After upgrading ball joints, bushings, tires, and some other parts, your Jeep ZJ can wander all over the road.
The only solution is to upgrade or replace the stock gearbox. I am here to help you know how to upgrade steering box on Jeep ZJ.
In this article, I have explained the process and mentioned the probable cost of completing the task. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Can You Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep ZJ?
The answer is yes, you can upgrade or replace the existing steering box on Jeep ZJ. The real question here is when you should do it, and whether it is essential.
If you have increased the size of the tire, you will feel that the stock steering box is giving hard time.
For getting back to the smooth steering experience like before, you have to do the upgrade.
And, there are some other cases where the part can go bad for various reasons. In the next section, I am going to tell you the signs and symptoms of a troublesome steering box.
When Should You Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep ZJ?
By knowing the symptoms of a steering box going bad can make you act swiftly without getting into a serious accident.
With a bad steering system, you can’t drive well regardless of your experience and skill.
1. Hard to steer
The benefit of the modern rack and pinion steering system design is that the hydraulic pressure ensures effortless driving.
Due to various reasons, the system can go wrong and give you hard time steering the vehicle.
In case the hydraulic pressure gets decreased or too much heat gets built up in the system, you may experience this issue in your Jeep ZJ.
2. Leaking of power steering oil
You have already known a symptom of leaking steering fluid oil above. Besides the problem of hard-to-steer, you should check out cracks in the steering box.
Seeing lubricating oil outside of the system is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with immediately.
Usually, faulty gasket, fitting, or other mechanical parts is the reason for this issue. Experts recommend taking the Jeep and consulting with a mechanic without delay.
3. Metal grinding noise
Another symptom of poor lubrication in the system is metal-to-metal contact and hearing grinding noise.
According to some users, turning the Jeep and hitting a bump at the same time can reveal the symptom.
4. Oil burning smell
Too much heat in the system can cause a great deal of damage. The method for identifying is by smelling burning oil from the steering box.
5. Wandering to one side
The first sign I have told you is the Jeep gets hard to steer. Similarly, a faulty steering system can make it wobbly.
When the gears get too old, they are worn to a certain level where you have to steer more than usual to turn.
Furthermore, you have to keep in mind the excessive play of the vehicle. Here, the steering wheel can wobble back and forth while driving.
Normally, the steering system can be loose slightly. To know when it is too much and needs fixing, measure the deviation.
If it is more than an inch, you will have to take your Jeep ZJ to a mechanic. In most cases, replacing is better than repairing.
6. Discolored lubricating fluid
While doing regular maintenance checks, owners should also inspect the condition of the lubricating oil inside the steering box.
In case the oil has been discolored, looking like pitch black, milky, or having foams is a concerning matter.
You can still drive your Jeep ZJ even after noticing any of those signs and symptoms. But you should not do it because it is dangerous.
How Much Does It Cost to Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep ZJ?
To calculate the cost of upgrading the steering box on the Jeep ZJ, you have to consider two things.
The first one is the price of the product and the second one is the labor cost. If you buy one from my list of recommendations, you can go for premium boxes only at $400 whereas other platforms are selling them at a much higher price.
I have also included low-cost ones so that you can get one within 250 dollars. The remaining concern is the cost of hiring a mechanic.
It varies based on the location you live in. Usually, you don’t have to spend more than $150. And, doing the replacement by yourself can save it.
In total, a Jeep ZJ owner may have to spend a maximum of around $550.
Our Top Recommendation on Jeep ZJ Steering Box Upgrade
Why should you spend time trying to find the right product when I have already done the research?
Check out the top-rated steering gearbox for Jeep ZJ on Amazon. The list includes both economical and expensive products.
Regardless of the size of your budget, my list will be able to help you.
According to the manufacturer, this one is a perfect fit for the Jeep ZJ built between 1993 and 1998. It has superior durability and is tested for OEM-like performance. Because of its manufacturing location in the USA, you won’t have to worry about the quality. Read the customer feedback to know more about it.
I am not certain about the compatibility of this steering box because there are no official data. Probably Jeep ZJ built in between 1987 and 2002 are suitable to use it; still, confirm the fitment before purchasing. According to the specs, this part is perfect for Jeeps with 31”, 33”, 35”, 37” tires.
The last one on the list costs less than 290 dollars. Considering its strong build quality and performance, I think that it is a good deal. BuyAutoParts doesn’t disappoint us. The best part is that this steering box has 3 years of warranty, and it is not limited by mileage.
All of the recommended products here are brand new. If you don’t mind installing a used part that is in good condition and has a very tight budget, you will want to check out the listings from eBay.
How to Upgrade Steering Box on Jeep ZJ?
Taking out the old steering gearbox without hurting yourself and installing the new one properly is the main concern here.
The steps I am about to explain cover both of them so that you can save some money on labor costs, and finish the task like a professional.
The process for removing old steering boxes in Jeep cars is almost the same in different models. The first step involves locating the coupler under the vehicle.
Use a 13mm socket ranch to loosen the three mounting bolts of the steering box. As the mounted steering stays there for years, you will have to use more force to loosen the bolts and remove the part.
Here, one can use a metal rod or something strong to apply some pressure against the unibody. At the same time, try to figure out a way to remove the brackets in front of the steering box.
You can see some bolts that are holding the bumper bracket and fence bracket. Usual tools in your garage are capable of handling them.
Then, very carefully go for removing the steering box because losing parts can hurt you easily. Especially, I want you to be careful about the aluminum spacer.
When you have successfully taken off the old one, it is time to install the newly purchased part.
This part of the process starts with the installation of the spacer which is the bridge between the unibody and the gearbox. There are three bolts on your Jeep ZJ that keeps the whole steering system in place.
Finally, place the new steering gearbox, tighten the screws, and adjust other supporting parts. If you are not confident about tuning the system, you will have to take the help of a professional.
Pro Tip: Use blue Loctite on the bolts before tightening for secure mounting. Also, buy a steel spacer to replace the stock aluminum one. The problem with the stock part is that it introduces galvanic corrosion because the bolts are made of steel.
Before I end this part, I want to share a video of replacing the existing steering box on a Jeep ZJ.
Watch the video till the end, and you will feel more confident about doing it yourself. Make sure that you get the tuning right.
Otherwise, taking the help of a mechanic will be the wisest decision. Don’t worry about the cost because a proper installation is key to preventing costlier damages.
That is all about how to upgrade steering on Jeep ZJ. I hope that you have understood when the time is right to upgrade and how to do it properly. If you still have some questions, you can contact me and I will try to answer them as soon as I can.