Mounting a Power Steering Box
Old Jeep and 4x4 tech.
The manual steering system found on Jeeps built and sold before 1971 works just fine when properly maintained and not used in extreme ways. By that we mean with stock sized tires, and regular replacement of wear parts and rebuilding. Still, the system is overly complex and has many areas where wear and eventual failure can occur, especially on Jeeps used extensively off-road and/or with larger than factory tires. Add in locking differentials and engine swaps (horsepower), and it becomes a necessity to upgrade most if not the entire steering system.
The early Jeep steering system has a column that terminates in a steering box mounted under your feet along the frame. From there the pivots and levers start, and they follow a fairly complicated path converting rotational input into fore-and-aft movement only to then change it to side-to-side movement at the front crossmember en route to the wheels. A much simpler and widely adopted method of directing your Jeep is to use a manual or power assist steering box to the driver side framerail just aft of the front axle. We are a huge fan of Saginaw style steering on all but the most original older Jeeps, and the engineers at Jeep seem to be on board using Saginaw style steering for the past 49 years.
Where to Get Your Power Steering Box
We've done a few Saginaw power steering swaps on a number of older Jeeps, and the pattern for what to do is all roughly the same, but as they say, there is always more than one way to skin a cat. Here's how we mounted a power steering box on the framerails of our 1962 CJ-5 and how we plan to make the rest of the steering system complete. You can copy what we do to a T, or spread your wings and do your power steering conversion to suit what you intend to do with your Jeep. Our box came from a junkyard. We pulled it from a late '70s fullsize Jeep Cherokee or Wagoneer.
First Step in Hanging a Power Steering Box on an Old Jeep
First thing we did was box the front framerails of our old Jeep, and from there we cut some heavy wall tubing. The idea will be to use the heavy wall tubing as sleeves to attach the steering box to the frame. We started with one sleeve and a bolt. Bolt the sleeve to the box. From there, you can put the sleeve on top of the framerail and figure out where, roughly fore-and-aft, the box needs to sit. We like to keep the front of the box behind the plane of the front bumper. Then we tack-weld the tube to the top of the framerail. You can then pivot the box on this one sleeve to set the angle that the box will sit at.
Setting the Angle of the Steering Box
You can place the steering box roughly flat, but it's best to pay attention to the angle of the pitman arm and also where the splined input shaft of the box is aimed. On any old Jeep you will have to have the shaft go over, through, or under the crossmember under the Jeep's grille. We're hoping to skirt the top of the crossmember with a steering joint and the steering shaft. That way we can cut a U-shaped trough in the top of the crossmember and then reinforce it with part of a piece of 2- to 3-inch tubing. From there, the steering shaft will have to parallel the frame back to the end of the steering column.
Steering Shaft Parts You Will Need
You will need at least two steering shaft U-joints to connect the steering box to the end of the steering column. We like to use steering shafts and steering U-joints from Borgeson, but there are a couple of other manufacturers that make and sell them. If your Jeep is going to have a big engine or an exhaust manifold near the framerail, you may need to add a third U-joint and a pillow block (which is basically just a rod end that supports part of the steering shaft and U-joints).
What's Next When Hanging a Steering Box
From here, we drilled the frame for the forward mounting point sleeve. It will pierce the frame just below the surface of the framerail. We start by drilling two pilot holes for the forward sleeve.
Tying in the Lower Two Steering Box Mounts
With the upper two sleeves mounted roughly where they will permanently be, the two lower steering box sleeves are floating below the frame. To tie them in, we will make a small wedge-shaped box that will span the gap between them and the frame. That can tie into the flat sides of the framerail as well as part of the front spring mount. We will also build a front bumper that will help keep the box formed by the two framerails and the under-grille crossmember. For now we will leave everything heavy-tacked in place in case we need to move the steering box later for some unforeseen reason.
Last, but Not Least When Mounting the Steering Box
For now we like the position of our steering box, but it is at kind of an odd angle. That means that if it stays in this position we will need to clearance the grille a touch to clear the steering U-joint at the box input shaft. Again, we will leave everything tacked in place until we get more of the steering parts and engine in position so we can commit to their placement.