Installing a Durango steering box in an XJ

The first order of business was pulling the pitman arm. Since this was the first time pulling the pitman arm or removing the steering box, I made sure to soak everything down with PB Blaster a day ahead of time. The pitman arm popped off without too much trouble, but I’ve definitely broken my fair share of pitman arm pullers working on other Jeeps.

Either my pump or my reservior has been leaking just slightly for quite some time now, so I decided I’d go ahead an pull the whole assembly out and clean it and inspect it since I was going to be in there anyway. There are about 7 bolts holding the steering pump and bracket to the motor, and they’re a fun mix of 13mm and 9/16″. Once I got the pump unbolted, I used a small bolt to just hold it up in place while I went to work on the steering box. You’ll have to remove the auxillary fan before you can start to unbolt the steering pump.

The two lines connecting to the box take an 18mm wrench, and if you’ve got a stubby wrench, that would certainly come in handy. You could probably go ahead and unbotl the box from the body before removing the PS lines, but I figured it’d be just as easy to go ahead and remove the lines while the box was still bolted up. The front line is the high-pressure feed line, and the rear line is the return line to the reservior. I had to unbolt the front line and move it out of the way before I could undo the return line.

Since the reservoir was still full, I used a pair of vise grips to clamp off the line while I removed it from the box, that way I’d have a bit more control over the fluid draining out.

Once I got the lines unhooked from the box and the reservoir drained, I pulled the pump assembly out and set it aside to deal with later (I may end up just going ahead and replacing the pump since I’ve got it out and it’s got a little over 100K miles on it).

The steering shaft is clamped onto the input shaft of the steering box with a 13mm bolt, so make sure you loosen that before you unbolt the box from the frame rail.

At this point all that was really left was to remove the 3 bolts holding the box to the frame rail. These are the only things holding the box up, so as soon as you pull these bolts the box is going to come loose. This is probably where it would be handy to have a friend helping, but since I do most of my installs solo, I had to improvise and try to hold the box up with my left hand while removing the last bolt with my right. Silly camera focused on the wrench in macro mode…

Since the box was still attached to the steering shaft, it wasn’t too hard to do, and I was able to use the swaybar to help balance the box while I used a pickle fork to pry the steering shaft loose.

I got my Durango box from AutoZone, and it was about $175, with a whopping $165 core charge. I think the Durango box is a bit quicker lock to lock — I seem to remember reading it’s 3 turns to lock, vs 3.5 turns with the stock XJ box?? The Durango box also has a larger piston, so it should put out a bit more power to help steering big tires. I don’t know the exact size of the piston, but the outer casing is about 4.125″ OD, while the stock XJ box is only about 3.75″ OD. I know the stock XJ box uses a 2.75″, so assuming the size difference is proportional, the Durango box should have a 3.125″ piston.

Oh, and as you can see above, I’m also going to be replacing the stock cast aluminum spacer bracket with a heavy-duty steel bracket and frame sleeves from C-ROK.

To replace the steering pump, the first thing you’ve got to do is remove the pulley. DO NOT try to use a regular gear puller, YOU WILL bend the pulley (don’t ask me how I know). Most auto parts stores should have a pulley puller kit that you can borrow.

Once you’ve pulled the pulley off the old pump, remove the 3 13mm bolts that hold the mounting bracket to the old pump and transfer it to the new pump. Using the pulley puller kit, press the pulley onto the new pump. Don’t forget to swap the new o-ring (that should have come with the pump) onto the pressure line fitting before you connect it to the new pump housing.

The C-ROK inner steering plate comes with frame sleeves to reinforce the insides of the frame rail. The sleeves can go in from the inside or the outside of the frame rail, but either way you’ll have to do some grinding to open up the holes so you can get the sleeves in. I started out with my Dremel (technically it’s a Black&Decker Wizard), but the stone I had really wasn’t cutting it (pun intended), so I ended up swapping to my pneumatic die-grinder and a bigger grinding stone (which worked much better).

With the frame sleeves in and the C-ROK plate bolted up (it picks up the rear through-frame bolt used by most tow hook bracket kits and some bumper mounting brackets) it was time to figure out how much I’d have to shim out the new Durango steering box so it would clear the frame.

Since the piston cap was 3/8″ larger diameter, I figured I’d probably have to shim about 3/16″. I’d hoped I’d only need one washer, but after a bit of trial and error I ended up with two washers in order for the rear of the box to clear the C-ROK plate. Even with the two washers though, the back of the box just barely contacts the plate.

With a total of 3 washers on the bolts (1 on the outside and 2 on the inside), the 4″ bolts that had originally come with my C-ROK outer steering plate were just barely long enough to work. 4.25″ long bolts would be perfect, but I couldn’t even find 4.5″ long bolts locally (Lowes & HomeDepot only carry 4″ and 6″ lengths in that size bolt, and ACE Hardware closed about a year ago), so the 4″ bolts will have to do for now.

After bolting the pump to the motor and re tensioning the serpentine belt, it was time to connect the fluid lines to the new steering box. Just like with the new steering pump, the new box should have come with two new o-rings for the fluid line fittings. Be sure to swap out the old o-rings for the new ones before you connect the lines, otherwise you could end up with leaks.

The high-pressure line connects to the front port, and the return line connects to the rear port. If you’re still running the stock air box, pulling it out clears up a lot of room and makes life much easier when you’re trying to screw in the fittings on the lines.

Once that’s all done it’s time to fill and bleed the system. The pump and box both came with instructions on how to do this, and any decent service manual (hopefully you’ve got an FSM – Factory Service Manual) will have instructions on how to do this as well. Basically you fill the reservoir up, let it sit for a minute or two, then turn the steering wheel back and forth lock to lock a few times. Check the fluid level and add more fluid as needed. After you do that start up the motor and watch the fluid level — add fluid as needed until the level stays constant. Kill the motor, bolt the pitman arm onto the steering box, jack the front end up so that both wheels are off the ground, then fire up the motor again and start turning the wheel lock to lock keeping and eye on the fluid level. This is another time when having a buddy helping out during the install is a real benefit.

Once you’ve gotten all the air bled out of the steering system, recheck all the bolts and take ‘er for a spin. Since the Durango box is shimmed to the passenger side more than the stock box, you’ll probably need to recenter your steering wheel. After you’re done with the test drive, recheck all the bolts and the pitman arm nut again, and look for any leaks around all the hose fittings.

7 comments

7 Comments so far

  1. Chris June 25th, 2009 12:54 am

    The links are broken for the pictures for the “Installing a Durango steering box in an XJ”. The site looks good by the way…

  2. durango steering box install questions September 7th, 2009 7:33 pm

    […] frame plate make up for the adjustment needed or will you still have to use a few washers? Jeepin.com

  3. robert adame February 21st, 2010 9:46 am

    cant see the link, so I am curious if you have the part number so I can verify I picked up the correct part. thanks for any assistance. robert

  4. TeXJ July 21st, 2010 11:14 am

    Where are the Pics at?

  5. mike October 2nd, 2010 7:48 pm

    Still no pics

  6. Justin March 31st, 2011 8:23 am
  7. Kat October 27th, 2013 8:06 am

    The photo link is broken too. Any chance of ever seeing these pics again?

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