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How to Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep TJ? (Cost, Explained)

Whether the steering box of your Jeep has leaks or can’t perform smoothly due to larger tires, knowing how to upgrade steering box on Jeep TJ can solve it.

In this article, I have discussed this matter explaining several important facts. It will help you know the right time for a replacement.

Also, I have included 3 products from the best and most trusted online platform to save you the time to find the right steering box. Let’s get started.

Can You Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep TJ?

With the right aftermarket part and by knowing the steps to perform the replacement, you can upgrade the steering box on Jeep TJ.

You may want to do it right after purchasing your car but I don’t recommend it for some reason.

Unless there is an emergency or upgrade of other parts that affect steering, one doesn’t require to spend on steering upgrade.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a bad steering gearbox can help you act before getting injured in a serious accident.

In the next part, I have explained almost all of the major symptoms for your convenience. Read all points carefully to know when you have to do the upgrade.

When Should You Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep TJ?

From the discussions above, you have known that installing larger tires makes it hard to steer with the stock parts.

That is why Jeep TJ owners like to upgrade the part with an aftermarket one. Also, a bad steering box can be the cause.

Let’s see when you can know that it is time to upgrade the steering box on Jeep TJ.

1. Tight or stiff steering wheel

Are you having a hard time steering your old Jeep TJ? If the answer is yes, you will have to change the old one.

As the steering system of these modern cars uses hydraulic pressure, it can lose its smoothness over time.

The benefit of using hydraulic pressure in the rack and pinion steering system is to have effortless handling.

For several reasons, the steering wheel can get stiff or hard to turn. Too much heat in the system, and oil leaks are two probable causes.

2. Leaked power steering oil

When the box has a faulty gasket, bad fitting, or any mechanical failure, the power steering fluid can leak.

And, the leak causes lots of problems making the steering box non-functional. It is important that the metal parts inside the box stay lubricated all the time.

Otherwise, your Jeep TJ won’t have the same smooth steering as before. After the inspection, evaluate whether the problem is worth repairing.

In this situation, experts recommend customers hire a mechanic. Wasting too much time not addressing the issue can lead to more serious problems.

3. Creating grinding noise

One very common and obvious sign of steering gearbox problem is hearing grinding noise.

Due to the lack of lubrication fluid, the metal parts come in contact and make this metal grinding sound.

Usually, it happens when one turns the vehicle and hits a bump at the same time.

4. Burning oil smell

Some of the owners shared that they smelled burning oil from the gearbox which also indicates a serious problem.

Too much heat in the steering system can cause the oil to reach its boiling point. Here, you have to take the car to a mechanic to see where the problem is, and solve it immediately.

5. Excessive play

Veering to one particular side or excessive play does not happen in the early stages of a failing steering box of Jeep TJ.

If someone keeps ignoring the signs and symptoms I have discussed above, he/she will face this extreme problem.

When the gear gets old and worn too much, veering can occur at any point. Let me tell you a quick method to determine the severity of this issue.

As the vehicle gets old, it is common that drivers have to steer a bit more than usual to turn the vehicle in one direction.

But the deviation should not be more than one inch. Exceeding the 1-inch threshold means that the steering box on Jeep TJ needs to be replaced.

6. Oil Discolor

During scheduled maintenance, you must not forget to check the oil in the steering box.

Any problem in the system can discolor the oil. It can get foamy, milky, or pitch black. Each of the discolored states means something.

Foamy power steering fluid oil means that there is a leak and air is getting mixed with it.

Similarly, milky color means that water is somehow getting inside and contaminating the oil.

Lastly, seeing the fluid pitch-black indicates more heat than usual. If you don’t notice any sign or symptom mentioned above for excessive heat, you can identify the problem by seeing the oil’s color.

Whenever you suspect that the steering gearbox is not acting like normal, you should not waste any more time, and act swiftly before it damages other parts.

How Much Does It Cost to Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep TJ?

The cost of replacing the Jeep TJ steering box can be slightly higher than XJ Cherokee. Most of the aftermarket parts cost around 400 bucks.

That could be a problem for those who are on a tight budget. But I researched some more to find a budget model that you can find in the product recommendation section below.

Including the labor cost, the whole cost should be covered within $400 (assuming the price of the gearbox is 250 dollars).

Or, it can go as high as $550. Saving about 150 bucks is possible if you can replace the part without hiring a mechanic.

I have described the steps below but you should keep in mind that it is a labor-intensive job. And takes a lot of time along with some skills.

Our Top Recommendation on Jeep TJ Steering Box Upgrade

To save your time researching and finding the right steering box, I have a few recommendations.

The 3 products below include both high-end expensive and low-budget aftermarket parts. Check them out and buy the one within your budget.

1. Saginaw 68 86 Power Steering Gearbox

The first one on the list costs the lowest compared to the other two below. Saginaw 68 86 Power Steering Gearbox is from BuyAutoParts which is suitable for the 1987-2002 Jeep TJ models. Don’t worry about its quality because it is manufactured in the USA.

2. Power Steering Gear Box for Jeep Wrangler TJ

This one costs almost 150 bucks more than the first one. Also, the compatibility range is smaller. Only Jeep TJ built in between 1997 and 2002 can have this perfect fit. One good thing about it is that the box is brand new and doesn’t have replaced or changed core.

3. Vital All-Terrain Durango Swap Power Steering Gear Box

The last one is from Vital All-Terrain, and it falls in the expensive category. Considering the build quality and performance, the investment is worth every penny. If your Jeep TJ is built between 1987 and 2002, you can buy it without worrying about its fitment.

How to Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep TJ?

Though I have not performed the upgrade myself, I have seen a Jeep TJ owner do it. The way to do it is not complicated at all.

The only thing you need is a little experience with the engine, repairing, and confidence. Let’s see how it can be done within an hour or so.

  • Below the engine, there is a coupler to the steering box and shaft that you have to locate. You will see 3 bolts holding the box which one can easily remove using a 13mm socket.
  • Years of mounting can make it hard to remove the steering gearbox. Here, you might have to use a metal rod and some force to take it off. Pry against the steering box for optimal results.
  • Then, it is time to remove the brackets that are in the way of the gearbox. You can easily loosen the bumper bracket and fence bracket using simple tools.
  • After that, carefully remove the steering box from the mainframe and don’t get hit by any loose parts. Especially, mind the aluminum spacer which can fall off all of a sudden.
  • Now, the time has come to install the new and more efficient aftermarket steering box on your Jeep TJ. To do this, place the aluminum or steel spacer in its place.
  • Use the bolts to keep the spacer in place, and don’t tighten them yet. Place the new box in the right position.
  • Finally, you have to apply a little bit of blue Loctite on each bolt before tightening them for secure mounting. The Loctite keeps them from turning in any condition.

Pro Tip: According to the expert mechanics, it is better to use a steel spacer instead of the stock aluminum one. As the bolts are made of steel, there can be galvanic corrosion inside the aluminum spacer over time. But the problem is non-existent in steel spacers.

Even after knowing all about the replacement process, one may not feel confident enough and it is okay.

That is why watching this project video can help overcome the fear of mishandling the steering box.


Have you understood clearly how to upgrade steering box on Jeep TJ?

Those instructions are to help you save the labor cost, and minimize the replacement cost as much as possible. If you think that there are better deals online besides Amazon, you can check out 4wd. The same products are way more expensive in that eCommerce platform.

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