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Nuts & Bolts: Scary Bronco

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on April 25, 2018
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Photographers: Trenton McGee

I was wondering if anyone could help me with a few questions. I have a 1992 Ford Bronco. The steering box is brand new, but it’s stock. There is still so much play in the steering that it’s scary to drive. What can I do to this truck to highly improve the steering?

Also I wanted to do a 1-ton rear swap on this truck. How would I do this, and what kind of suspension would I need to make it work? If someone could help me with my questions I would greatly appreciate it.

David S.
Via nuts@4wor.com

Scary steering is almost always caused by worn out components with excessive play. The steering box is a good place to start, but many other components can cause your Bronco to wander like a drunken sailor. Have someone wiggle the steering back and forth while you closely inspect all of the steering linkage for signs of wear or excess play. Pay close attention to tie-rod and drag-link ends, as well as the steering shaft that connects the steering column to the box. TTB Ford steering was pretty mediocre when new, so even just a bit of play can wreak havoc. If the steering checks out, then move on and closely inspect the ball joints, wheel bearings, and axle and suspension pivot points. If you still don’t find anything, it may be time to throw in the towel and take it to a professional.

As for the 1-ton rear, your Bronco uses the same basic leaf-spring rear suspension as F-250s and F-350s. Dana 60s from F-250s and F-350s are plentiful and cheap in junkyards, and they are pretty close to the right width for your Bronco. You will probably have to move spring pads and shock mounts, but the physical installation won’t be that big a deal.

The trouble is that a 1-ton axle will be eight-lug, while your front axle is 5-on-5 1/2. This necessitates converting your frontend to eight-lug. If you can get your hands on TTB Dana 44HD knuckles-out assemblies from a TTB F-250, you can convert your five-lug TTB Dana 44 to eight-lug with bolt-on parts (solid-axle Dana 44 outers are not compatible with TTB Dana 44s). You’ll need everything from the knuckles outward, though the locking hubs will be the same. We’d also grab the axleshafts just to be safe. Be careful when sourcing Dana 44HD parts, however, as F-250s also came with Dana 50s (which are actually more common), and Dana 50 parts will not interchange with the Dana 44 stuff. The easiest ways to identify Dana 44HDs and Dana 50s is to look at the hub centers: Dana 50s will have larger, 4 1/4-inch-diameter hubs. The respective axle numbers will also be cast into the center differential housing.

A second option would be to convert the 1-ton rear to 5-on-5 1/2 with custom axles. I did something similar for Jp Magazine when I built a custom Dana 60 for a Jeep using a housing sourced from an F-250 a few years ago (“Rear Dana 60 Build: Moving the Fuse,” goo.gl/qduTgT). You lose a little strength and some width going from a full-float axle to a semi-float, but you can take the opportunity to upgrade to 35-spline and get much of that lost strength back. This option will be more expensive than converting the front axle to eight-lug, but the front axle parts may be harder to come by. In the end, keep in mind that your existing 8.8 rear should be fine with up to 35-inch tires and moderate use, even with a locker.

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