Step By Step
The brace kit consists of a long brace that attaches to the inner framerail with new Grade 8 bolts that go through the bracket and thread into the steering box. The other end of the bracket attaches to the center of the front crossmember after a hole has been drilled.
Late-model vehicles have a factory bracket, pointed out here, in front of the crossmember on the framerail which is replaced with an Autofab bracket.The factory bracket can be left in place, but the new bracket also ties the steering box to the crossmember so the factory bracket should be removed as shown. After the bolt and spacer are removed from the forward steering box bolt, the bracket and new bolt to the box are installed. An existing 5/8-inch hole is used to mount the bracket to the crossmember with a 5/8-inch bolt and locknut.
Numerous brake and fuel lines are behind the crossmember and on the framerail. The 5/8-inch bolt hole often has a brake line behind it that can be pulled down slightly to move it out of the way. The large Autofab bracket clears the proportioning valve and has cutouts to clear other lines, but verify upon installation that none of them will be pinched by either bracket.
The two inner framerail bolts are fairly easy to remove, but sometimes the power steering hoses will need to be moved slightly for wrench clearance. We had this Jimmy’s fender and grille removed for photographic purposes and it made for easier installation of the kit, but normal installation should take less than an hour with standard handtools and a drill.
After the two rearward bolts are removed, insert the two new bolts supplied with the kit through the bracket bosses, and use large washers if the bolts are long enough. Place the brace in position and thread the bolts through the frame and into the steering box. For security,verify that the bolts go all the way into the threads to the outside of the steering box. If the bolts are long enough, remove them and coat the threads with red Loctite and reinstall them.
The typical stress cracks had been repaired on this frame, which gave us a bit of a problem. The plate that was welded to the frame moved the steering box outboard by a 1/4 inch, which resulted in the new bolts being too short to safely mount the box. To secure the box securely, we bought new Grade 8 bolts that were a 1/4-inch longer than those supplied.
After the long bracket is secured to the frame, drill a hole into the crossmember for the other end of the bracket to be bolted to. A regular drill motor won’t fit through the bracket from the backside because of a crossmember, so an angle-head drill motor must be used. In our situation, we found a small existing hole that lined up almost perfectly with the bracket, so we drilled the 1/2-inch hole from the front.
The bracket is secured to the crossmember with the bolt and the locknut provided. Depending on the condition and tweakage of your frame, the end of the bracket may not line up with the small hole, and any brake or fuel lines should be moved so the drilling process or bracket won’t harm the lines.
Once installed, the steering box gusset will strengthen the frame and box mounting location. Notice how the steel lines run behind the bracket through a notch . Autofab even offers a kit for two-wheel-drive trucks to accomplish the same strengthening as this 4x4 model.
Those of you with '73-'87 Chevy or GMC fullsize pickups and Blazers are probably fully aware of the steering box problems these 4x4s typically have. With the stress of big tires, especially when a front locker is used, the framerail can crack near the box, and then the box can drop off at the most inopportune time. Many companies make plates to fix the fractured frame once damage is done, and these plates also reinforce the area. But if you have a frame that hasn't yet been subjected to abuse, or you just want extra insurance against the frame cracking again, this stylish steering brace made by Autofab might fit your ticket.
Steering braces are a fairly common aftermarket add-on for Jeep CJs, and they usually clamp onto the steering box and then tied to the framerail on the opposite side to prevent movement and breakage. For GM owners, Autofab has designed a brace that goes inside the frame where the steering box mounts and ties into the forward crossmember. This triangulation prevents flexing and eliminates cracking of the framerail. Follow along and see how quick and easy it is to mount this nifty, necessary product.