Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Backlogged Projects: Replacing OEM Intermediate Steering Shaft with Borgeson aftermarket

Backlogged Project To-Do List:

1.) Charging System needs to be rewired (Again), converter relocated from under the kitchen sink to under the dinette, right next to the batteries (Something I should have done when I rewired the charging system back in 2009, but didn’t). Plus, a new Battery Disconnect needs to be installed, the original 75amp Pollack switch is falling apart.

Also, I need to incorporate my battery voltage meter center that I fashioned into the electrical system so I can actually watch my battery charge.

2.) The two Trojan SCS225 Deep cycles on the camper that I bought for a steal back in 2006 also need replacing, they no longer hold a good charge anymore, odds are one of the batteries is shorted.

3.) New Camper plugs need to be installed, replacing the under-rated RV 7 pin hook up with a 100amp Lift-gate plug for the charging wires and a separate 4-pin round plug for the running lights. Charge wiring coming from the alternator needs to be fully scrapped and replaced with a good 4 gauge run instead of the under-rated 8 gauge system I put in back in 2006.

4.) Front of the Camper’s tub needs to have a bolstering frame built onto it, it has always flexed and moved too much whenever the camper has been lifted for loading and unloading.

5.) The 3 year old Shurflo Extreme Smart Sensor 4.0 water pump needs to be replaced (fortunately, Shurflo replaced this as a “Good Will” warranty exchange, since I bought the pump in ‘09, but it was manufactured in 2007) as it has started leaking water around the body and is pushing pressure back towards the tank.

6.) Replace the broken down intermediate steering linkage on the truck to tighten up the steering for improved handling.


 

Amazing how fast you can get projects done when there’s a trip on the line and money in the bank Smile with tongue out.

 

All the electrical work is all done, now, truck and camper are setup for heavy duty charging, new batteries are on board so dry camping is back to full capacity again and I now have a battery meter for monitoring the state of my battery bank. 

 

That brings us to fixing a problem that has plagued both my Dodge trucks in the time that I’ve owned them, but never fixed, till now.

The quarter wheel turn steering slop. 

Somewhere in the 1980s or early 90s, Dodge decided to get rid of their standard U-jointed intermediate steering shaft coming from the steering box on the truck and coupling via what is called a “Rag Joint” to the steering wheel shaft coming from the cab. 

In its place, they put a form of safety knuckle that would break away in the event of an accident to keep from impaling the driver with the steering wheel.    I don’t know how often steering wheel impalings occurred, wasn’t something you heard reported in the news to best of my knowledge, but apparently it was happening enough that this piece of garbage was created. 

The joint basically was a little rectangular box into which the steering shaft was slid, a pin driven through the end to allow two little rectangular runners to slide onto the ends of the pin.   No method of permanent attachment exists on these runners, they’re simply held in place by the box. 

Over time, those little pot metal guides disintegrate, usually starting shortly after the flimsy rubber gasket at the top of this giant water bucket of a box knuckle fails. 

For $25, you can buy a rebuild kit, that replaces the two little guides and the rubber gasket.   Everything I’d read on this rebuild kit indicated that in as little as 4000 miles, the slop problem would resurface again. 

Not interested in doing this dance twice, I decided, after polling a couple Dodge Truck Forums, to go with a far more expensive, but far more durable replacement from Borgeson Steering Products. 

 


 

P1110354The original intermediate steering shaft in place on the truck and the garbage safety knuckle. 

I removed my driver’s side front tire for ease of access to the steering parts.

 

 

 

You can see the slop in the linkage as I grab the steering shaft and am able to turn it back and forth with an audible clunking sound with even moving the linkage itself at the steering box.

 

 

Removal of the old steering shaft involves driving out a retaining pin the safety knuckle, which can be done with a super long Phillips screw driver (to allow you to swing outside the fender well for more energy and accuracy) after soaking the pin with WD-40 and letting it sit for about 30 minutes, then using a 10mm star pattern socket removing the two bolts attaching the intermediate shaft to the rag joint and backing out the safety pints temporarily to allow you to swing it up and pull it out. 

If the intermediate shaft doesn’t wanna play nice, you can do as I did, and use a small piece of 1x2 to tap the shaft loose of the knuckle (don’t worry, it’ll just fall apart if its anything like mine) and then you can wiggle the knuckle end lose to remove it from the steering box.

P1110356Here’s a side by side comparison of the original intermediate steering shaft and the “Made in the USA” Borgeson replacement.

The Borgeson replacement is far more substantial than the original and is adjustable in length to fit a fairly wide range of Dodge trucks.  I believe the model I have is meant to fit Dodges from 1977 to 1993, the last year of the old body style. 

You can also see the needle joint-based knuckle that attaches to the steering box vs the garbage safety knuckle that came off. 

Once you have your steering pointed perfectly straight forward and your steering wheel in the proper alignment for straight forward driving, slide the knuckle onto the steering box splines and feed the other end up to the rag joint and reattach it. 

Being certain to fit the knuckle down so that the spline shaft coming off the steering box is deep enough in to be flush with the end of the fitting in the knuckle, but not too deep to cause binding in the U-joint, you can use a sharpie to mark where the retaining pin will hit, then slide the knuckle off and file down that spot.   You will not be reusing the old retaining notch that the factory steering used.

If you’re like me, I used a drill bit that was a little narrower than the threads in the retaining pin hole to pilot start a hole for the retaining pin, then slid the knuckle off and used a bit that would be just wide enough for the pin to enter to make a slot for the pin to lock into. 

Tighten up all the screws and nuts and don’t forget to secure the retaining ring in place on the middle of the shaft by the boot. 

P1110359

 

I’ve done a little testing of the steering with the new steering shaft and the tightness is rather astounding after having such loose steering from the day I bought my first Dodge.   I look forward to seeing how it all holds up to the load of the camper on the rear and the ruts in the road, something the dually conversion really exacerbated with the sloppy front steering.

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