Rusty's Off-Road YJ Steering Arms Installation

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Project BRYJ

By: Bryan Archambeault - 11/2000

rub640480_28.jpg (60587 bytes)
My stock drag link broke at the Rubicon
tierod640480_3.jpg (72548 bytes)
The replacements are both bent! Notice the upper portion of the drag link.

During my trip to the Rubicon this year, I broke my stock drag link. Fortunately, I had a spare, but I knew that it wouldn't last very long either. I decided that when I got back, I was going to find a much beefier replacement for the stock YJ tie rod and drag link. I called quite a few places, but no one seemed to have a complete solution. Some places had tie rods, but no drag links, while others had drag links, but no tie rods. Some places were using chro-moly tubing, while others were using drawn over mandrel (DOM) tubing. After talking with some people about the differences, I was told that DOM was the better option because if it does bend, it can be bent back. Chro-moly cannot.



I finally came upon Rusty's Off-Road. He specializes in steering conversion systems. However, because I have the Pro-Comp coil conversion kit, I cannot convert to a high steering system where the tie rod is above the knuckles because my coils are in the way. Therefore, I was looking for a stock replacement tie rod and drag link, not a conversion kit. Rusty had what I was looking for. He was very polite and knowledgeable on the phone, and told me that he could get a kit out to me within a week. That was great news because I had our club's annual trip to Coyote and Red Lakes coming up in two weeks, with Sierra Trek 2000 the week after that! However, the kit did not arrive before the Coyote Lake trip, and I was very worried that my stock tie rod and spare drag link--both bent--wouldn't survive the trip. I had a spare tie rod, but I no longer had a spare drag link. Fortunately, they did survive the trip, although they were both bent a little more. I called Rusty again to make sure I would have the kit before Sierra Trek and he assured me that I would. Nevertheless, it did not arrive before I left (it came the day after I had left for the event!). So on the way to Sierra Trek, in order to ease my concerns about not having a spare drag link, I stopped off at J&W Auto Wreckers in Sacramento. They probably have one of the biggest supplies of Jeep parts around. I got the drag link and completed the run without having to use either of my spares.

After I got back, I opened up the box from Rusty's and started getting to work on the kit. The instructions included with the kit were for his steering conversion, so they did not apply to me at all. However, since this was just a stock replacement situation, it was pretty much a no-brainer. The tie rod is held on each end to the steering knuckles with a cotter pin and a castle nut, both of which were easy to remove with a little elbow grease and some WD-40. Getting the tie rod ends to drop out of the knuckles is another story. I learned the hard way on a different tie rod not to hit the rod ends with a hammer to get them out. You will mess up the threads. Your best bet is a pickle fork or tie rod puller, but I backed the castle nut off enough to protect the threads and used a rubber mallet and it worked fine. The drag link is also attached to the pitman arm with a cotter pin and castle nut, and is removed in the same manner as the tie rod. With my old steering assembly removed and laying on the ground, the bending looked worse than when it was on the Jeep!

Comparing the old, bent tierod to the new tierod. tierod640480_4.jpg (65484 bytes) tierod640480_5.jpg (72645 bytes)
Comparing the old, bent tierod to the new tierod. The drag link attached to the tie rod. I like how the nut is protected. I think that zerk fitting may get smashed. :-) Not too excited about the steering stabilizer mount, but what else can I do?

Putting Rusty's kit on was as very easy. The tie rod ends go into the knuckles and are retained by the supplied castle nut and cotter pin, and the drag link goes into the pitman arm and is retained in the same fashion. But here is where I ran into some problems. First, the stock YJ tie rod has a hole in the middle of it for the steering stabilizer. My Pro-Comp coil conversion kit had a bracket that used this hole to relocate the steering stabilizer. Rusty's tie rod does not have the hole, so I couldn't use the Pro-Comp bracket. I used the bracket supplied with the kit, and while it does work, I don't really like the way it hangs down below the tie rod, and since there is no hole for it to bolt into, there is nothing to stop it from sliding back and forth along the tie rod. It's just the steering stabilizer, so I guess it's no big deal. That hole in the stock tie rod is probably a weak point, and I'd rather have a stronger tie rod than a cool looking steering stabilizer mount.

The other problem was setting the toe. With the stock tie rod, the driver's side has a double threaded sleeve that you can spin to set the toe. Rusty's tie rod does not have this sleeve, so to set the toe, I removed the drag link where it attached to the tie rod so I could spin the whole tie rod. I later realized that it would have been much easier to simply remove the tie rod end from the knuckle on the driver's side and spin it so I didn't have to spin the whole tie rod. Oh well.

Overall, I am very happy with this kit. It is obviously stronger than stock, and I like the zinc coated look. Also, this kit uses standard tie rod ends. If they do break, I can pick up new ones just about anywhere. If they were heim joints or some custom setup, I'd need to buy and carry spares with me. I guess I should probably do that anyway. We'll have to see how this kit holds up on the Rubicon and Sierra Trek next year.

tierod640480_6.jpg (69481 bytes) tierod640480_7.jpg (68989 bytes)
In a full left turn, the steering stabilizer bolt hits my diff cover. I might have to flip the mount around. All done and ready to go!
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