How long has it been since you’ve checked your three steering gear mounting bolts? Have you noticed any looseness in your steering? Do your bolts come loose often? This can lead to Death Wobble!
You may have added quite a bit of force to the system by adding taller and wider tires. Let me impress upon you how important it is to KNOW that your steering is tight! See, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You learned that in High School Physics, right? Anyway, when you turn the steering wheel to the right, the pitman arm forces the tie-rod to the right, pushing the front of the wheel rightward so you can turn the Jeep. It also pushes the driver’s side frame rail leftward at the same time which is where the steering box is mounted.
If you had a skinny little 28″ tire on there, the steering gear has no problem overcoming the friction of the tire’s contact patch on the pavement because it’s only like 16 square inches of area at correct inflation. By way of comparison, a 31″ tire is nearly THREE TIMES that amount of contact patch area at the proper tire inflation. (when volume of tire increases, less pressure is needed *OR WANTED*, so the tire lays on the pavement more. Proper inflation for a 31″ tire is probably around 24psi in the front and less on the rear on most XJs. Use the chalk-method to insure that your tires are properly inflated and not over-inflated). Have you any idea what a 35″ tire’s contact patch looks like? It’s probably three times a 31″ tire!
Secondly, have you noticed how many bolts are holding the steering box to the frame? Exactly three (3). And, they are all at the top, not down at the bottom where you need them in order to brace the forces of the larger contact patch…not to mention the forces when you’re pushing up against a rock or tree when you are offroad. It’s essentially a hydraulic-assisted lever with a bracket on only one end to brace it. How long until it fails? How tight are your bolts? Once they are loose, the box will work back and forth under the Jeep (you may not even notice it) until it either shears off one of the three bolts or rips off one of the ears on the box (or both, like what happened to me on Pritchett Canyon in Moab).
So, you can see why it’s important to have a steering brace for your steering box. Without further adieu, allow me to introduce our steering box brace for the XJ, which bolts in on both sides of the front frame rail to the factory skid plate and sway bar mounting holes and clamps solidly to the steering box, keeping it from moving around on the lower end where there is no support from the factory. It’ll increase your steering response (because you have FAR less “accidental” movement), and it will keep you from breaking tabs off of the steering gear like I did, and also, will keep the factory gear bolts tight on the frame because it takes so much force off of them.
The Hard-KOR steering box brace comes powdercoated to resist the elements and includes all the hardware you need to bolt it right in. No cutting, welding, modifying necessary. Fits both 6cyl and 4cyl models. You can re-use the worthless front factory skid if you elect to do so, but you’ll need to modify the rear tabs ever so slightly so that they don’t come inboard as far. No biggie. It’ll be obvious what to do when you get it under there. Personally, there is nothing that the front skid really protects, once you’re lifted, so you may just ditch it and be done with it. That’s what most customers do.
NOTE: If you still have the stock front anti-sway bar, you’ll need to purchase our optional Energy Suspension grease-able anti-sway bar bushing kits (search for “bushings”) which has more clearance than the stock bushing clamps do, and allows the brace to mount to the frame properly without having to mess with modifying the factory clamps. Please follow this link to determine your anti-sway bar diameter: Sway Bar Measuring Tape
ANOTHER NOTE: A select few have had fitment issues with respect to width of their frame rails. If your Cherokee has been in a front end collision and you’d prefer to *NOT* modify the frame mounting holes by “ovaling” them out, please send the brace back and I’ll give you a full refund in accordance with our Return Policy.
Install Instructions: Unbolt your front two bolts on the front sway bar and leave the rear two in. You will need to remove the useless Mopar factory front skid plate if you have the misfortune of having one. First, remove the forward-most bolts from your anti-sway bar clamps. Simply place the brace in position. Hand-thread the longer bolts (included) and flat washers through the holes on the brace, then through the forward-most holes of the sway bar clamp, sandwiching the front sway bar mount tabs against the frame. Now, hand-thread in the old sway bar bolts into half of the steering gear clamp around the steering gear and tighten the two bolts down using the included lock nuts. Tighten all of the brace bolts down and you’re done. The bracket may deflect slightly as you’re tightening it down…you won’t hurt it. Enjoy your MUCH stronger steering box connection!!