inch-thick flat pitman arms (bottom), which lack keyways, so the arm can be clocked any way necessary.
If there is one area where...
If there is one area where you should strongly consider investing in new parts as opposed to junkyard pieces, it is the steering shaft (the rod that connects the box to the column). First, manual and power steering shafts are usually not compatible. Second, steering shafts shouldn’t be modified (i.e., cut and welded). Third, most junkyard shafts have joints that are plain worn out. Borgeson has both ready-made and custom replacement shafts at-the-ready. The company can adapt virtually any combination of steering column and box. All Borgeson shafts (bottom) feature high-quality U-joints with sealed needle bearings for slop-free performance.
Steering boxes see tremendous...
Steering boxes see tremendous loads, so be absolutely certain you know what you are doing if you plan on fabricating your own steering box mount. We’ve seen a lot of butch mounts over the years and they’re just plain dangerous. We’ve had the best luck drilling the frame and welding in heavy-wall DOM tubing with an ID that closely matches the mounting bolts (7⁄16-inch in most cases). Run the tubing through both sides of the frame directly to the box. Inevitably, one or more mounting bolts will be above or below the frame, so be sure they are heavily gusseted as shown.
Regardless of what fittings...
Regardless of what fittings the pump and box utilize, Borgeson has a method for connecting the two (at least non-weirdo applications) via brass ferrules that convert O-ring style ports to metric or standard flare, depending on the application. Part number 925103 would have worked perfectly for us, but both lines were a little bit short and the pressure line fitting didn’t clear the grille. In a time crunch, we ended up ordering a stock replacement pressure line (Parts Master PN 91453), which was less than $25 at our local parts store. We did use the Borgeson return line with a short extension, since it is low pressure. Borgeson can work with custom applications; we just ran out of time.
We found this pristine three-bolt...
We found this pristine three-bolt example in a Comanche; you could practically eat off this thing. Somebody was even kind enough to remove the grille and other items that would have otherwise gotten in the way of its liberation! Three-bolt boxes survive well with TJs and Cherokees under extreme use, so why we felt we had to have a four-bolt box for our dinky CJ is anyone’s guess. Sometimes it’s the easy stuff that gets you.
Here’s a gotcha we ran across....
Here’s a gotcha we ran across. A CJ power steering box has a 36-spline, 13⁄16-inch steering box input shaft (left). Our donor box had the more-common 30-spline, 3⁄4-inch shaft. Fortunately Borgeson shafts are somewhat modular, and a quick call allowed us to exchange our CJ-style U-joint for the proper 3⁄4-30 joint that matched our box without having to return the entire shaft.
Modding a P-Pump for $0
Since we were swapping in a fresh remanufactured pump and we conveniently “forgot” to include the pressure fitting when we turned in the core pump, we thought we’d try an old-school trick. The pressure fitting on a P-Pump has an orifice in the center that restricts the amount of fluid volume that the pump puts out. One of the trail tips we’ve picked up over the years is to drill out this orifice from 9⁄64-inch to 5⁄32-inch to boost the fluid volume to the box, resulting in more steering assist. We tried both stock and modified fittings and were surprised at the results. The larger orifice provided a noticeable increase in assist, almost to the point of over-boosting with our little 31-inch tires on the street. However, the increase was welcome on the trail and would be of definite benefit to Jeeps with 35-inch tires and lockers. The fitting is easily accessible: it’s the external fitting that the pressure line connects to. In many cases, it can be removed without even removing the pump from the vehicle. We’ve also heard of people monkeying with the spring that controls the bypass circuit, but we’ll leave that for later.
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Sam's Offroad Equipment
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