Every one of the three Jeep CJs I have owned has
had one thing in common - the cheap, stamped steel steering box
brackets have all been cracked from a combination of age, mileage,
and abuse. The first thing I did on each one of them was replace
them with new pieces, just like the marginal parts I replaced.
I also did what most of us do when we run big tires - I installed
a steering box brace as well. Still, I knew that the stock brackets
were anything but durable and that the extra stress could eventually
damage both brackets and frame.
Stock gear box installed |
Stock gear box bracket. It even looks
I saw this resulting damage on a recent run. A
CJ-5 was stranded on a trail with the steering box torn from the
frame. Several methods were tried to temporarily tie the box to
the frame, but due to the extent of the damage and the severity
of the trail, they all failed. The Jeep had to be left until a
group could return with an onboard welder to perform repairs.
Considering the terrible weather, this wasn’t fun for anyone
and it was certainly not a place I wanted to find myself if I
could help it. So, what to do to avoid these problems?
Big Daddy Offroad Bracket |
BDO bracket painted and ready to
Big Daddy Offroad has the answer in their new
CJ Steering Box Bracket. One look and you’ll see the difference.
Big Daddy’s mount is made from 3/8” laser-cut plate
steel with high-quality welds that will make any welder envious.
Check out the unpainted mount and I’m sure you’ll
agree! (Brackets will normally be shipped in a silver powder-coat
like their new Monster Tie Rods.) These brackets are carefully
assembled in a precise jig to allow simple bolting to factory
holes. One extra feature can be seen if you look closely, which
is the large 5/8” nut welded inside the bracket. More on
that later. Let’s get on to the installation.
First, remove the old gear. In most cases, this
is a pretty standard procedure. In my case, this required removal
of the winch mounting plate to gain access to the rear bolt in
the cross member and the steering cross-brace. Other than that,
just follow your service manual by disconnecting the drag link,
hoses, and steering shaft. Some of you with sharp eyes will notice
two things. First, I’m using a YJ gear box which bolts up
directly in place of the CJ gear box with the exception of the
hoses and the shaft, which uses a u-joint instead of the weaker
stock CJ style. Second, the Pitman arm is bent from big tires
and abuse - another testament for strong steering system components.
A heavy-duty replacement is planned in the near future.
Gear box with studs in place |
Gear box with BDO bracket installed
Following the instructions, install the 7/16”
studs, placing the shorter 2” long one in the upper rear
mounting hole and the 2 ½” ones in the other three
holes, using a good thread-locking compound on each. Next, place
the three .700” spacers over the 2 ½“ studs,
and the .275” thick spacer over the 2” stud. Then,
using the lock nuts supplied, bolt the new mount down to 65 ft.
lbs., starting with the 2” stud first.
Note: With all the “variances”
built into Jeeps over the years, I suggest trial-fitting the new
mount to your vehicle prior to bolting it to the gear. Mine required
only slight filing of the rear cross member bolt hole to line
up. Considering all the abuse my CJ has seen, I don’t find
this unusual at all. Yours will probably line right up.
Box and bracket installed |
Box and bracket installed
Next, bolt up the new mount to the frame. If your
CJ still has the rear frame rail stud like mine, start with that
first, and then allow the gear box to hang there while you get
the power steering hoses started. Don’t tighten them yet.
Using the new Grade 8 bolts and washers supplied, install the
rest of the bolts using a small amount of thread-locker on each.
When everything’s snug, torque all the bolts down to 55
ft. lbs. Now you’re done, right? Not quite!
Remember that big nut welded inside the Big Daddy
mount? Well, the next step is to install the supplied 5/8”
x 2 ½” bolt though the existing hole in the frame
and into the side of the mount. Personally, I think this is the
best feature of this product. Not only is the inherent weakness
of the stock brackets completely eliminated, the attachment through
the frame with this additional bolt significantly increases the
clamping force in this area. As you can see in the photo, I went
a step further when I built my front bumper using 3/8” steel
runners down the side of the frame to help reinforce this area.
To utilize the extra bolt, I simply removed the bumper, drilled
a ¾” hole, and installed a 5/8” x 3 ½”
bolt through the bumper, frame and mount. Super strong!
Bolt in frame |
Bolt through bumper
After this step, tighten the hoses, making sure
they don’t rub on anything and reinstall the steering shaft,
tie rod, and steering cross-brace if applicable.
Ok, it’s in, but how do we test it? We had
lots of conversation about this, with ideas like intentionally
running the CJ into boulders or hitting the Big Daddy Offroad
Mount with a sledgehammer. But we weren’t really interested
in the first choice and why ruin a perfectly good sledge? There’s
no question that this mount is much, much stronger than the stock
one, and with the extra 5/8” bolt, adds significant strength
at the frame.
If you run a CJ with big tires, this one’s
to get a Big Daddy Offroad CJ Steering Box Bracket for your rig?
Brinks is an avid four-wheeler and a contributor here
at ROCKCRAWLER.com. Jack resides north of Houston,
TX and frequents many events in the Southwest.
Jack at email@example.com