High-Steer Basics With Down East Offroad
It's not hard to tell that the factory steering systems on many Jeeps aren't as trail-friendly as a person might think. If you have had to repair, replace, or rebend your tie rod out on the trail, then you know what I'm talking about. Down East Offroad offers a quality high-steer conversion kit for any axle with TJ-style Dana 30 outers. This setup will also fit the Rubicon's Dana 44 and any Dana 30 from '87 on up.
We were quite impressed with the quality of Down East's kit. The system included a 1-ton tie rod and ends, two new steering knuckles, hub eccentric bearing rings, caliper brackets, track-bar brackets, sway-bar brackets, and a drag link constructed with 1.5x0.250-inch-wall tubing. The caliper brackets use '90 Chevy S-10 calipers from a 4x4 (these can be picked up relatively cheap at any auto parts store). The kit is completely bolt-on, excluding a little cutting and welding for the sway-bar brackets.
The following is a beginner's definition of a steering system; it's not as complicated as it may seem. In a very basic explanation, the steering wheel is attached to the steering shaft, and the shaft is connected to the steering box. When you turn the steering wheel, the shaft turns a worm gear inside the steering box, which turns the pitman arm at the bottom of the steering box. This movement pushes your drag link left or right, which moves the tie rod left or right. The tie rod is attached to the knuckles at the end of your axles; when the tie rod moves the knuckles left or right, the wheels move left or right, hence you turn. It's a pretty basic concept, although there is quite a bit of steering geometry involved that we won't get into now.
The high-steer Down East Offroad system effectively raises the tie rod and drag link almost 6 inches higher than their factory locations. With most factory steering systems, the first point of impact is the tie rod, which is placed about 4 to 6 inches in front of the front axle. The new high-steer system gives the vehicle greater ground clearance, helping overcome trail obstacles that could possibly damage the tie rod. Since this heavy-duty tie rod is stouter than the OEM, its survivability factor under harsh conditions is much greater, leaving you with less of a chance at being stranded on the trail or needing to make an emergency repair.