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Installing Rack and Pinion Steering on an old Willys (4 hours)

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UPDATE:  Sam has provided some detailed instructions (which will replace mine) and will also be sending some pics when he completes his next installation.

One idea Sam has shared with eWillys readers was the rack and pinion steering modification he has been doing.  He describes this as a pretty straight forward installation that can replace the stock steering in any flattie.  Sam says this takes him about four hours to complete. Pics are forthcoming on this modification.

Sam describes the process as follows:

1) Remove Steering: Take out the existing steering mechanism and the mounting plate.

2) Remove Drag Link: Remove drag link from old box to bell crank

3) Layout Straight Edge: With front wheels straight ahead, use a straight edge  (anything will do, I use a piece of conduit) and lay one end on the passenger side tie rod from the spindle and the other side on the frame rail directly above the drivers side tie rod end at the spindle  This will give you the approximate location for the rack and pinion.  DO NOT USE original box location as this will put the cross link through the engine block.

4) Where to Mount Vega Plate: Take the Vega box mounting plate (The plate Sam uses is this plate from Unisteer.com) and using a large C-clamp, attach to frame with the top of the plate even with the top of the frame.  This will put the mounting holes in the right place.  You will notice the top two holes are inside the opening of the frame and the third hole is below the frame as it should be.

5) Temporarily Mount Rack: The rear edge of the Vega plate should be ONE inch ahead of the line from the tie rods towards the front of the vehicle.  NOTE….at this point, it is very important to temporarily mount the rack (You may use longer bolts to clear the C-clamp).  Once mounted, move the wheels all the way to the right and make sure you have at least one inch clearance between the cross link from the Rack and the oil pan.  Do the same with turning the wheels to the left.  If you have the proper clearance, you have the right location for the mounting plate for the Rack and Pinion.

6) Weld Plate to Frame: Weld the Vega plate in place and be sure to use the supplied gusset ( I use two of them, as I have found that with one gusset, there is a chance for mount twist under harsh conditions such as four-wheeling……strongly suggest you do the same  grin grin)

7) Attach Rack and Pinion: Bolt the Rack and Pinion in place and attach the cross link to the Rack and with the Rack centered and the wheels dead ahead, mark the cross shaft for cutting allowing for the length of the tie rod end.  Now you may cut, thread, and install the tie rod. The unit Sam uses is this cross steer rack from unisteer.com.

8) Determine Steering Rod Length: Using the conduit, determine the route from the bottom of your steering column to the Rack and Pinion.  This varies with engine and frame variations but is very simple.  Usually all that is required is to determine if the column needs to be shortened or if a double joint is needed.  At this stage, determine what your shaft is…..splined, D shape, square, etc.  This will determine which joint to use.  If round, (with roll pins) I strongly suggest you modify it to D-shape for strength. Sometimes you have to use TWO  rods from the column to the box.  If so, USE ROD SUPPORTS before and after middle joint.  You can get everything you need from Borgson Joints.  If you choose the shorten your column (to use One Rod) you can can get the necessary seal and bearing from them too.

9) Double Check Everything: Double check everything for tightness and clearance and YOU ARE DONE — smile, have a beer.

This sounds simple and it really is, I’ve done soooo many of them, that I can do it start to finish in four hours.  If anyone still needs help, just call me or Dave and I’ll be more than happy to walk you through it.  The last one I did cost $612.42 for everything,  Somewhat cheaper than regular boxes and a whole lot better looking and steering.

If properly installed, you’ll notice the steering much tighter while driving and capable of easily turning under the weight of even a V8 when parked.

 

12 Comments on “Installing Rack and Pinion Steering on an old Willys (4 hours)

  1. Sam Thomas

    Dave…… Glad to see this on the sight but one very important correction needs to be done, Here is the steps to take for a 4 hour conversion……..Step 1…..remove old steering box Step two….remove drag link from old box to bell crank Step three……with front wheels straight ahead, use a straight edge (anything will do, I use a piece of conduit) and lay one end on the passenger side tie rod from the spindle and the other side on the frame rail directly above the drivers side tie rod end at the spindle This will give you the approximate location for the rack and pinion. DO NOT USE original box location as this will put the cross link through the engine block—–grin grin. Step four……take the Vega box mounting plate and using a large C-clamp, attach to frame with the top of the plate even with the top of the frame. This wll put the mounting holes in the right place. You will notice the top two holes are inside the opening of the frame and the third hole is below the frame as it should be. Step five……The rear edge of the Vega plate should be ONE inch ahead of the line from the tie rods towards the front of the vehicle. NOTE….at this point, it is very important to temporarily mount the rack (you may use longer bolts to clear the C-clamp). Once mounted, move the wheels all the way to the right and make sure you have at least one inch clearance between the cross link from the Rack and the oil pan. Do the same with turning the wheels to the left. If you have the proper clearance, you have the right location for the mounting plate for the Rack and Pinion. Step six….weld the Vega plate in place and be sure to use the supplied gusset ( I use two of them, as I have found that with one gusset, there is a chance for mount twist under harsh conditions such as four-wheeling……strongly suggest you do the same grin grin). Step seven…bolt the Rack and Pinion in place and attach the cross link to the Rack and with the Rack centered and the wheels dead ahead, mark the cross shaft for cutting allowing for the lenght of the tie rod end. Now you may cut, thread, and install the tie rod. Step eight….using the conduit, determine the route from the bottom of your steering column to the Rack and Pinion. This varies with engine and frame variations but is very simple. Usually all that is required is to determine if the column needs to be shortened or if a double joint is needed. At this stage, determine what your shaft is…..splined, D shape, square, etc. This will determine which joint to use. If round, (with roll pins) I strongly suggest you modify it to D-shape for strengh. Sometimes you have to use TWO rods from the column to the box. If so, USE ROD SUPPORTS before and after middle joint. You can get everything you need from Borgson Joints. If you choose the shorten your column (to use One Rod) you can can get the neccessary seal and bearing from them too. Step Nine Double check everything for tightness and clearance and YOU ARE DONE>>>smile, have a beer. This sounds simple and it really is, I’ve done soo many of them, that I can do it start to finish in four hours. If anyone still needs help, just call me or Dave and I’ll be more than happy to walk you through it. The last one I did cost $612.42 for everything, Somewhat cheaper than regular boxes and a whole lot better looking and steering.

  2. Dennis

    Do you have any contact information for Sam? Looks like it might provide a better option than the Toyota Power steering I’m considering for my FC.

    Thanks Dennis

  3. Bob

    I live in Wheat Ridge….right next to Arvada. I’d like to chat with Sam too. Contact info. would be great. Thanks,
    Bob

  4. Dennis

    Talked to Sam yesterday Wow! what a wealth of knowledge. As soon as I can sneak out of the office I’m going to go up and see him.
    Dave,
    Thanks for the contact information.

    Dennis

  5. Jim Hansen

    I did a search for rack and pinion steering for a Willys planar suspension and found your site. Can you clarify for me that the Unisteer cross-steering rack can be installed on a wagon with the stock planar suspension? Any help on finding an information source for this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much.

  6. alex boes

    Can you help me with rack an pinion conversion for 42gpw.i have fitted pinto engine. And would like to improve steering. I also have disc brake conversion kits available for sale all bolt on. Alex boes Australia. 0412 819 747.

  7. tony caccavale

    How do you make the uni steer work on front steer with the direction issues

  8. David Eilers

    I wish I had more info, but Sam is the guy who was worked on this project. But, I haven’t heard anything from Sam in a couple years. Only he can answer your questions on this. I wish I had more info,

    – Dave

  9. David Eilers

    Hi Ken,

    Unfortunately, I have no contact info for Sam, so I don’t have an answer for you.

    – Dave

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