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OE Steering vs Upgraded 1 ton or 2.5 Ton Jeep Steering

As I walked around the Great Smokey Mountain Jeep Invasion, with 15,000+ Jeeps in attendance, I was astounded by how many substantially lifted Jeeps there were with massive knobby tires and tiny little cute OE steering. Then I realized that it’s kind of a badge of honor for people to say that my Jeep drives like crap. There is a whole T-shirt and meme industry based on things like “I’m not drunk, I’m driving a jeep”.

But why????

There is a solution!

Upgrade your steering….OE was not designed for what you have done………Ideally to an APEX Steering Solution, but don’t settle for “this is just the way Jeeps are”.

 Read the blog below regarding what actually happens with OE Steering and what an APEX upgraded performance steering package does to improve on OE:

 OE Steering vs Upgraded 1 Ton or 2.5 Ton Steering

If you are like most Jeepers, the first thing you did was lift your rig and upgrade to big knobby tires that can be difficult to high-speed balance. But nobody told you that these changes increase the load on your OE steering system, and can lead to some problems like bump steer, and the ‘drunk driving’ feel like you’re constantly correcting your direction as you shimmy-shammy down the road. You don’t have ‘death wobble’ at this stage, but that will be the end result if not treated.

 The first cure is someone will usually tell you to get a ‘better’ steering damper (dampener or stabilizer). It usually helps a bit in the beginning, but as the problem worsens over time and miles, the vibration continues to wear your steering system out, leading to more and more vibration, bump steer and eventually ‘death wobble’. You’re now overwhelming the damper, so the problems come back.

 Taller tires mean more ground clearance, but they also mean greater roll and flex over bumps, ruts, tar strips and every other surface variation. Open tread, big knobby tires also magnify this effect, and with effectively less rubber contacting the road, their resistance to the surface variations is decreased – leading to a resonance (effectively a vibration) that is transmitted up through the tire into the steering system. If your tires are ‘noisy’ going down the road, you have this resonance. All tires have some level of this, but car tires are engineered to minimize the effect – not really possible with big off-road tires.

 What’s happening is that the center of gravity of the rig has been raised, the weight has increased, and the tires are the starting point for the resonance and vibrations in the steering system. Your Original Equipment steering system was not engineered for these changes to the vehicle setup, and these lighter-duty parts wear sooner than many expected. It’s not that Jeep (or Ford, Chev, Dodge etc) build ‘junk’, as you often hear, they’re just not made for the task you’ve assigned it to. Add rooftop tents, a ton of gear inside, people, fuel and water.... all sorts of gremlins start to show! This affects ball joints, steering rod ends (tie rod and drag link), control arm bushings, track bar bushings etc – all through the steering and suspension system.

 So if we deconstruct this:

PROBLEM – Small Lightly Built Tie Rod Ends:  These OE ends are lightly built for on-road & highway driving on stock tires. 

 The APEX Fix: We always start by upgrading the steel. SAE1045 housings with induction heat treated chromoly ball studs. Then we redesign the bearing area to allow for a larger ball stud (when possible) and a bearing that allows for maximum load disbursement and increased stud swing. Inadequate load disbursement and ‘camming out’ on stud swing are the 2 prime killers of ball studs. Then we increase the diameter of the shank going to the connecting rods.

Now you’re riding on something that is designed to handle the extra load and off-road terrain.

 PROBLEM: OE Nyloc Nuts: The first problem with nylocs is that most mechanics put them on with air tools and the nylon is not designed to handle the heat from the friction of this which instantly deteriorates the nylon and its ability to hold the proper torque. First thing I tell people if they are experiencing vibration in their steering is to get their wheels balanced and get everything torqued back up to spec. The OE nylocs are often the issue and even if retorqued they likely won’t hold it for long.

The APEX fix:For hardware we only use grade 8/10 castle nuts. Then instead of cutting the threads on our ball studs they are made with a compressed thread process called a rolled thread, which is substantially stronger than a cut thread.

 Now you have the proper hardware fitted to an extremely strong thread on a chromoly ball stud that is going to give you proper torque and hold you need to keep things tight.

 PROBLEM: Thin-Walled Connecting Tubes: Those big knobby tires that we all love so much generate something called “resonance” or a “harmonic”.  This resonance is transferred from the wheels to the thin-walled OE tie rods and drag link, which can actually attenuate or amplify the resonance created by the wheels and transmit this resonance to your steering wheel.

 The APEX fix: Solid rod 7075 T6 aluminum helps deaden the resonance/harmonic/vibration transfer to the wheel and stiffens your steering. Same with our ¼ walled DOM tubes.

 PROBLEM: Bent Tubes: Often OE and aftermarket steering companies will bend tubes to get the correct geometry to get the steering out in front of the diff cover or other interferences. When you bend a tube you are creating an accordion (weak spot), and it’s going to flex. This adds to the problems and its eventually going to bend more (how long can you stay in squat as compared to standing up straight?).

 The APEX Fix: By moving the geometry into the forged ends so we can you use straight tubes it greatly increases the strength and rigidity of your steering and also helps make getting the perfect alignment infinitely more achievable. The forged ends are always stronger at the curves than any tube can be, making a much stronger, more rigid and reliable system.

 PROBLEM: Pinch Clamp Adjusting Sleeves:These are commonly used in OE to adjust your alignment.By design they have to be lightly built in order to squeeze and clamp. These are known to rust out, seize, break and loosen. They’re also the weakest link in the system, and can flex under load distorting the alignment, causing premature wear on those costly tires!

 The APEX Fix:We design all of our heavy duty steering with solid or heavy walled connecting rods and jam nuts mechanically secured with our exclusive “ninja washer”. We do not split any tubes so they can be clamped to secure them. Our ninja washer creates a mechanical lock between the jam nut and the adjusting sleeves on both ends, making the strongest system available in steering systems.

 In short, a steering stabilizer is band aid to a problem not the full solution.

 In summary, basic OE designs are not intended to deal with the stresses of most 4x4 upgrades, particularly in their steering designs. These upgrades create real problems, leading to bump steer, shimmy shammy, ‘drunk driving’ and ultimately death wobble. APEX has a simple, direct replacement solution for these problems, backed by our Honor System Lifetime Warranty.