Tight and responsive steering: Another How-To! YAY

01-21-2006, 10:43 PM
So it's me again with another how-to :grinyes:
So feeling a little bored, somewhat adventurous, and certifiably insane, I went for an incredibly dangerous mod. The reason I say it was dangerous, is that if I didn't do it slow and do it right, I would have been majorly hosed.

The reason for this mod is because even with a fairly new model intermediate shaft, my steering was still sloppy and my goal (which I achieved beyond my initial hope) was to get rid of the slop once and for all.

Some of you may remember my thread, "Facts about Steering Slop". In that thread I discussed the issues with "most" steering slop being caused by the rag joints at the base of the intermediate shaft wearing out. The rag joint is essentially a cloth material held together with rivets. Unfortunatly these tend to wear quickly and the intermediate shaft runs from 200-300 bux new. YOU CANNOT SIMPLY REPLACE THE RAG JOINT!

In the same thread I mentioned the Borgeson solid intermediate shafts that use a u-joint system w/ no rag joint as an option. Unfortunatly these too are also 200-300 bux. I found another solution.

Some had mentioned adapting Jeep wrangler intermediate shafts to their first gens to eliminate the rag joint. This hasn't been discussed much. But that as an aside, I started looking for info for using a Jeep shaft in a second gen (95 to current). Nothing was available, so I decided to look on my own.

The reason I was interested in the Jeep shafts, is because like the borgeson, they use a U-Joint type system. As long as the joints are good, there will not be any play in the shaft what so ever.

The 95 and up trucks differ from the 94 and below because the 95+ trucks have a 9 inch stem coming out of the firewall that the intermediate shaft slips OVER for telescoping purposes. This reduces vibration and in case of front end collision the shaft collapses. In the 94 and below, the intermediate shaft is the stem and the portion at the firewall is a hollow sleeve to allow the telescoping and collapse.

So Grappler and I start looking around the boneyard I looked at a 98 Jeep Grand Cherokee, a regular cherokee, and a Wrangler. The Cherokee and the Wrangler use a solid shaft that is essentially a stem, they were more inline of the 94 and below. After some checking, we discovered only the Wrangler shaft would work with the 94 and below, the regular Cherokee was too short by about 4 inches.

Now we look at the Grand Cherokee. It's a telescoping shaft with the steering column side looked like it might fit over the stem coming out of the firewall in the 95+ trucks. It also had the added benifit of having a u-joint on both ends of the shaft allowing good support with maximum flexability. Yes, I thought. This may just work.

NOTE: The splines on ALL of the Jeep intermediate shafts including the key where it connects to the steering box is exactly the same as the Chevy's. No modifications at the steering box side are needed.

So it's d-day and after thinking about how this would have to be done. We knew we would have to shorten the stem (which is part of the steering column). This was the scary part. I knew if we got this wrong, I would have to replace the steering shaft and that would be no fun, and quite expensive, even from a bone yard. But again, being bored, aventureous and insane, I had to at least give it a try.

Shown here are 3 intermediate shafts.
From left to right. 1st is the OEM shaft w/ the rag joint, Center is the Grand Jeep Cherokee shaft, and the right one is the one from the Wrangler.


So we have to start some where. Grappler used a good micrometer on the intermediate shaft as well as the stem to compare dimensions. The stem from top to bottom (on the arced portion) had a difference of 60000th of an inch. This may not seem like much, but it is. (The sides were a good fit and considering that it's the sides of the stem (the flat parts) being clamped when tightened, we only needed to worry about the arcs.

Out comes the dremmel w/ a small grinding stone.

Here we dremmel out the top and bottom arcs to give us the fit we wanted on the stem.


So we dremmel and measure, dremmel and measure. We were getting a bit annoyed at having to keep trying to compare and test fit in the engine compartment. So what do I do?!

I break out the air grinder w/ a cutting wheel and I cut about an inch or so off the stem so we have a live piece we can work with for testing the fit.


So after a little more grinding of the arcs, and another test fit, we were comfortable with the fit.

Now for the really fun part. If we get this wrong, I'm farked. I'm farked big time. I'm so farked, I would rather be anally raped by angry midgets....But I had to try.

So we measure, and do a faux fit (connect it to the steering box and telescope it and see where we need to cut). We figured the total amount of the stem we needed to cut was 5-1/4". The reason for this is to give plenty of collapseability to the shaft. We didn't want it compressed, that would have been useless.

So we cut it off using a dremmel cut off wheel instead of the air grinder. The fact that the grinder grabs and jumps a bit and I really didn't want to cut into my brake lines or any other wiring on that side of the truck


Total amount cut off 5-1/4"


What we had left.


So we grind any burrs out and make it look pretty (and flat) and the shaft slips on like getting with a 16 year old anxious virgin. (Tight, firm, and exciting),,,,(not that I would know about that...cough cough)

Gratuitus shot of Grappler's s10 w/ the Mercury Couger rear independant suspension setup. (Just had to throw this in)


So anyway. The shaft is a perfect fit. My steering wheel is the straightest it's ever been, and plenty of space between the manifolds and the shaft. I breathe a sigh of relief.


So Grappler and I take it out for a test drive and beat on it pretty hard. As I said, the steering wheel is straight, responsiveness and tightness is incredible (especially w/ my ZQ8 steering box). The truck practically drives itself now! I don't have to swing the steering wheel back and fourth to keep the damn thing straight anymore! YAY! Several miles and tons of turns and curves later, I'm quite happy.

On my way home, I start thinking. GM put the rag joint in, in part for vibration dampning. Hmmm. We really didn't run it through a test for that. What can I do? Well, this being Pennsylvania, the Pothole capital of the world, and being in Pittsburgh, the cobblestone capital of the world, I figured a little more testing was in order.

First I head down some side streets where I know there are some bad potholes. Pretty good, but very hard to tell if there is any vibration when your truck is rocking back and fourth on the pothole slolam (sic?) I needed something else. I head for Squirrel Hill. (Those of you who live around here know what that area is like) I drove 2 miles worth of cobblestone streets. Not one iota of vibration through the steering column. It was a very smooth (albeit noisy) ride. I'm happy...

But wait! There's more!

I figured a speed test was in order. A lot of vibration can happen at higher speeds. Had to do it. I hit I-279. It's me, the road, the truck and a Venti coffee w/ a shot. (I picked up Starbucks). 50, 60, 80, 96 MPH.....Smooth as glass! I finish my coffee and go home.

So in conclusion, for an average $25.00 or less and 2 hours of your time, you can have this mod and eliminate that damn steering slop causing rag joint and be happy! Just please be aware, this is a PERMANANT modification. Once you cut that stem off the steering shaft you are committed. It's not a hard mod. On a 1-10 difficulty level, I would rate it a 5. If you do do it, you will love it and wonder why you didn't do it sooner. If you decide not to do it, you can remain jealous of those that have and continue to complain about your steering slop. :banghead:

Enjoy, good night, and don't forget to try the veal.... :evilg:

01-27-2006, 07:01 AM
Well, after a week of driving I can say that I'm really happy with this mod! Probably one of the best mods I've done for my truck! :lol:

02-20-2006, 06:54 PM
bump :)

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