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88-98(-00 2500/3500's) XJ steering shaft upgrade.

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FRANKENBURBAN
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Theres been much talk of this upgrade on other forums, but the only write ups I could find are for the 88-94(some say to 96, but US models starting in 95 added in the drivers side airbag and went to the new style column so it's to 94 for US models) style shaft. First we start off with a regular run of the mill 84-94 CHEROKEE steering shaft(you can also use a grand cherokee shaft, but they are slightly different than the cherokee shaft I have pictured). First thing you need to do is get a torch(I used a hand held MAPP gas one), and burn the nylon out of the top of the shaft and the nylon portion that covers the slip shaft. Here it is after I burned out the nylon sitting next to my stock steering shaft with the covers removed.
shafts.jpg
Then I disassembled the shafts and laid them out. The stock 95 shaft out of my BURB was also held together by nylon at the joint with the plastic ring, and has to be burned out. You can see how the GM shaft has a large notch in it, this is for a spring clip that holds the shaft taught at all times.
0104161501.jpg
If you have have a 95+, skip this step as it is not needed, and jump past it.
If you are doing this to an 88-94 truck, all you have to do now is clean up the shaft, grease it, put it back together, and grind a notch in the upper shaft for the joint retaining bolt to go through. Heres a pic of the notch you have to grind I got from another site. Once you've done this, you can put the shaft in. It should be of note there is still a rubber coupling in the cherokee shaft, it just isn't as loose as a rag joint.
steering notch.jpg
There is also a folded in tab that acts as a safety lock in the GM shaft that holds it together pictured here. I should not you don't have to do this step unless your going for an OEM look like I was. I'll go more into that later.
0104161541.jpg
Now we have to remove the upper joint/rubber coupler. I used a die grinder, and cut it in half on both sides, and split it open to remove it.
0104161523.jpg
Now you have to mock things up. You will need to use the outer slip portion from the cherokee shaft as the GM one isn't long enough to allow for enough engagement of the slip portion and to slide in the joint end. I ended up cutting 4.5" off of the cherokee slip shaft to get it to the correct length, but double check yours BEFORE cutting.
0104161617.jpg
Now if your trying to do this with as little work as possible, you can slide the newly cut shaft in about 3 inches with the universal joint into the outer portion of the JEEP shaft opposite end of the rubber coupler, and either have it welded like I did, or drill it and through bolt it(I reccomend welding it to keep it as small as possible, last thing you want is a bolt sticking out and catching something as you turn the wheel). I wanted a sleek OEM look, so I burned then ground off the rubber portion, then used a cut off wheel to split the metal collar that teh rubber was atatched to, to get down to just the shaft.
0104161649.jpg
Now at this point you can grease the upper portion of the old shaft, put the spring plate back in the notch, slide it into the shaft, and put it back in the truck. I went ahead and made mine look factory so I could re-use the covers. I took the portion you see above of the lower shaft, cut the rag joint end off, there is a dimple in the bottom you have to drill out.
0104161600.jpg
I slid it down over the welded shaft from above, and welded it in place using the hole from the locking detent earlier.
0104161651.jpg
Greased the GM upper shaft, installed the spring clip, and put it all back together with the accordian cover and lower shroud leaving me with this.
0104161658.jpg
Then re-install it in the truck, and realize the folly I made. The universal joint is MUCH longer than the rag joint was, so the plastic shroud for the joint will no longer slide down over and lock to the power steering line, so most of that extra work I did was for not. On the plus side though, there is ZERO steering slack, and the 95+ trucks will have tighter steering than this mod done to the earlier trucks. For those looking for tighter steering on earlier trucks, you can buy a BORGESON universal joint to install to take all the steering play out.

Also I believe there may be another option for those of us with 95+ trucks. I believe a WRANGLER(87-95 YJ) shaft can be used. From what I could find, it looks like if you remove the intermediate shaft, one could slide the WRANGLER shaft in, in 2 pieces, and not have to do any of the fabrication. Just burn the nylon out of the WRANGLER shaft, remove the lower and intermediate shafts from the truck ,and replace them with the WRANGLER shaft. I'm not 100%, but I'm 90% sure this could be made to work from what I could find on shaft lengths. And this method would also give you a rubber coupling to help reduce some of the road noise and feedback through the wheel that my design will not reduce sincde there is no rubber coupling in it at all. Also some use the BORGESON shaft on the 95+ trucks, and install the upper universal joint to the intermediate shaft. This is a BAD IDEA! And could result in a SERIOUS accident. Many mistake the rubber firewall boot as a bearing, but is only a rubber boot, and not meant to support the shaft. 3 universal joints with a center support bearing is a recipe for DISASTER!
 
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SmithvilleD

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Very nice! I've got the Cherokee shaft setting on the bench waiting to do this very thing. I wonder how much more road vibration it will actually transmit; guessing if we're doing this mod, it will be a good compromise. Guessing the heavy portion on the Cherokee shaft's upper joint was some kind of vibration damper weight.

I put a 3" body lift on my truck & figure I can eliminate the steering shaft extension that comes in the body lift kits by compensating shaft length when mating the sections.

I've also rebuilt (input shaft & sector shaft bearings & the O-rings/Teflon seals) the steering box from an '04 K2500HD. Swapped in the GMT400 style input/stub shaft so newer box mates to GMT400 (or soon Cherokee shaft). Still need to confirm the torsion bars are the same in GMT400/800 3/4 & 1T boxes.
 

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The newer gmt-800 trucks did away with the rubber coupler, so I'm not to concerned with it. My old rag joint looked good, but when I put some pressure on it I couldn't believe how much play it had. I will say it is TIGHT now. With new everything up front, it is ridiculously tight. Best part of this was I had the JEEP shaft, so that was free. Dorman makes a replacement shaft with a new style composite coupler supposedly, but thats about $160.
 

SmithvilleD

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Yep, same with several rag joints I got from Pick-N-Pull sourced steering boxes to part & learn from. Rubber material was in OK shape, but lots of play in the riveted joints. I'm using the remainder from that joint to weld an old 1/4" drive socket to - to adapt to an inexpensive 1/4" drive beam style torque wrench. So can have a better idea I get input shaft thrust bearing preload & pitman shaft over-center sector preload adjusted right.
 

SmithvilleD

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That vintage Cherokee also has a conveniently rectangular shaped underhood fuse/relay box I wish I'd known to scavenge while harvesting the steering shaft. This fuse/relay box 7 common automotive size/configuration relays/fuses & can be a clean way to add circuits that should be powered through a relay. YouTube is becoming more & more useful for finding good ideas.

 

FellowTraveler

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I'll be doing this mod along with trying to adjust the steering gear box on the Burb.

I always shorten the steering columns in 1987 and back pickup cabs I've owned so steering wheel is much closer to dash I just melt the plastic (not burn it out) pull the inner shaft out shorten it then reassemble. I then relocate the auto shifter to the floor nice and clean and works well.
 

SmithvilleD

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Parted & prepped the Jeep shaft I pulled last summer with this project in mind.

Then when mocking up for the extra length needed to fit my 3" body lift, I notice the clocking of D shape coupler (to steering box input shaft) puts the flats of the steering shaft 90 degrees off from my '95 truck's stock steering shaft.

Salvage yard shaft was from a Cherokee, but can't recall what year. Will have to pull the right shaft next time :(

20160106_210245.jpg 20160106_210440.jpg On the upside, at least I found the rag joint from shaft in my truck is tight - it's about the only used one I've come across that doesn't have considerable slop.
 

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You might have gotten one from a grand cherokee as I think they were slightly different. I know mine is from an 88, and is correct. Pretty sure they stayed the same up to 96, but it might have been 93(in 94 they added a drivers side airbag, and changed steering column's). I did some digging, and it says teh one to get is from an 84-94. They changed steering shafts in 95 from all the parts catalogs I could find. I found a pic of a 94 CHEROKEE shaft, and it was clocked exactly like mine is.
 
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SmithvilleD

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I'll bet the Cherokee I pulled this shaft (that didn't work) from was '95+.

The flat on our GMT400 truck's rag-joint coupler (to steering box) is 90 degrees rotated from the flat sides of the upper shaft.

So when hunting the salvage yards, the Cherokee shaft for this project needs to have steering box coupler flat 90 degrees off from upper shaft flat sides.
 

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Parted & prepped the Jeep shaft I pulled last summer with this project in mind.

Then when mocking up for the extra length needed to fit my 3" body lift, I notice the clocking of D shape coupler (to steering box input shaft) puts the flats of the steering shaft 90 degrees off from my '95 truck's stock steering shaft.

Salvage yard shaft was from a Cherokee, but can't recall what year. Will have to pull the right shaft next time :(

View attachment 46838 View attachment 46839 On the upside, at least I found the rag joint from shaft in my truck is tight - it's about the only used one I've come across that doesn't have considerable slop.
Just did some checking, and the shaft you got is for a 95-96. It would have worked for a 88-94 truck, but it won't work in a 95+ as the joint is 90 degrees different orientation as you found. 84-94 is the one you need for the 95+ truck. If you can't find one, quadratec has brand new ones for $131.
 
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FellowTraveler

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Just did some checking, and the shaft you got is for a 95-96. It would have worked for a 88-94 truck, but it won't work in a 95+ as the joint is 90 degrees different orientation as you found. 84-94 is the one you need for the 95+ truck. If you can't find one, quadratec has brand new ones for $131.
Is this the part # Quadratec Part No: 56113.04
 

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So far I've driven it for a few days, and it is quite different driving now. I redid the whole front end, but this shaft takes ALL the give out of the steering. It repsonds INSTANTLY now, no waiting, or oversteer needed to get it to turn. You tweitch, and it responds. It's taking some getting used to going through turns going down the road as it is quite easy to oversteer it now. Only draw back so far is you hear EVERYTHING coming up through the column. All the road noise, EVERYTHING! When it's cold you get some FUNKY noises radiating up through the column into the steering wheel from the fluid going through the box, but I expected this with a solid steering shaft.
 

SmithvilleD

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I've heard racers with custom modded boxes talk about being able to sense hydraulic fluid flow changes thru the steering wheel.

Besides the potential for squeaking with poly bushings, it might be a good thing you went with rubber bushings. The poly bushings add considerably to feeling road surface irregularities. A combination of poly bushings, load range e tires, & no damping in steering shaft might transmit too much thru steering wheel.

Borgeson's tech info in their catalog say if including a vibration damper in the shaft, it should be on the upper, nearest the steering column. Their damper looks a lot like that rubber damper on the upper end of the Jeep shaft.
 

FellowTraveler

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I've heard racers with custom modded boxes talk about being able to sense hydraulic fluid flow changes thru the steering wheel.

Besides the potential for squeaking with poly bushings, it might be a good thing you went with rubber bushings. The poly bushings add considerably to feeling road surface irregularities. A combination of poly bushings, load range e tires, & no damping in steering shaft might transmit too much thru steering wheel.

Borgeson's tech info in their catalog say if including a vibration damper in the shaft, it should be on the upper, nearest the steering column. Their damper looks a lot like that rubber damper on the upper end of the Jeep shaft.
I remember using delrin control arm bushings on my old racing Camaro others even used aluminum on theirs and yes you feel everything.

When I can I'll be jacking the body off the chassis then weighing the chassis so I can determine which conical bushings to use for body mounts. After getting the chassis weight then the bushings have to have rating to support the body loaded to max capacity a little more bushing rating is IMHO better but the ride will be cushy like the newer vehicles that use such bushings.
 
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