Fixing CJ-7 Steering

    Steer Straight

    Trenton McGeeWriterTrenton McGeePhotographer

    Driving old vehicles is fun, not just because you stand out among all of the suppository-shaped econoboxes, but also because you get to know all the weird little quirks that are part of a vehicle’s overall personality. What’s not so fun is dealing with an old vehicle that randomly doesn’t want to start or constantly wanders from lane to lane.

    Our little CJ-7 is great for running around town, but the steering was vaguer than we wanted it to be despite all new steering linkage and tie-rod ends. The ignition switch was also getting harder and harder to physically turn, and randomly the Jeep just wouldn’t start at all. We suspected more worn steering components and some electrical gremlins, and it turns out we were right.

    When talking steering upgrades, most people think of everything from the steering box down to the knuckles, but a tight steering box and fresh tie-rod ends won’t do you any good if there’s a bunch of play between the steering wheel and the box’s input shaft. The steering shafts on many 4x4s are subject to wearing out, and that’s especially the case with several Jeep models.

    We decided to tackle our wandering, hard-starting 1984 CJ-7 head-on with a new Borgeson steering shaft and Ididit tilt-steering column. We knocked out the whole procedure in a few hours using simple handtools, and for the most part it was a fairly simple bolt-in operation. We’re pretty sure we found the source of the hard starting, and the Jeep now follows the straight and narrow in traffic. Check out what it takes to fix the other half of the steering system and add the comfort of a tilt column at the same time.

    Tough Switch

    Once we had the steering column out, we were curious why the ignition switch was so hard to turn. With the stock column, what you think of as the ignition switch (where the key goes) is actually just a lock cylinder hooked to a metal rod. This rod actuates the real ignition switch, which is lower down toward the base of the column. We could tell things had gotten gummed up due to age and lack of lubrication, but it turns out the actuating rod was also bent, possibly due to the switch getting stiff or just excessive force at some point in the past. Even if we had rebuilt the stock column as initially planned, we would have had to straighten the rod or track down a replacement, either of which would have been difficult. If you have a stiff ignition switch, this could be your culprit.