A new steering stabilizer
Steering stabilizers have been a mainstay in the 4x4 industry for decades. Similar to shock absorbers, the goal of a steering stabilizer is to increase the vehicles handling and control, while filtering out unwanted chatter. The latest wave in steering stabilizers has been nitrogen-charged units. These heavy-duty gas-charged stabilizers are more alike to high-end performance shocks, rather than the basic fluid shufflers that come on a stock 4x4.
The biggest drawback with a gas-charged stabilizer is that they create a push in one direction. This push feeling is partly due to the increased surface area on the non-shaft side of the piston. With the stabilizer also fitted with a high-charge of nitrogen gas, it only aggravates the issue. Although the gas-charged stabilizers are effective at tightening the rigs handling, the constant push felt in the wheel is tiresome and annoying to most drivers.
It wasn’t until recently that Fox Racing Shox took the creative gas-charged stabilizer design common on motorcycles and applied it to 4x4s. For those of you unfamiliar, Fox is a company that specializes in factory-replacement and custom performance shocks for both the two- and four-wheel off-road industry. The company is also familiar with the high-performance demands that heavy knobby tires create as they are vested heavily in a range of off-road powersports. To fill demand for a gas-charged stabilizer, sans the push, Fox created the Performance Series Adjustable Through Shaft steering stabilizer or ATS stabilizer for short. The ATS stabilizer is essentially two gas-charged stabilizers in one package. Since the ATS runs a shaft all the way through, it makes the surface area on both sides of the stabilizer’s piston equal. This unique two-in-one through-shaft design creates a pressure balance so no unwanted push is felt in either direction. For those of you in the two-wheel motorsports world, you may be familiar with smaller variations of this style of stabilizer. The idea behind the no-push adjustable bar keeper is similar on the ATS, just on a much larger scale.
We were eager to see just how the stabilizer worked so we ordered one of the ’07-present Jeep Wrangler JK-specific stabilizer kits. Our test vehicle was a well used ’07 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon that was equipped with coilovers, long-arm suspension, a slightly bent tie-rod bar, and 37-inch IROKS on beadlock wheels which were badly in need of a balance. Let’s just say we were not cutting any corners when it came to see just how effective the ATS stabilizer could be. Given that it is a bolt-on upgrade, it only took a few minutes to install. And since the integrated-reservoir stabilizer arrived pre-charged, there was no need for a nitrogen-charging kit.
The first thing we noticed was that Fox raises the stabilizer from the stock location, a great bonus and a move that didn’t create any interference issues with our test rigs steering system. With 24 adjustment settings ranging from soft to firm, we worked through the stabilizer a few clicks at a time. For our test rig, we found anything above 16-clicks to be the most effective and noticeable on- and off-road. We like a tight, on-center feel when driving, and the higher number settings delivered that the best. For cruising slow trails or around town, most may find the middle settings more preferable. Thankfully, it only takes a flathead screwdriver to move the external adjuster, so getting the stabilizer finely tuned isn’t a difficult affair.
Overall, we were pleased with the package and performance of the stabilizer. We never felt any push in either direction, and were pleasantly surprised at how effective the stabilizer was on our test Jeep. Our only gripe may be the price—a cool $395 at time of print. While you get a lot for your money, it doesn’t make that initial pinch of the wallet feel any better! As of now, only JK-specific kits are available, but we are hoping to see the system carry over for other vehicle makes.
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