Jeep WK/WH/XK/XH/SRT8 .... Steering Rack Upgrade
If you enjoy any of these great IFS Jeep platforms, you will, at some point start experiencing some knock in your steering wheel when you hit bumps or potholes. A short term solution to that was suggested to tighten the cover plate on the steering rack about ⅛ to ¼ turns.
After some while from doing this adjustment, your steering wheel will start experiencing a knock again, and that typically is an indication that you will have to replace your steering rack. Lifting your Jeep or adding larger tires typically accelerates this process and we know of cases that end up having to replace their steering racks more than once per year. The Diagnosis We wanted to solve this problem so we had to fully understand its full scope first. So we asked ourselves few questions:
Where is this knocking sound coming from?
What causes it to start? Why?
Why does it go away after an adjustment then comes back shortly afterwards?
What accelerates the knocking generation process?
Why do some steering racks have a short life span compared to Mopar?
And the final question is, can we make a modification to the existing steering racks to make them stronger, have longer life and even make driving the Jeep more enjoyable??
To answer all these questions, we had to pull a malfunctioning steering rack off a vehicle, take it apart, understand its problems well, then think hard to get our answers.
The Culprit We looked at all possible areas of the steering rack and came up with our opinion of the main culprit responsible for causing the steering wheel knock. In most cases it is really what is under the adjustment cup.
There is a cylinder with a V-Shaped end under the adjustment cup with a loaded spring to keep those two components separate from each other. The cylinder has two white pieces at its end, made of a smooth, low friction material that slides on the shaft of the gear assembly and pushes on the gears to stay engaged while allowing them to slide on each other in order to steer your vehicle. The adjustment cup pushes on the spring, and that in turn pushes the cylinder's touching points down on the gear assembly to keep the gears solidly engaged.
The touching points are the two pieces of the white sliding material.
When the white sliding material get worn down due to age, or too many spirited off-road maneuvers, it gets thinner, and you start hearing some knocking sound because the gears are slapping each other due to the slack introduced by the worn out material.
At that point, the spring is no longer exerting enough pressure to keep the gears engaged. When you turn your adjustment cup an ⅛ or ¼ turns, you are forcing the spring to exert more downward pressure on the cylinder, bringing that gear assembly closer together which eliminates the gear slapping sound and that takes care of the steering wheel knock, but only FOR A SHORT WHILE. That is also an indication that the white sliders are getting thinner, and it is time to search for a replacement rack. The white sliders are made up of a softer material that has some shock dampening characteristics to it. That is why hitting bumps on a brand new rack feels smooth especially when hitting at speed. The reason is because the white sliders are still at their full thickness (which, in this case, is thin to begin with) which helps dampen the shock transmitted through the rack to the steering wheel . When the steering knock starts later again, it is usually because the piston sliders are worn out, and the metal material of the piston is grinding and knocking on the gear assembly itself. At that point, you will need to replace your steering rack. OR DO YOU?? Now we asked ourselves more questions:
Do you really need to replace your steering rack at this stage just because of the steering wheel knock??
What if it is not leaking any power steering fluid, but is only having the steering wheel knock, could it be repaired??
Better yet, assuming it is not leaking, could your OEM rack be REPAIRED, ENHANCED AND UPGRADED FOR HEAVY DUTY, MORE PRECISE STEERING and LONG LIFE SERVICE??
Now that we understand the full scope of the problem, we believe we can solve it. We developed a prototype that is currently being tested mercilessly. If it lives up to our expectations, we will have a heavy duty UPGRADE kit that will give your EXISTING RACK more precise steering feel, eliminate the steering wheel knock and provide a long term, more economical solution to the ongoing nagging steering rack problems. Please stay tuned.
Problem Solved. Here is some feedback from the field.