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

After installing big tires on your Jeep XJ, have you noticed that the stock steering is performing terribly?

Or, has the old steering box gone bad and made all sorts of popping noises?

If any of the answers is yes, you will have to upgrade the part. That is why I have gathered the necessary information on how to upgrade steering box on Jeep XJ.

Can You Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep XJ?

Yes, you can definitely upgrade steering box on Jeep XJ just like various other models.

But a Jeep XJ owner should not do it directly after purchasing the vehicle.

Do the upgrade when you have upgraded some parts that affect the steering or opt for it when a problem occurs.

The steering can be old and show some symptoms which tell you to upgrade the Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep Cherokee XJ.

In the next section, I am going to tell you all about the signs and symptoms of a bad Jeep XJ steering gearbox.

When Should You Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep XJ?

Besides the tire upgrade, there are a few signs and symptoms that suggest one upgrade the steering box of their Jeep XJ.

The points I am about to tell you are very important. Noticing any of them will tell you that there is a problem brewing in the steering rack.

1. Tight steering wheel

The modern design of the rack and pinion steering system uses hydraulic pressure for effortless handling.

When the steering goes bad or starts making trouble, you may feel that it has become harder to steer.

The loss of hydraulic pressure or too much heat buildup in the gearbox can cause this problem.

2. Power steering fluid leak

Another cause of the previous problem is leaking power steering fluid. By adding more, you can solve it seamlessly.

The logical question here is how it gets out of the system. The reason can be a faulty gasket, fitting, or other mechanical parts.

In this situation, you must not wait and act immediately to fix it. Leaving the leak like that for too long can lead to gear breaking, excess heat, and life-threatening accidents.

3. Hearing grinding noise

When owners miss too many scheduled servicing of their Jeep Cherokee XJ, the steering gearbox lacks lubrication.

As a result, it creates grinding noise similar to metal-on-metal contact sound. One can notice it, especially when he/she turns and hits a bump at the same time.

4. Smelling burning oil

It requires your close attention to the steering performance to detect the sound problem. And, the same applies to the burning oil symptom.

Excessive heat can cause the lubricating oil to burn. Whenever you smell something like that, waste no time and stop the engine immediately.

Without fixing this issue, don’t drive because it can be very dangerous. For all those points, taking the help of a mechanic is highly recommended.

5. Veering to one side or excessive play

In extreme cases of a problematic steering box, you will see that the vehicle is wandering or veering to one side.

Due to worn gear, it can happen, and you must not waste any more time upgrading it.

Also, excessive play can be considered a symptom. It means that your Jeep Cherokee’s steering wheel will wobble back and forth while riding.

One quick method to check it is by estimating how much you have to steer to turn the vehicle in one direction. If it exceeds 1 inch, you will have to worry.

6. Discolored oil

During the regular inspections, you should also check out the condition of the power steering fluid oil. Seeing it foaming, getting discolored, or milky in color is concerning.

Pitch black means that excessive heat is present in the steering system which needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

Foaming oil indicates a leak and air mix-up in the system. Similarly, milky color means water contamination. Consult with your mechanic to know the solution.

Even after having any one or two symptoms at the same time, the steering box may still function. And, you won’t feel that you are losing control of steering.

However, you should not drive for too long with these kinds of problems. Also, upgrading other parts that affect steering must be dealt with in the beginning.

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

According to my research, the labor cost of replacing the steering box should not be more than 200 dollars.

Depending on where you live, it can cost even less. And, the average cost of an aftermarket part is around $300.

In total, the cost is approximately $500. But check out my 3 recommended products below to save some money on the steering box purchase.

And, one can save even more by doing the replacement by themselves. But don’t think about it if you don’t have any kind of previous experience.

Our Top Recommendation on Jeep XJ Steering Box Upgrade

Apart from AutoZone and other popular car parts selling platforms, I have found several attractive deals on Amazon. Check out the following products and order the one you need. 

1. Saginaw 68 86 Power Steering Gearbox

Saginaw 68 86 Power Steering Gearbox is from BuyAutoParts, and lots of people are buying it from Amazon because it is available for only about $250. The top-rated aftermarket part is suitable for 1984-2001 Cherokee XJ.

As it is manufactured in the USA, you won’t have to worry about its quality or performance.

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

For more durability and improved performance, I also like to recommend Vital All-Terrain Durango Swap Power Steering Gear Box.

Beware because it costs almost 400 bucks which put it in the expensive category. The compatibility and specs are the same as the previous one.

You should note that this steering box can turn larger wheels/tires better than the stock one.

3. High-Performance Power Steering Gearbox

The last one is also from BuyAutoParts but remanufactured. The seller guarantees that it has the same performance as a new part.

Those who are looking for an expensive steering box for off-road applications along with better control at lower speed should choose this.

On the plus side, you can get it without spending $400 or $500.

Pro Tip: If you can’t manage an XJ model, you can equip a YJ steering box. Though it has an extra mounting hole, it doesn’t interfere with anything. So, you can install it easily.

How to Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep XJ?

I have explained the steps to perform the replacement as easy as possible here. Still, you may not feel confident enough to do it by yourself. In that case, I suggest you see this video besides reading the steps below.

  • First of all, locate the coupler to the steering box and steering shaft in your Jeep XJ. You will notice a bolt down there that goes through the coupler. Using a 13mm socket, remove the bolt.
  • After that, take a metal rod, pry against the steering box, and use a bit of force to take the shaft off. Depending on the model year, the method for removing the shaft can vary.
  • Next, you need to remove the brackets in the way. Here, the bumper bracket and fender bracket are the ones that I am talking about.
  • Then, carefully remove the steering box. Mind the aluminum spacer which may fall off while taking it out.
  • Once you have removed the old box, it is time to install a new one. The first thing to do so includes placing the spacer before doing anything.
  • Place the new steering box in its place, and tighten the bolts. Use blue Loctite on the bolts for secure mounting.
  • Finally, adjust the pitman arm to where it is needed, and push the drag link up through the hole. While doing it, make sure that the draggling joint is not loose. 

Pro Tip: Aluminum spacers can be a problem because the steel bolts inside them tend to cause galvanic corrosion. To avoid this issue, you can install a steel spacer.


Though I have explained how to upgrade steering box on Jeep XJ with video recommendation, one should take the help of a professional. Because the tuning and little adjustments matter a lot when it comes to smooth steering. So, if you don’t have any previous experience, you should steer clear of it.

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