Everyone's heard the phrase Jeeps aren't bought, they're built from time to time. Now into the 3rd year of slowly continuing the build of our Texas4x4 TJ, the phrase starts to take on a whole new meaning.
Over the last couple of years we have noticed the power-steering was starting to feel weaker and weaker every time the rig was taken on the trails. No doubt, that with a locked Dana 30 and 35 tires, overheating was a major issue. We checked the fluid fairly frequently and noticed it seemed to turn that notorious burnt-brown color more quickly than normal. The last two times on the trail, although the fluid was fresh, there were times we weren't even able to turn the wheel when it should have been easy to do so.
Knowing the Jeep TJ has an inherently weak steering system anyway, and that we planned on a major upgrade eventually, no effort was made to beef up the current system, nor was an external cooler added to it. We just changed the fluid often in order to breathe a little bit of life into the system.
It wasn't too long after the last trip on the trails we were driving along when we heard a brief squeal then the motor halted. You know our first thought had to be the A/C compressor, as it was working overtime in the middle of a Texas summer. We were able to coast into a parking lot, only to find fluid pouring out from the engine compartment.
Upon opening the hood it was easy to see that the shaft on the power
steering pump wasn't in its normal perpendicular-to-the-engine position.
The stench of burnt power steering fluid was overwhelming as we found it
sprayed all over the inside of the engine compartment. The power steering
pump had literally exploded! Lovely.
Time to upgrade! Not too long before the incident we had been talking to a friend who knew someone in the business of power-steering. Soon thereafter we were introduced to Jeff Allen of No Boundaries 4x4 in Arlington , TX . Jeff was all too familiar with the junk Chrysler uses for steering and was able to hook us up with a world-class setup made by Performance Steering Components (PSC).
You see, Jeff has more than just a vested interest in PSC. Jeff worked
for a while at AGR which his family owned. Jeff's dad, Tom, sold his stake
in AGR in November of 2001 then formed PSC in September of 2002. PSC is
rapidly becoming the whos-who in the power-steering world with products
which can be seen in and take the abuse from track racers and even in the
most brutal of off-road rigs.
PSC specializes in building and modifying OEM steering gears and pumps for high-performance applications along with manufacturing many other custom steering components such as pulleys, mount brackets, reservoirs and much more. PSC offers products for Racing, Off-Road/4x4, Street, and Light Trucks.
When Jeff removed it from the box and laid it all out, all we could say was WOW! This isn't your ordinary power-steering getup.
Included in this upgrade kit are:
- X-treme Duty Chevy-type Saginaw steering gear box modified with a larger 3.125 piston and ported for higher flow volumes. Pre-plumbed for ram-assist steering and bracketed for the Jeep Wrangler.
- Extra-capacity fluid reservoir, complete with integrated, serviceable filter. Built completely of billet aluminum for weight and extra cooling (requires relocation of coolant reservoir)
- High-volume TC/P-pump which puts out 1800PSI and 4GPM compared to stock 1350PSI and 2.1GPM. Cased in billet aluminum for extra cooling (requires remote reservoir)
- Larger belt to accommodate the increased pulley circumference.
- Necessary fittings and hoses
According to Jeff, installation is a snap, taking 1½ hours for a shop professional or 2 to 3 hours for the average do-it-yourselfer. We opted to have the professionals at No Boundaries 4x4 perform the install.
No Boundaries 4x4 has for years been a well-known establishment in the Dallas / Fort Worth area for off-road equipment and repair. First impression is everything and when we arrived, we found a clean, well-maintained shop with three bays, complete with lifts and everything you could imagine needing to work on the most complicated rigs.
For obvious reasons, the TJ needed to be towed to the shop. Luckily, we were able to get it started long enough to get it in place in the bay. Once in position, the technician began ripping out all of the old stuff.
When the factory pump was out, the damage was more evident than ever. The pulley shaft could be moved around and swiveled with one's finger. The rig was lifted and the gear was dropped and even more carnage was found. The splined shaft had just a little too much play, so it was just a matter of time before it was lost, as well.
So, out with the old, in with the new. Note the massive amounts of power steering fluid which sprayed and coated the suspension and steering components. Since the Jeep was in the area already, the obvious starting point was with the gear box.
The Jeep was dropped then it was on to the brackets, hoses, pump, fluid reservoir, and belt.
No Boundaries 4x4 filled the system with Royal Purple power steering fluid, purged the air from the system and the install was complete well within the projected 1½ hour install time.
Driving off, we could tell an immediate difference in the steering even compared to brand new. The wheel could be turned easily all the way, both directions with a pinky and at a stand-still. The real test, however, was going to happen on the trails where we had most of the problems with the old system.
We decided to take the rig back to Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area outside of Gilmer , TX , knowing where there are plenty of ruts and washouts which tended to give us problems in the past. More specifically, Clyde 's Ravine and Twister would be our testing grounds. Neither of the trails can be considered difficult, really, but as the names indicate, there are cuts with deep washouts and terrain which can and will abuse your suspension. Our problem before was with the suspension twisted or while precariously off-camber, steering was not possible unless the vehicle was rolling.
That problem was solved and then some with the steering system from Power Steering Components. Not only were we able to traverse the deep ruts and twisting terrain, we were literally able to move the front end of the rig by turning the wheels something not even dreamed of with the old stock system. That can have its caveats, however. If you have worn out or weak steering parts, the extra oomph this system provides could have you
replacing those parts more quickly than you wanted.
To conclude, theres nothing bad we can say about our new setup. The PSC
system is more than our rig needed but we like the assurance of being able
to turn when we need to, not only when we can. If you are building your rig to
compete in UROC competitions or if you simply need to replace your tired
power steering system, then we would highly recommend PSC.
If youre in
the D/FW area and need work done on your rig, then definitely go see Jeff at No Boundaries 4x4. They are professional
and accommodating, sell the highest of quality of products and do quality
Kevin Curry is a staff-writer at Rockcrawler.com and resides in the great state of Texas.
When Kevin is not cruising in his Jeep TJ, he spends time playing with his big honkin' Ford Excursion.