Steering is an important part of driving, and reliable steering that is responsive in the dirt and rocks is critical to how we use our vehicles. All the components on our 4WDs take much more of a beating than those on your typical street-driven commuter, plus the tires attached to the ends of our axles are much larger and heavier than the pavement donuts on cars.
With taller lift heights, suspension changes, and growing tire sizes, the factory steering might be over-taxed and in need of an upgrade. At some point, axle swaps or other more serious modification may require more custom steering solutions. So, we'll take a look at some of the geometries, physics, and reliability concerns that go with such steering systems.
Most of what is discussed here applies largely to straight front axles using a frame-mounted steering box and a draglink that is connected from a pitman arm on the box to some point on the axle assembly. Nevertheless, some of these details can apply to IFS steering and full hydraulic configurations in some ways.
When installing a proven steering kit with a known lift and other variables, the components will often bolt right on, and function without clearance or fitment issues. However, there are times when a pre-designed kit is not available for your vehicle application or you choose to combine components that necessitate designing your own steering configuration.
We'll take you through some of the thought processes and share some tips and concerns to consider when putting together a steering system. Note, however, that modifying your vehicle steering is not a trivial task and should be approached methodically with a strong emphasis on safety. If you're not confident in your skills in this area, it's probably best to hand the task over to a competent fabricator or mechanic.