Steering Box Brace: All You Need to Know
- Steering box braces are typically made of steel, and they come complete with the mounting hardware such as bolts and nuts and even some flanged bearings.
- Although braces come in different shapes, and sizes, they are designed with one purpose in mind—to provide a sturdier support to the steering box.
- Bigger tires, along with other modifications on your suspension, can add more stress to the steering box and more force to the system.
- The brace will secure the box to the frame and, in effect, will put less strain on bolts and mounts and fix steering wander, frame flex, and other issues.
- Some braces are designed as a direct bolt-on, with complete mounting hardware to lock everything in place.
- Some braces require minor drilling and even welding, so be sure to check the installation requirements before you purchase a brace.
- The price of a steering box brace ranges from $50 to more than $130, depending on the vehicle’s specific year, make, and model and their design.
Cornering, parallel-parking, lane-switching, and other complex maneuvers and stunts on the road will be difficult for any driver to pull off without a responsive steering system. One of the crucial components of this system is the steering box, which basically transmits the steering input of the driver into the movement of the wheels, depending on the force applied to the steering wheel (for instance, how far the wheel is turned or whether or not this is turned to the left or right). As the steering box amplifies or multiplies the force, the wheels of the vehicle can be guided properly and can respond easily to the rotation of the steering wheel.
Unfortunately, hard hits on the road and stresses from the loads may cause the steering box to crack. This will lead to loose steering, vibrations, leaks, and other steering problems that will make it difficult for you to control the vehicle fully. This will ultimately affect driving safety, handling, and ride quality since steering is also connected to the suspension system. Instead of reconditioning the steering box or spending money on replacement or repair, you could protect the steering mechanism by reinforcing it using a steering box brace, especially if you are driving a 4x4, an SUV, or a performance vehicle.
What does a steering box brace do?
Steering box braces are typically made of steel, and they come complete with the mounting hardware such as bolts and nuts and even some flanged bearings. Although braces come in different shapes and sizes, they are designed with one purpose in mind—to provide a sturdier support to the steering box.
The brace can reduce or eliminate steering box play and, in effect, fix problems such as steering wander. It also deals with frame flex, which leads to steering wobble and causes steering to be sluggish and less responsive. Some drivers even say that by installing the brace, the front end of the vehicle seems more solid. This also removes the popping noise caused by excessive play. By keeping the box secure and pinned to the frame rails, this may tighten up the steering feel as well.
Why use a steering box brace when installing taller, wider tires?
Adding larger tires can improve performance in many ways. The benefits include higher road clearance, enhanced braking, reduced oversteering, and better shock absorption especially on rocky or rough terrain where you tackle bigger dips and boulders. This makes it easier to navigate challenging road conditions and to carry more loads.
On the downside, the bigger tires, along with other modifications on your suspension, can add more stress to the steering box and more force to the system. The bolts and mounts that hold the steering box to the frame are also put under a lot of strain. By installing a brace, the box will be secured to the frame even with all the bumps and grinds on the road. You can maintain tighter steering without destroying the gears and also fix common steering problems that arise from changes made to vehicle suspension.
Will a brace actually extend the life of a steering box?
The brace keeps the steering box firmly fastened and takes away some of the stresses placed on bolts and mounting hardware. This reduces or eliminates any excessive play. And in doing so, this keeps the steering box stable, intact, and more balanced, preventing cracks in the process. This ultimately protects the box from breakage and deterioration. However, if the brace does not match the specifications of the steering box or it is not properly installed, this may instead cause damage.
What do you have to look for when buying a steering box brace?
Steering mechanisms are not the same for all makes and models, and the same goes for the steering box braces, which vary in design and structure. You have to find one that is compatible with your vehicle’s steering system. To find a part that fits to the tee, simply use your vehicle’s specifications as a reference (i.e., instead of searching for any Jeep or Dodge steering box brace, looking for a 2000 Jeep XJ steering box brace or 2003 Dodge Ram steering box brace will yield more accurate results).
Braces that are laser-cut and CNC-bent are accurate when it comes to length, width, and other required dimensions for exact fit. The technology used in fabricating these braces ensure precision. Make sure that the braces come in a sturdy finish that resists corrosion. As you go through the options, you may find braces that underwent a series of powder-coating to keep the steel clean and to prevent rust formation. They are painted with a more durable finish that will not easily chip after many years.
Is it easy to install a steering box brace?
This depends on your skill as a home mechanic or as a DIYer (do-it-yourselfer) and the type of brace that you are going to use.
Some braces are designed as a direct bolt-on, with complete mounting hardware to lock everything in place. These braces are fairly easy to install if they will not require you to drill new holes or make any cut or weld. It will also be easier if they come with detailed instructions or even a video for installation. If you have not done any complex work on your vehicle before, the work is best handled by a professional since any mistake on installation may cause steering problems and further damage.
Some braces require minor drilling and even welding, so be sure to check the installation requirements before you purchase a brace. Sway bar drop brackets may be used if you will keep using the stock sway bar. Make sure that there will be no overlaps, so all system parts will work without any disruption.
How much is a new steering box brace?
The price of a steering box brace ranges from $50 to more than $130, depending on the overall design and the vehicle’s specific year, make, and model (e.g., 2001 Jeep XJ steering box brace). As you look through the available options for your vehicle, be sure to check if the item is sold as an individual piece or as a kit.
How to Install a Steering Box Brace
Quality suspension, bigger tires, and low gearing-all these modifications put a lot of strain on your vehicle's stock steering box. Driving over rough roads can create an enormous amount of stress on the bolts and brackets holding the steering box to the frame, resulting in irreparable damage. For extra protection and support, you need to add a steering box brace to your vehicle. This device will keep the steering box pinned to the frame rails to avoid flexing and breakage. You can actually install this brace without removing your steering box.
Here are the tools you need and the steps to follow in installing a steering box brace:
Difficulty level: Moderate
Tools that you'll need:
- Four bolts (7/16" Grade 8)
- Six lock washers (7/16" Grade 8)
- Six flat washers (7/16" Grade 8)
- Two nuts (7/16" Grade 8)
Step 1: Take out the upper left and lower right bolts on your steering box. Next, screw these bolts in from the opposite side so that they're poking out through the frame holes. Remove the other two bolts and let the remaining bolts support the steering box.
Step 2 Position a bracket over the two remaining bolts protruding through the frame and install two new bolts, lock washers, and flat washers into the open holes. Next, remove the old bolts supporting the box and put new ones in. Make sure the bolts and washers go through the brace from inside the frame.
Step 3: Torque the four bolts accordingly. You can torque them to 100 lb, but make sure to check the instruction manual first for proper specifications.
Step 4: Mark two arcs from the outside of the frame. Measure the first arc four inches from the top front of the steering box bolt, while the second arc six inches from the lower front. Next, drill a half-inch hole through the point where the two arcs cross.
Step 5: Install one of the bolts you removed earlier into this hole and torque it to 100 lb. Next, drill a half-inch hole through the frame crossmember. Do this from the bottom of the steering box brace arm. Fit another bolt into this hole and secure it with washers and nuts. Torque to 100 lb.
While drilling holes, protect the lower radiator tank with a piece of 1" x 4" wood. This will prevent the drill from puncturing the tank.