Steering Tech Tips


The Hole in the Bottom of the Steering Box

Byron found a grease fitting in the bottom of his steering box: "Would someone please advise me as to how to press the grease fitting back into the lower end of the steering box? It was pushed out when I was trying to remove my steering wheel. All of the grease and some of the bearings came out as well."

Jyotin chuckled: "I bet your horn does not work by pressing on the button in the center of the steering wheel. What is broken is the assembly that allows the horn wire to go out the bottom of the steering box. If it were me, I'd just try to seal up the hole with some glue or something. This part is no longer made, so you can either find a steering box with a good one, or seal it up some other way. The last guy that had it apparently used a grease fitting."

Jim Sammons added: "That's right, there is no grease fitting on the bottom of the box. Just a hole that the horn wire is supposed to come out of. Box is supposed to be filled with 90 wt. gear oil. Incidentally, the hole has a tube that runs up the center of the worm gear which is supposed to keep the gear oil from leaking out: if it leaks you will have to clean it good and braze it back in. I believe it is a crimped fit from the factory. Once it has been knocked loose it usually leaks and has to be brazed."

(See part no. 8 in the illustration below. See also Tech Tips for Wiring the Jeep Horn Button.)

Sector Shaft Bushing

Stan commented on the CJ-3B Bulletin Board that he was ready to rebuild the steering box on his Jeep: "It's getting way too sloppy to drive safely. I tried to rebuild it once before but the parts I got didn't fit properly so I took them back. Now it's to the point where I have to do something. Is there a good parts source out there? Do I keep it stock or do I modernize it? I don't want to lose the stock appearance and I sure don't want to spend a bunch of money."

Eric Lawson commented: "The stock system can be kept quite tight, although it does require more adjustment and lubrication than newer systems. Derek has a list of suppliers on CJ3B.info. There is a strong chance that each retailer will supply parts from the same manufacturer, so price, service and delivery are the things to use to make your buying decision.

"Have you checked the draglink ends' adjustment? Also, are the bushings in the bellcrank (under the radiator) worn, or is the bolt attaching the bellcrank to the frame loose? These two things have a large impact (sorry for the pun!) on the slack in the steering system of your Jeep. What didn't fit when you tried to rebuild the steering gearbox? Was it the sector shaft bushing?"

Stan replied, "Yes it was the sector shaft bushing that didn't fit properly. At the time it was the only manufacturer I could find and they needed to make some definite improvements."

Eric advised: "The sector shaft bushing is a press fit into the steering box. Once that is done, the inside of the bushing will need to be reamed to the correct size. It took a machine shop about 15 minutes to press and ream the bushing."

Steering gear

Steering Linkage

Alan asked for suggestions: "I have failed inspection twice on account of the steering linkage (140K JPEG). First time it was the bell crank, which I rebuilt. Next was a sloppy drag link into which I put a new set of plugs and springs. I was very careful to put the assembly on both ends back together as the shop manual specified but when I went to tighten up the plug it seemed to bottom out well before the point where I could get the cotter keys back in. Do you think I should apply more torque on the plug? Perhaps the bottoming out is nothing more then coming up against the spring -- it has a very strong compression. I don't want to crank it in there and break the spring. Is there a tool for fitting the crossed slots in the plug? Screwdrivers don't seem to work real well and I can't get a lot of torque with them? Although failing the inspections has really bummed me out, I do have a much more solid driving rig. There is a slight shimmy at about 45 but it was undriveable over 25 the first time I sneaked out for a road run. I'm going in tomorrow for another shot at an inspection -- I just hope the guy doesn't notice the cotter keys missing."

Jyotin speculated, "You know, the drag link ball joints are different. There is one for the front and one for the rear. Be sure you have the right one in the right place. Be sure you have all the old parts out of the inside of the drag link. Be sure the inside is clean.

I have seen your problem before. As long as the ball joints are properly installed you might compare the plug with the cotter key slot, to the old one that came out of the same position. I have seen them a quarter inch different in length which means the plug/pin would never fit. You say you didn't save the old parts until you had the new ones working properly? I bet you don't do that anymore! If you have the problem I described, try purchasing another ball joint kit -- you might get the kit for the other end and substitute the plug part only. Alternatively, you could use the old plug. The plug is probably OK, it's the ball joint springs and the pittman arm or bellcrank arm that develop flat spots."

Eric Lawson wondered: "As for the adjusting plug not going in far enough to use a cotter pin....Did you get the parts into the draglink in the correct order? The assembly order for the front and rear are different. I would never leave the cotter pins out. If the plug backs out and the drag link falls off, the steering system free play could become annoying...."

Ed Wilson added: "The tool you wanted is called a drag link socket. There are three sizes available -- you want the large one (these things are handy on GE steam turbines too!). A NAPA or similar parts place should have or be able to order this. As Eric indicated, it is unsafe to drive without the cotter pins in the drag link.

"When you get all the slack out of the steering components, you should then get the alignment checked and be sure all four wheels are properly balanced. These guys have a high ratio of rotating mass (wheels and tires) to body weight and are very sensitive to tire balance, especially at road speeds. Of course the alignment minimizes uneven tire wear and steering effort. You CAN have that summer air in your face with one hand on the wheel!"

Removing the Steering Box

In response to a question regarding how to remove the steering column in order to raise the body tub off a CJ-3B frame, Joe Notte suggested working from below: "I believe you need to raise the chassis and remove the steering box with tube in place since the cover which secures the tube and cam to the steering gear does not fit through the hole punched in the body tub. But if you do not need to do any repairs to the gear box, you may consider lifting the tub over the steering tube."

Bruce Noren added: "Taking the steering wheel off can be very hard if it is rusted on the splines. I could not get mine off so I pulled the entire steering shaft out from the steering box. Be careful of the shims that you will find between the steering box cover and the box and for the ball bearings which are in the lower end of the steering box. They will fall out of their race when you lift the shaft out. Also the horn wire must be disconnected as that will come out with the shaft. I made the hole in my floor larger by cutting from the large opening to one of the bolt holes and peeling it back slightly, then I "screwed" the steering shaft with the steering box cover through the hole. When I put it back in, I reversed the proceedure then closed the hole by pushing the metal back into place. Not the way I would have liked to have done it, but it worked."

Steering Box Rebuilding

Jyotin suggested thinking about rebuilding the steering box if you're going to be removing the steering column: "Determine whether or not you need to rebuild the steering box. The answer to that is most likely yes. You can check by moving the steering wheel back and forth but not enough to actually turn the wheels. If the pittman arm does not respond briskly to the back and forth action or seems a little mushy and cannot be adjusted out then you'll have to rebuild the box. If so, you can cut the tube and cam off just below the steering wheel since you will be replacing the tube and cam anyway. Note, do not damage the outside housing that runs from the wheel through the floor, they don't make them anymore. The tube and cam (runs to the box through the inside of the housing) is the thing to cut.

"Remove the rear drag link that connects to the pittman arm by removing the cotter pin and unscrewing the plug. The drag link will come off very easily. An electric drill/screwdriver makes this a snap. Remove the housing from the tube and cam by unfastening the clamp at the steering box. Remove the steering box. Curse a lot while trying to remove the box from in between the frame, exhaust, and the engine and a little bit of the braking system. This is where you will be glad if you removed the front fender before starting.

"Remove the box downwards and bring the tube through the floor."

"I wouldn't worry about the bearings, since all steering box parts are available except for the box itself, and the plug at the bottom of the box that has a tube (about brake line size) that runs up and into the tube/cam. It looks like a freeze plug with a brake line coming out of it. Actually the 'brake line' portion goes inside the tube and cam to allow for the horn wire. If the tube and cam is bad then the sector shaft will be bad too. These parts are easily obtainable.

"A way to take a lot of play out of the steering is to get a drag link rebuild kit (about ten bucks) and replace the socket joints. This is a real easy thing to do, just remember that the insides of both ends are slightly different so watch how they come apart."

Tony Bruton asked about the steering box bearings: "I want to rebuild the steering box of my CJ-3B (right hand drive). All seems OK but for the roller bearing assemblies top and bottom on the shaft inside the box. How do I remove the bearing surfaces from the shaft and the box?"

Jyotin responded: "The bearings come in two styles -- one is a prepackaged unit that is easy to install, the other style has loose bearings that have to be installed while installing the tube. It is an easy rebuild, but the hardest part about rebuilding the box is installing a new sector shaft. They generally come with a sleeve which has to be installed in the box. Then you have to ream the sleeve out to fit the sector shaft. That takes forever. Turner Four Wheel Drive have all of the parts you might need. Be careful not to break the plug and short tube at the bottom of the steering box when removing the steering tube. You cannot get these new."

Note: steering and brakes on your vehicle are critical to life safety. The information on this page is general in nature; if you are uncertain where your problem lies or how to correct it, get professional advice.

Thanks to all the contributors. -- Derek Redmond

See also Steering Checkup and Tips on Lubricating Your Jeep.

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Last updated 21 October 2000 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond