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Our first step was to measure the length of the stock track bar, drag link, and tie rod. With that information, Performance Unlimited can start building our Bullet Proof custom steering system.
Once our new steering system arrived, it was time to get rid of the old one. We used a pickle fork to pop free the tie rod from the knuckles and to remove the drag link from the pitman arm.
Our original steering setup was seriously hammered. We managed to bend it twice on one trip and finally welded a homemade truss onto it to try to keep it straight. Besides being bent, the tie-rod ends also had plenty of slop in them, so it was definitely time for something new.
With the steering removed, it was now time to drill out the knuckles and the track bar bracket to accept the 3/4-inch bolts that are part of the kit. This step is by far the most time-consuming and labor-intensive part of the install.
Performance Unlimited offers three tubing options for the tie rod in their Bullet Proof systems. The standard Trail Proof system uses 1026 DOM tubing with a 0.220-inch wall thickness. Upgrading to the Race Proof system nets 1026 DOM tubing with a 0.375-inch wall thickness. The final option is the Rock Proof system that uses 1026 seamless tubing with a massive 0.500-inch wall thickness.
For our application we chose the Rock Proof tubing because it is delicious overkill. Another feature of the Bullet Proof system is the high-quality rod ends the company uses. Some folks dont like rod ends because cheap ones wear and start to rattle. These high-end maintenance-free units use a Teflon/Carbon-fiber-lined three-piece bearing surface and super-tight tolerances to keep debris out. They are self-lubricating and should last a long time with no problems.
With all the mounting points drilled out to accept the 3/4-inch hardware, it is now a simple process of bolting everything into place. We also opted to have Performance Unlimited build us a new track bar that is stronger than the stock unit and uses rod ends. It was the first to go on.
Our next step was to put the tie rod and drag link into position. We decided to go with the optional Tie Rod Over Knuckle kit which mounts the tie rod on top of the knuckle. A small spacer is used to keep the drag link and the tie-rod ends apart.
By putting the tie rod over the knuckle we gained about two inches of clearance when compared to the tie rod in its stock position.
In keeping with the stoutness of the Bullet Proof steering system, 3/4-inch Grade 9 F911 Aerospace bolts are used. They are constructed of an 8640 alloy that features 56 percent more chromium and 100 percent more nickel than other Grade 9 bolts, making them strong but not brittle. Other stout specs include a tensile strength of 190,000 psi and a torque rating of 530 lb-ft.
Another nice feature of Bullet Proof steering systems is that the ends of the tubing have milled flats to accept a wrench. This feature makes tightening the rod ends easy.
Adjusting toe is also easy with the Bullet Proof steering system since the tubing has both left- and right-hand threading. This means you only have to twist the tie rod to make adjustments.
Steering is one of the most overlooked systems. A new suspension, bigger tires, lockers, and gears are the things at the top of everyones list. While some wise folks might make steering corrections to accommodate the geometry changes brought on by a lift, few think about upgrading the actual steering components themselves. They dont think about it, that is, until their steering becomes a twisted mess out on the trail. Such was the situation with our 69 Ford Bronco. We twice mangled our tie rod on a Moab trip, so we knew something had to be done. Knowing that we would just bend a stock setup again, we looked for an alternative. After doing plenty of Web surfing, we finally landed at www.performanceunlimited.com and liked what we saw. Our wimpy stock steering would be replaced with super-stout tubing and rod ends. Even better, this new system would allow us to flip the tie rod to the top of the knuckle to gain valuable clearance. Also, the drag link no longer would mount into the tie rod itself.
Oh, you dont own an early Bronco? Thats OK, youre not out of luck. Performance Unlimited can build one of its Bullet Proof steering systems for just about any vehicle, as each setup is custom-made. From trail rigs to cars to snowmobiles, the company can build the steering for your rig as long as you can provide the necessary measurements. So if you are tired of bending your steering and replacing it with weak, stock pieces, you now have a solution to your steering woes.