Hydraulic Assist: Creating The Perfect Steering For On- And Off-Road Driving

    Hydraulic Assist

    Ali MansourPhotographer, Writer

    When it comes to making your 4x4 more capable, a good set of tires and differential lockers are two of the best investments you’ll make. However, these upgrades can often come at a cost to your stock steering system. Given that most four-wheel drives were never engineered to handle much over a 33-inch-tall tire, it’s no surprise that adding oversized treads and a traction aid can overwhelm the stock steering. This is one of the reasons why bent steering links and broken sector-shaft failures are commonly seen on the trail.

    There are actually a few options for improving any given 4x4’s steering system, but when it comes to balancing on-road handling and off-road performance, you’d be hard-pressed to beat a hydraulic-assist steering kit. The big draw of a hydraulic-assist steering system is that it allows you to retain the vehicle’s mechanical steering linkage, but it adds a hydraulic cylinder to relieve some of the pressure from the steering gear. This means you have the added steering force needed when aired down and fully locked off-road, and you’re able to retain the familiar feedback and feel of a traditional steering gear on-road.

    Given that our ’01 Chevy S-10 is now resting on ARB Air Locker–equipped 1-ton axles and 40-inch-tall Nitto Mud Grapplers, we knew that a serious steering upgrade was in order. Since we still want to be able to easily drive this midsized pickup down the highway, a hydraulic-assist steering system was a logical choice. Of course, there isn’t exactly a vast aftermarket for S-10 steering upgrades. Thankfully, the steering experts at PSC Motorsports understood our needs and created a kit that would make our steering upgrade a painless one.

    Since Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina, is playing host to our Crew Cab, we grabbed our gear and headed back to the shop for another round of work. While we still have plenty of items to check off of our to-do list, we’re inching closer to having a drivable rig. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more on this pickup, and read on to find out why building a heavy-duty steering system is much easier than you think.