Today I re-assembled and installed the steering linkage. This system consists of the steering box, idler box, center/cross-rod, and two tie rods that connect the boxes to the wheel hubs.
Before I began I drained the old oil out of the steering box. I will replace this with new 90-weight gear oil after I re-install everything. I removed the drain plug using a 1/2″ socket and allowed the oil to drain. I propped the box up to drain (the oil is fairly viscous) and went off to work on the rod ends.
For each of the tie rod and cross rod ends I bought new urethane dust boots. The original rubber boots from Nissan are pretty expensive ($13 apiece for the tie rod ends and $8 apiece for the centers); I found these boots from Energy Suspension (part #9.13105G) for $3.95 per pair from Summit Racing and used three pairs for the steering linkage.
I installed new grease zerks on the tie rod ends using a 5/16″ wrench, then I added the urethane boots.
I used a 3/4″ wrench to thread the original bolts back onto the center rod, then threaded the cross rod ends onto the centerpiece.
Here are the assembled linkage pieces.
I installed a new grease zerk into the idler box, then added back the castle nut on the bottom.
I tightened the nut down using an 1″ socket, then added a new 1/8″ 2″ cotter pin to prevent the nut from backing off.
Here is the cotter pin installed.
I replaced the drain plug in the steering box and added back the washer and nut to the steering shaft, which I had removed for cleaning and painting. I tightened the nut using a 1 1/8″ socket.
Here is the re-assembled steering box.
The steering box mounts onto a bracket on the driver’s side of the frame, just behind where the gravel shield goes. The idler box mounts in the same spot on the opposite (passenger) side of the frame. The rear end of the steering box yolk has to slide into a cavity in the frame (shown below, left). The driver’s side tie rod fishes through the frame and out to the wheel assembly. I found it best to lift the steering box up from below.
I had a really difficult time getting the steering box back on the frame. It is an extremely tight fit. At times I felt as though I were trying to assembly a complex jigsaw puzzle where all of the pieces were heavy and freshly-painted!
Here is the trick I discovered, the best I can describe it: perched in front of the frame facing it I held the steering box in my left hand, bringing it up into the frame from below, and reached around towards the steering U-joint on the opposite side of the box. I turned the U-joint, where the steering shaft from the steering wheel connects, all the way counterclockwise and then brought the box up and inserted the end of the yolk into its pocket in the frame. Then, when the box couldn’t come up any further, I turned the U-joint slowly clockwise while raising the box up and that tucked the yolk out of the way, and enabled me to lift the box the rest of the way up onto its mount and maneuver it into position. I added one of the new steering box mounting bolts in the top of the frame.
Then I added the other two new bolts, both through the side of the box. I tightened all of these bolts using a 9/16″ socket.
Here is the installed steering box. Whew!
The idler box went in much more easily. I also brought it up from below, but it was not nearly as a tight a fit and dropped right onto its bracket.
I added the bolt through the top of idler box into the frame. I tightened it using a 9/16″ socket, mounted on a swivel attachment, to get a good angle on the nut from below.
Then I added the two bolts that go through the side of the idler box.
The center linkage rod connected from the steering yolk to the idler yolk, with the shafts on the ends of the linkage facing downwards.
I pushed down on the rod end to expose its threaded shaft, compressing the dust boot. Then I twisted on a castle nut and tightened it using a 11/16″ socket. I used a 3/32″ 1 1/2″cotter pin on each end.
Next I installed the cross rods (left/driver’s side shown). The cross rod shafts point downward through the steering/idler yolks, and upward through the steering knuckle on the front suspension assembly. Since the steering knuckle bolted to the backer plate of the front wheels has a tapered hole and can only accept the shaft in one direction, it is important to mount the knuckles on the correct side (with the wider end of the hole down) when rebuilding the front suspension. I installed the castle nuts on each end of each tie rod.
Then I installed 3/32″ 1 1/2″cotter pins on each.
I attached the tie rod on the other side in the same manner. Also here is a shot of the newly-installed steering linkage from the top.