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Thread: Cheap Hydro Assist

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Northwest side
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    Cheap Hydro Assist

    Been wanting to tackle this for a while and with larger tires arriving shortly, figured now is a good time. I have Detroits front and rear and even with 2 lo in the tcase, turning can sometimes be a challenge. There are kits out there but doing a bit of research brought up several ideas on how to do it for significantly less (about $150 total). Right up my alley. Note - I have a custom front axle with a knuckle to knuckle tie rod, which is generally considered required for hydro assist. I don't know if this would work on stock XJ/TJ steering. I've heard of it being done but can't vouch for it. Decided I'll post up as I go along so here goes.

    Step 1 - Gather the materials. Here's what is needed:

    Ram, Hoses, Fittings, Fluid cooler



    Ram, lines, and fittings were purchased at www.surpluscenter.com. Cooler is from Summit Racing (Think it was $22 or so). I think it's a good idea to add a cooler with this setup. I used a 6" stroke ram as my total tie rod travel is slightly less than 6". They also have an 8" ram if needed. There's a lot of chatter about putting spacers in the ram to limit travel to match the exact tie rod travel. Some people say stuff breaks if you don't limit it, others have run without spacers. I'm going to try it without inserting spacers. Here's a list of what I bought. I bought an extra hose and some plugs/couplers for trail repairs.

    3 916-1436 1/4" X 36" 1/4 NPTM X 1/I HYD HOSE 22.05
    1 9-5000-4-4 1/4 X 1/4 NPTF COUPLER 0.95
    2 9-5406-P-4 1/4" NPT PLUG 0.72
    1 9-7258-6 1.5X6X1 DA HYD CYL SWIVE 79.95
    2 9-6900-6-4 SAE 6M x 1/4 NPTF SWIVEL 3.38
    2 9-1503-4-4 1/4 NPTM x 1/4 NPTF 45 S 5.90

    Total $: 112.95

    To mount the ram, I picked up some generic link bracket tabs from DesertFab that I can cut to fit. The hole in the swivel eyes of the ram are 3/4" and I picked up some shouldered reducer bushings to go to 1/2".


    Step 2 - Drill and tap steering box for assist lines.


    Keeping with the "cheap" theme requires drilling and tapping your own box. Total cost is a couple hours time and a $6 1/4" NPT tap. Disclaimer - The hole locations shown work on a standard Saginaw box. 03' and newer TJ's use a different box. Supposedly they can be drilled and tapped but the locations are different. Drilling and tapping requires disassembly of the box. I won't cover that in detal as there are several good write ups on Pirate, Naxja, and other boards. No since in reinventing the wheel. Here's a couple hints. When taking the box apart, watch out for the ball bearings. They will fall out so be prepared and don't lose them. There should be 24 bearings, 12 silver and 12 black. When putting the box back together, the bearings must be put in alternating colors. I used grease to hold them in place. Patience is required to get them back in properly, it took me a couple tries. Make sure the box is clean and free of metal shavings before reassembly! If you are using a "starter" tap, tap the upper hole first. The lower hole is shallow and the tap bottomed out before it could cut the appropriate threads. I cut about 1/4" off the bottom of the tap and that did the trick. Bottom line, I've never taken apart a Saginaw box but found the whole process pretty easy to do.

    Next up - Mounting the Ram. Hopefully in the next week, if the tempature decides to cool down a bit. Stay tuned.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Chandler, AZ
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    837

    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Sweet write up Matt! I've been playing with the idea of Hydro assist so I'll be following this with interest.
    Last edited by scully; 09-01-2007 at 07:56 AM.
    Bryan

    "Dulce Periculum"

    95 YJ

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Gilbert
    Posts
    2,865

    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Good write up Matt I have gear box on my toolbox at work getting ready to drill and tap it. I had everything ready to do it then I was sent to LAX to work for the night. Thanks for parts list. I have also been reading about pump mod. Post up when you complete that also. I might order my stuff Tuesday.


    Kyle

  4. #4
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    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Ok, time to mount the ram.




    As with all projects, things don't work out quite as planned. I intended to mount the ram with the ports straight up and off the 3rd member cover on the housing. Once I mocked it all up, this worked out better (the ports are facing the back). Of course, I ordered straight hyd. line fittings for the ram so now I need 90° fittings. No biggie, I'll stop by Granberry Supply tomorrow. I might have to flip the ram around with the ports toward the front as one of the fittings might hit the passenger UCA bracket but I can't tell until I get the fitting. I realized the swivel eyes on the ram have no provision to grease them. Since I don't really want to unbolt it after every run to grease the eyes up, I'm going drill a hole in the outer casing on each eye and add a zerk. Problem solved.

    I decided for now to just weld tabs to the tie rod. That makes adjustment a bit harder but if I turn the wheel all the way to the right, the tabs should clear the housing so tie rod can be turned. Since this isn't a daily driver and alignment doesn't have to be perfect, I'm ok with it. If it turns out to more of a pain, then I'll cut the tabs off and go with a clamp like the one below from Ballistic Fab. This would allow you to easily adjust the tie rod and make replacement easier.



    I also mounted up the gearbox. The 45° fittings for the hyd. hoses are visible in the pic. I might have to turn them toward the back of Jeep a bit to smooth out the line routing but will play with that when I get to that point.



    Next up - finalizing the mounting, plumbing the ram, and mounting the cooler.

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    I am hoping to drill and tap my box tonight. Did you get misalignment bushings from Ballastic fab for ram ends?

    Kyle

  6. #6
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    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Actually, I did not use any misalignment spacers. There's plenty of movement in the eyes without them so I just went with a 3/4" to 1/2" reducer bushing. Bought them at Ace Hardware. I think as long as the ram is mounted fairly parallel to the tie rod, you won't need them. I connected the linkange and cycled the steering to check for binding and had plenty of rotation in the eyes.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Phoenix
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    799

    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Gasman,

    What track bar bracket is that? For that matter, what track bar is that?

    Thanks,
    Tom

  8. #8
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    Jan 2005
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    673

    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    The axle end bracket and track bar are from JKS. If you go their website, look under "fab parts". The track bar is a "build your own" kit. Bascially, you get the Johnny joint, the tube, and the axle end piece. You can cut/bend the tube to your application and weld on the JJ. The frame end bracket is Rubicon Express. It fits a 2" JJ.

  9. #9
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    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Got the majority of the work done this past week. All I need to do now is fill the fluid up, purge the air out, and give it whirl. Since I don't have tires at the moment, a test drive will have to wait a few weeks. The upper port on the box should be for left turn and the lower for right. Just to make sure I did not mess that up, I'll leave the draglink disconnected to make sure the ram moves the right direction on startup. No real issues. Only advice when picking the mounting points is to cycle the steering completely to make sure there's no interference. I did not make any mods to the pump, I'll wait to see how it feels and go from there.

    Mounted the cooler. Pretty straight forward.


    Ram hose routing from box.


    Ram with zerks installed and 90 degree fittings.


    Ram installed. Will replace regular nuts with locking units once everything is tested.



  10. #10
    ademster Guest

    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    thats bad arse...

    I might be doing it to mine soon...

    I wonder how it would work with a Cj-7 Box, I am not sure who makes it.

  11. #11
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    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Quote Originally Posted by ademster View Post
    thats bad arse...

    I might be doing it to mine soon...

    I wonder how it would work with a Cj-7 Box, I am not sure who makes it.
    Your CJ box should be the same Saginaw box. I think Jeep used it from the early 70's up until 03'. The hardest part of this was taking apart and tapping the box. Everything else was pretty easy.

    Tonight I filled it up and bled the air out. With the cooler and ram in the system, it takes time to bleed the air. Everything seems to work fine. On the jackstands it works great, need to get the tires on and see what happens.

  12. #12
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    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Did you modify steering pump? I have read that it will be sluggish, and have to drill hole bigger on pump for the fluid.

    Kyle

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Anchorage, AK
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    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Can you use just the ram assist and not hookup the draglink, as in a more "true" hydro system?
    Click me click me!> http://flagada.mybrute.com

  14. #14
    twstdtj Guest

    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    Quote Originally Posted by FrenchChili View Post
    Can you use just the ram assist and not hookup the draglink, as in a more "true" hydro system?
    In short. NO. No pressure will be generated until the steering box goes to a stop in that case.

  15. #15
    Join Date
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    Re: Cheap Hydro Assist

    is that a 9" in the front

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