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Tech & Tools Buggy Front End – with “30Pack Matt”
M: Today we are going to talk about me actually getting a chance to work on my stuff.
C: Really? You got to work on your buggy? Thank you!
M: It was long overdue; rebuild, redo and refurbish.
C: Alright. Well I know we are working on the front end. More specifically working on the steering, right?
M: I have a Dana 60 with ball-joints. The first problem was ball joints only last for a year, and it was that time when the year was up. It’s about to be wheeling season here in Arizona, we needed to get some fresh ones in there. So that started this whole snowball effect. Then I thought, my steering is bent, it’s like a u-shape, and it’s been on there for 7 years…I should redo that. Then, when I had it apart and I had it on the jack-stands, I grabbed the steering and realized that my Tractor Supply hydraulic cylinder seal housing moved in and out a quarter-inch.
C: And it’s not supposed to do that…
M: With full hydraulic that’s kind of important because it’s held over the snap ring, and if it’s worn out enough to move a quarter-inch in and out…I really don’t want that failing…Now I gotta replace that. Well, then when I built it I had leaf-springs in the front, it was still kind of a Jeep, and it was all real low to be underneath the leaf-springs. Well, might as well raise it up and get it out of the dirt so it doesn’t get so bent this time. I have a super-duty front axle out of a Ford F-350, and I saw that Jesse Haines was making a high-steer kit that welds on, has a big through bolt, and it changes the pivot point of the tie-rod. It allows full steering with an 8-inch hydraulic cylinder. I was like, perfect I want a set of those! So, I called Jesse, had him bring them to the Off-Road Expo, and had my delivery girl pick them up.
C: You’re welcome.
M: I got those put on, and they worked great! So I figure, well I gotta get some new tubing to make my new tie-rod and weld in some bungs for the heims. My old steering was an inch and ¾ 250 weld DOM, which is pretty stout stuff I thought.
C: Well it definitely did it’s job!
M: It’s definitely served me well. So I’ll build my new steering out of the same stuff; if it lasted 7 years it’ll definitely last 7 years again. I got some FK rod-ends to put in the new tie-rod. So I got new heims, new bolts, new high steer arms, alright, golden. I cut all the stuff off the front axle, that big guard I had on and everything, and we needed to weld on new mounts for the hydraulic cylinder. Well, it turns out that PSC Steering was at the off-road expo, and my delivery girl went by there and picked up the perfect hydraulic cylinder for me.
C: You’re welcome!
M: I went with a 2.5 bore 8-inch stroke cylinder and got the full install kit with the bolts, heims, the joints and everything. I got that all welded on. As far as that goes it was all pretty straight forward because my plumbing was already there and it was the same size fitting on my hoses. All that was already set up, I just had to raise them up and screw them on, so that was relatively easy. Got my tabs welded on, checked it left to right, ended up having to break them off and do it again, then check it left to right. So, I haven’t bolted the tires back on yet, but I am pretty confident it’s good. I had Charlene hold the tape measure for me again.
C: And I didn’t move it, you kept saying I was moving it.
M: I got scared because we got the same measurement that I got by myself. I was trying to do it with my tongue hanging out and trying to hold the tape measure by myself, and I thought I probably got it pretty close. So I had Charlene hold the tape measure and I measured again. I must have done pretty good and gotten close since we ended up with the same measurement.
It’s all on and done now. I had to clear the diff cover a little bit to keep the tire rod from rubbing, I think that an inch and ¾ is probably a little bigger than what Jesse had planned. However it worked out great, and I got the steering on. I was going to do some machine work to run different ball joint configurations, but I got lazy and decided to just throw on some good ol’ Dana Spicer replacement ball joints because they seem to be the best. I’ve tried other companies before, but these last a year and have never let me down.
C: When you say they last a year, we are wheeling hard core Arizona wheeling almost every weekend.
M: They’ll last the lifetime on a truck that only drives on the road. A ball joint will carry weight very well. The problem comes when it’s bouncing and going over bumps and the weight of the tire and wheel are pulling the ball joint down and wearing it out.
A while ago I jumped on the bandwagon of adding water to my tires to get the extra weight to climb waterfalls. With water in your tires even brand new ball joints only last about 3 runs, and then they are worn out and have to be replaced again. Well, after doing that a few times with it costing nearly $80 a side and a week or more in the garage, I decided to let the water out to preserve the longevity. I’m back to getting a year. You can’t really ask for more than that, after a year the ball joints start getting really loose.
C: You were pretty specific with what you wanted as far as the steering piece went from PSC Steering. What was your thought process behind that?
M: Before, I ran the same 2 1/2 -inch cylinder and 8-inch stroke but it was more of a tractor-style, like a surplus Ram. It had a really big shaft, about 1 ½-inches. When I turned left it was about 1 ½ turns to get full steering, and when I turned right it was about 3 because the volume in the cylinder was so different. You can completely eliminate that by going to a double ended steering ram where each side is identical and have rods sticking out.
I didn’t want to do that because it’s over-complicated, there’s more parts that can fail or break. I like simple. I went with the single ended ram like I had before, but PSC Steering builds their own. Everything is built better, the cap is better (it screws in to hold itself), and the ram is already threaded for heims. With my old tractor ram had this big uniball thing on it where I had to have a bunch of spacers because it was made for more of a 1-inch bolt.
Going with a PSC is perfect. It has a heim that treads in, it has jam-nuts where you can rotate the fittings wherever you want, it makes it really easy to mount. The rod is also a lot smaller. It’s not identical from side to side but it does bring the turn ratio closer to being the same.
C: I always get to interview everyone else, so I am going to interview you real fast and hit reverse. When did you start getting into vehicles and this Jeep?
M: I was in High School, I was 18 and a Senior. I had an ‘89 F250 that was a diesel. The original owner had put a turbo kit on it, so it would do awesome peel outs. I blew up the rear end when I decided to make a redneck swimming pool in it with a tarp and a bunch of water. I went to the junkyard, pulled a rear end, and bolted it in.
I had seen a Jeep over at my neighbor’s house for sale, and I though ‘man I really want that’. I talked to him, and he took the ‘for sale’ sign off it and let me make payments. When I had paid it off halfway he would let me take the Jeep and I could pay off the rest. The worst thing I ever did was take that Jeep home. Someone drove by and offered to buy my truck, and I sold it for $1500. I wish I would have kept it, it was pretty sweet. I used that money to pay the rest of the Jeep off. My neighbor was happy because he didn’t have to wait, and I was happy because I now had a Jeep.
I was working at Discount Tire at the time, and so the first thing I did was drive over to Discount Tire and dig through the used tire bin. There wasn’t anything good, so I ordered a set of the BFGoodrich Tires KOs. I had all-terrains and I thought I was rad. I went to 4 Wheel Parts and got a shackle lift, and it drove like garbage after that. Then I started wheeling it, and it was fun. I started upgrading this and upgrading that, and I was doing it all myself. I had enough money to buy the parts, but not enough to have it installed. I always had to find a friend to help me or just end up doing it myself. I was just some punk kid trying to motivate myself to go to college, which ended up not happening.
I ended up learning a ton. I would do everything about 3 or 4 times since whatever I did the first time would end up not working or not being good enough. My knowledge slowly progressed and expanded. I still own the same Jeep. I don’t know if it even has a vin on it anymore, but I’m pretty sure I have the title somewhere. It’s still a ‘93 Jeep though, the plates are still on it and the tags are still good.
C: That goes back to when we see kids out on the trail and having a great time. You were that kid once too, learning by trying and failing. Look at you now and all the stuff you know, and you can make things happen just by grinding.
M: I try and pay it forward a little too. I work at Four Wheeler Supply now, and there was this kid that who volunteered there over the summer and did all of the shop work he could to help out, but he just wanted to be around it. He comes bouncing in one day with a blue ‘94 Jeep Wrangler with these big lift springs on it and stock tires. He’s a super nice kid and I could tell he was just into it and wanted to do it. I had some take-off tires from my truck which were 35s. I told him they were his if he wanted them. It just reminded me of myself, not having a lot but wanting to do it and doing whatever he had to do. That was totally me.
C: So when you see Matt out wheeling or at King of the Hammers, Ol’ Blue sure isn’t pretty but she works and is perfect just the way she is.