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ORD Cross Over Steering Kit

When we had our Blazer's steering crossed up (driver side droop, passenger side stuff) with the factory steering setup and couldn't turn left, it was evident that it wasn't going to make the grade off-road, we knew we needed to install cross over steering to correct the problem but we didn't quite know why cross over worked so well. We called Stephen Watson of OffRoad Design and asked him to explain the geometry of cross over steering and why it works so well, his thoughts on the subject follow in the "Cross over explained" section.

Cross over explained

Steering problems are very common on a lifted 4x4, and unfortunately for us, the GM straight axle steering is the worst of them all for problems associated with a lift. The general term: “steering problems” basically amounts to one of 4 specific problems.

1: It breaks.  Crossover (or any other kind of steering) doesn’t do much if you’re steering box isn’t attached to the frame, or if the linkage is broken. But the parts in the kit are beefy enough it should never break.  A box brace is always a good idea also.

2: It lacks power.  Crossover doesn’t do much for actual steering power, you’ll have to go to hydraulic assist or other steering upgrades for that one.  It may help just having the proper geometry from the crossover, but that’s not the main purpose of crossover.

3: This is the good stuff:  Bumpsteer, Bumpsteer is defined as unintentional steering motion of the front tires when the suspension moves in a straight up and down motion, for example hitting a speed bump or large dip in the highway.  This causes both front tires to move upward the same amount.  You can feel bumpsteer in your truck by letting go of the steering wheel when you’re driving over speed bumps or “whoops” in the highway. If the wheel jerks as you go over the bumps, you have some degree of bumpsteer.  Stock GM steering can work well in preventing bumpsteer just because the steering linkage is pretty well located for vertical travel and moves in the correct arc to keep the steering wheel and the tires in sync.  Crossover steering will have some bumpsteer because the leaf spring suspension moves straight up and down while the crossover draglink moves side to side. Since the draglink end at the axle will move in an arc, it will have some small component of side to side motion as it travels vertically and this side to side motion causes bumpsteer. However, this is generally an acceptable level of bumpsteer for most drivers.

4: This is the really good stuff:  Roll steer. Roll steer is defined as unintentional steering motion of the front tires when front axle “articulates” compared to the frame, meaning one side moves up while the other goes down. Roll steer conditions are possible in two driving circumstances: cornering, where the whole body rolls compared to the frame, and off-road driving where only the front axle moves compared the frame.  Roll steer is usually just annoying when driving on the street, it’s hard to get enough body roll to cause serious problems.

The off-road articulation situation is the one that concerns us. The steering action pops up in 2 ways; One is when the axle housing itself under steers when articulated due to the arch in the spring. This motion is one we just have to live with because it’s due to the motion of a leaf spring suspension itself. As one side of the suspension compresses and the other extends, the leaf will make the axle move forward on the extension side, and backward on the compression side. This motion will steer the axle housing under the vehicle.  Make sure you understand how this works before you continue reading, it’s important to understand that the axle housing steers under the truck when it articulates.

The other way the axle can steer is when the steering linkage moves in a different arc than the axle. This is found in poorly designed link type suspensions, and is also found in the factory GM front suspension. This is where crossover steering comes in to play.  Imagine the standard GM steering on your truck, with the suspension twisted in such a way that the left (driver’s side) tire is drooping away and the right side is compressed.  The left side of the front axle will be moved forward because of the increased arch in it’s spring, and the axle will be at an angle under the truck because right side is moved back due to the spring being close to flat on that side. Now try to turn left. Your steering box turns the pitman arm so that the end of the arm moves to the front of the truck. But the end of the draglink where it ties to the axle is already closer to the front of the truck than it’s supposed to be so your pitman arm’s motion doesn’t actually turn the tires to the left, it just makes them straight again.

Keep turning the box till you’re against the stop and you’ll find that you can only get the tires to point straight, it won’t move them to left because the steering box is maxed out and doesn’t have any rotation left to pull the draglink forward.

Now imagine the same scenario with crossover steering. Since the draglink in a crossover setup moves side to side, the angle of the axle under the truck doesn’t make an appreciable difference in how the linkage acts when you steer. A little forward and backward motion of the axle ends doesn’t matter so when you move the steering wheel, it translates into side to side motion of the draglink and steers the wheels all the way to the axle stops.  This is the big deal with crossover steering, it works when you twist the truck up in an off-road situation.

Installation

Off Road Design has the solution for our steering woes, they offer a kit that consists of a drop pitman arm from an early Ford, a new beefy steering arm accounting for the king pin axis inclination angle that mounts to the passenger side knuckle, a new thick wall DOM drag link with rod ends, and all the necessary nuts and bolts. ORD will also sell any of the parts separately to complete your own system. Since the stock steering box turns the pitman arm from front to back, a two wheel drive steering box must also be used, so the pitman arm will rotate from left to right.

To make sure your getting the best possible setup for your truck, ORD will send out their pitman and steering arms so you can measure for the proper length drag link, they will then build a custom drag link specifically for your vehicle.

 

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Stock steering with raised steering block Stock passenger side setup Stock steering arm removed Installing passenger side cap on drivers side

Installing cross over steering with a Dana 60 axle is completely bolt on and can be done in a driveway or home garage with most common tools although a stud remover and a few clamps could come in quite handy. The first thing you will want to do is park on level ground and pull the front tires to gain access to the steering components. The first thing we did was remove the old 4x4 steering box and replaced it with a new 2x4 unit from AGR, another option is to swap out the steering sector shaft from your old box and replace it with a new 2x4 unit, our box had seen better days so we opted to install a new 2x4 steering box.

We removed the stock steering arm and cleaned the knuckle surface (the area under the steering arm), next we removed the passenger side king pin cap and installed it on the drivers side after applying some silicone sealant to keep the spring and grease clean. We had to use a stud remover to coax a couple of the cap studs out that were being stubborn, otherwise everything came of fairly easy.  

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Using stud remover Clamping down ORD steering arm ORD steering arm installed New AGR 2x4 Box

Sometimes the springs that are used to keep pressure on the king pins will not allow the new steering arm to seat properly on to the knuckle which was in our case. We simply used two clamps to force the arm downward enough to get the four bolts started then tightened them down the rest of the way. At this point the pitman arm can be installed onto the steering box shaft, be sure to have the steering wheel centered when you do this.

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Stock pitman arm VS early Ford pitman arm Stock steering arm VS ORD steering arm ORD Dana 60 cross over steering kit New steering box and pitman arm installed

Now the drag link needs to be installed and is what will tie the entire steering system together connecting the steering arm with the pitman arm. This is the step where a little adjustment comes in to play, the drag link ends will need to be rotated in or out to get proper lock to lock steering, make sure to center the steering wheel at this time also. We turned the steering wheel back and forth a few times to fine tune the drag link in and from here just bleeding the new steering box is all that is left to do.

Maybe the most difficult part of this install was bleeding our new box, because it never had fluid in it the box was full of air and required the steering wheel to be turned full left and full right quite a few times with the axle up on jack stands.

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New drag link installed New steering arm installed on passenger side Close up of new steering arm and drag link Full right turn and left side droop with  full steering control

Summary

After installing the cross over steering kit we took our project Blazer out behind the ORD shop for a little testing. It didn't take long to get it twisted up in the Colorado terrain, we found a spot that allowed us to achieve full left side drop and full lock to the right, as suspected we still had full steering control, something we didn't have with the old bump steer system. 

One of the things that makes the ORD kit stand apart from most other kits out there is the nice flat angle on the draglink end where it ties to the steering arm, this is achieved by milling about a 10 degree angle into the steering arm, without this angle the axle would have problems drooping without binding.

If you like to play in the rocks cross over steering is a must to keep steering control of your rig at all times. Another benefit of cross over steering is the full lock to lock steering radius achieved due to the utilization of a longer drag link. ORD also makes a cross over kit for the GM 10-bolt and Dana 44 axles that are found on 1/2 ton trucks, contact them for more details. The quality of the ORD kit is top notch and very stout which is one of the reasons why we went with their kit along with their superior customer service. - Steve Fox

Source

Off Road Design
314 County Road 110, #2
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601

Phone: (970) 945-7777

E-Mail us at: tech@offroaddesign.com
Web Site: www.offroaddesign.com

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