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Upgrading the Steering Gear on '03-'08 Dodge Ram Trucks

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#1 Moses Ludel

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 08:31 PM

We bought the magazine's 2005 Ram 3500 4WD Quad Cab new in the fall of 2004. The Cummins 5.9L diesel, SRW, short box, 140.5" wheelbase truck has been a joy, maybe even our favorite vehicle ever! At 121K miles, it's just now broken-in, a "keeper" truck that will be in our stable for a long time to come! 

 

 These models are not without issues, however, among them shorter steering gear life. The change to oversized 35" tires, the weight of the Cummins inline six engine over the front axle, the wider 18" aftermarket wheel rims and a four-inch Mopar suspension lift have helped coax the steering gear to the end of its duty cycle. Actually, considering the history of these power steering gears, I'm feeling good about the mileage we did get from the OEM gear, especially a gear that wrestles with a weighty diesel engine and, from 90K miles onward, the addition of oversized tires!

 

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At left is our 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 4WD truck in stock form at 90K miles. The pickup underwent a metamorphosis to its new "look", functionality and show appearance in time for 2011 Off-Road Expo display at the BFG Tires booth. (Click to enlarge photos. Cannot see the photos? Viewing is for members, please join us!)

 

Prior to this year's Moab Jeep Safari, I did a minor adjustment of the steering gear sector to correct for the first signs of wander. You should know that any adjustment other than very slight is always a sign of a fatigued steering gear. I followed the factory adjusting procedure to a good end: safe, controlled steering. A temporary remedy, I'm now getting serious about a long term solution for the steering gear issue... 

 

There are a variety of approaches. Mopar has an upgrade steering gear for these models: Mopar Steering Box Upgrade Kit '03-'08 Ram HD, part number 68170214AA.  This beefier, direct replacement steering gear box comes with a pitman arm, as the OEM arm will not fit the new, larger sector splines. In my case, this creates a dilemma: The 4" Mopar lift kit on the truck requires a dropped pitman arm. There is no dropped arm available for the upgrade steering gear and this '03-'08 Dodge Ram application. 

 

In researching, I discovered that a steering linkage upgrade from Pure Performance works with the stock pitman arm on lifts in the 4"-6" realm. If I use the new Mopar upgrade steering gear, with the replacement (OEM fit) pitman arm, the Pure Performance heavy duty steering linkage will not only fit with the furnished pitman arm, it would also eliminate a second pre-2009 Ram truck issue: the "Y" steering linkage that can contribute to wander and bump steer.

 

I never experienced bump steer with the stock 2005 "Y" steering linkage; even after the 4" lift, which I carefully installed using front end gauges, I've never experienced bump steer. The more recent and slight "wander" has been related to sector play in the original steering gear.

 

There's a "plan" forming, and I want Dodge-Ram forum members to be aware of the inherent steering gear and linkage concerns on 2003-2008 HD 2500 and 3500 trucks...I'm starting this topic while still researching the right solution...I'll keep you posted!

 

Moses



#2 Megatron

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 07:09 PM

I recently did the Mopar 68170214AA Steering box upgrade on my 2006 Ram 3500 Mega Cab. The factory box was shot, and it was a miracle that it hadn't broke off. I run 37" tires with a 6" lift. The pitman arm you are searching for is made by Carli suspension and can be purchased through DPP (Diesel Power Products) for under 200$. Its a 6" drop arm to keep your steering geometry in check with a lift kit. This new box was the single best thing I ever did to my truck. Cured the wandering and steering wheel play. Felt factory new even with the 37" tires.

 

I already did the 2010 "T" linkage upgrade so the steering box was all that was left. If you have a steering shaft brace you will need a different one of those, that's also related to the larger sector shaft and the orientation of the new box.


If you think its expensive for a professional to do it, wait until you see what it cost for an amateur to do it... 


#3 Moses Ludel

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 11:23 PM

Pleased to get your feedback on the Mopar retrofit upgrade steering gear, a nice endorsement considering your 37" tires.  Since you went to the 2010 "T" steering linkage, your pitman arm/draglink joint works with the Carli dropped arm, right?  Does Carli make a 4" drop arm for this gear as well?  I'm running a 4-inch lift.

 

My description of the Pure Performance steering linkage was about eliminating the 2005 Y-linkage (stock) and using the pitman arm (no drop) that comes with the Mopar 68170214AA steering gear kit.  Pure Performance linkage works with a stock pitman arm on 4" to 6" lifts.

 

Does this steering gear use the same size sector/pitman arm as the 2009-up stock gear?  Or is this a third size sector:  2003-2008 stock, 2009-up stock and 2003-2008 Mopar upgrade steering gear?  Do you know which sector size or application Carli's pitman arm fits?  Also, are you running the stock steering shaft still, or did you go to a Borgeson shaft?

 

Thanks much, and great to have your feedback!

 

Moses



#4 Megatron

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 06:56 AM

My understanding, from Carli, was this pitman arm covered a lift from 3"-6". That being said, the arm does not extend down 6". More like 4" from center to center on the drop (on the Mopar 68170214AA). I think the point of this arm is to give your truck proper steering arm angle to track bar angle and avoid the "Death Wobble". 

 

  As for your question about sector shaft size, in the 02-08 line up I believe there only to be 2 sizes (small stock and large upgrade, I will get the exacts later). Also the Borgeson box that is offered is not a larger shaft, it has stronger/larger internals but utilizes the same housing and sector shaft. This is why I went with the Mopar unit. It is a total redesign from top to bottom. After 2009 I am not sure what size the sector shaft is. I will have a 2010 truck in my shop tomorrow and I can measure and post a stock size for reference. I believe it is the same sector shaft size as the large Mopar unit, just the Mopar 68170214AA is a bigger gear box. even bigger than the 09 and up trucks, I think lol. I know mine now has a 6 bolt cover on top of the gearbox compared to the 4 bolt ones I have seen.

 

  I have not switched to the Borgeson steering shaft yet. I don't seem to have much play in mine yet so I spent that money on a Steering dampener kit from Carli haha. Install thread to follow later.


If you think its expensive for a professional to do it, wait until you see what it cost for an amateur to do it... 


#5 Moses Ludel

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 10:51 AM

This data is very helpful, "Megatron", especially for Dodge Ram HD truck owners from our model year group! 

 

I talked with Jeff Grantmeyer (Sales Manager at Borgeson) when I started this quest, we met at the SEMA MPMC Media Trade Conference in January.  Jeff wanted to participate with the magazine's projects.  On the Borgeson replacement gear, Jeff refers to a "larger sector".

 

I looked forward to using the upgrade Borgeson gear until I read the fine print: It only works with a stock (not dropped) pitman arm.  Also, further discussion revealed a unique (G.M. size) sector.  G.M. is IFS and has a different steering linkage configuration, so there is apparently no G.M.-type dropped pitman arm that will fit the Borgeson gear and work with the Dodge Ram steering linkage.  Simply put, according to Jeff, the Borgeson gear is an upgrade gear meant to be used with OEM linkage on a stock height truck...Raises the question whether Carli has a dropped Dodge Ram type arm for this gear application.

 

Interesting point about steering arm/draglink ball stud angle and the track bar angle—their relationship as a possible contributor to 'Death Wobble'.  When we wrap up our current topic, I'll post a new topic on "Death Wobble", a regularly aired 4x4 truck, Jeep and lifted suspension issue.

 

Pleased about your 6-bolt reference, I'm definitely going down the Mopar upgrade road for a steering gear choice.  Also, when you have the 2010 truck at your shop, do me a favor:  Compare the steering sector shaft angle and its relationship to the steering linkage.  You share that the 2010 OEM T-type steering linkage fits your '03-'08 Dodge Ram with a Carli dropped pitman arm and the Mopar upgrade 68170214AA steering gear.  Here are photos from my 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 with stock steering linkage, the OEM stock steering gear and the Mopar 4" lift kit:

 

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This is the stock steering linkage and original steering gear on our 2005 Dodge Ram 3500. The pitman arm is a dropped type for the 4" Mopar lift kit. The double steering damper shocks use the OEM damper mount (ball stud seat) as the inner bracket locating point. (U-clamps hold the bracket to the OEM tie-rod.) The two weaknesses we're addressing are 1) the OEM steering gear (note weeping PS fluid from sector seal, reflecting lateral movement/wear at the sector and bearings) and 2) the Y-type steering linkage that contributes to wander in some applications, replacing it with the later "T-style" Mopar steering linkage.

 

Click on photos to enlarge. If you cannot see any photos, considering joining the forums, members have full access to photos and other features—for free!

 

I measure approximately 3-1/2" drop of the pitman, considering the rake at the draglink attachment point.  Note that the draglink ball stud points upward into the pitman.  Is this the overall relationship of parts when using the 2010 "T" steering linkage on your truck?

 

We're piecing together a sturdy, safe steering system.  I'm pleased about the Mopar steering gear, as fit will not be an issue; the steering shaft can be either stock or Borgeson replacement for stock.  Doubt that I need a brace with the 34.6" tires.  My only thought is frame stress from the beefy gear's force without the brace. 

 

Sounds like a Carli dropped pitman arm and a brace, when available, should be added to the Mopar upgrade gear and T-type steering linkage parts list...My tires are not extraordinary size, strain is not much more than stock.  Wander was not an issue prior to the sector/bearing wear on the OEM gear.

 

Thanks for moving this discussion forward, Megatron!  Folks need a reliable, consistent method for upgrading the steering.  Safety and longevity of the steering system are the focus here. 

 

The online consensus is that there are two target weaknesses in the '03-'08 (you mention 2002 as well?) Dodge Ram HD trucks: the OEM steering gear and the steering linkage design, each contributing to wander and handling issues—plus safety concerns around the failure-prone steering gear...Admittedly, all of this gets aggravated by the switch to popular suspension lifts and the use of oversized tires. 

 

Looking forward to your findings...Others will benefit, too!

 

Moses



#6 Megatron

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 12:07 PM

   Strike my 2002 comment, I meant 2003. Attached are a couple pictures from my 2006 3500. You can see the drop bracket and larger track bar plus you can clearly see the size of the pitman arm and the new Mopar gear box. The angle between track bar and steering linkage I believe to be the most important part in eliminating the wobble (lessons learned on my YJ Jeep wheeling days).

 

   I agree 100% in getting the factory steering fixed even in a stock configuration. With the larger tires and lift we find the problems faster due to extra/extreme wear. But a stock truck will suffer problems, just later when the warranty has run out. Now after completing all of this I finally got a recall notice in the mail from Dodge. When I took it to their shop, they were all like "your steering has been fixed?" I said ya, by me. Couldn't get them to reimburse any parts or labor...Oh, well, I feel better about the safety of my family and when we're driving down the road. I wasn't about to wait for the factory to do it.

 

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    My alignment of linkages seems comparable to yours. It's hard to call it on pictures. My Carli drop is right at 4", so close to what you have. I have more pictures of the complete T link plus a couple pictures of those Carli ball joints I did 2 months ago. (Although it's another topic, those things are a work of art and worth every penny.)


If you think its expensive for a professional to do it, wait until you see what it cost for an amateur to do it... 


#7 Moses Ludel

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 02:08 PM

The photos are terrific, Megatron!  I'll have to start uploading pics at larger sizing.  Your pics are a bit big...What are the dimensions?  What file sizes?  I'll split the size difference in my future uploads, currently using 360 pixel width.  I like to keep file size to 120KB max, so resolution/sharpness may determine the pictures' pixel width.

 

Interesting about the recall, I haven't gotten a notice yet on the '05, wonder if it's in the cohort group for the recall?  Regardless, I'll work with Mopar to get this gear kit...From looking at your pitman arm, it appears to have more drop than mine, though the measurements sound close.  It also does not have what I call a "rake" or tip downward at the draglink/tie-rod ball-stud end. 

 

As you emphasize, the angle of the draglink looks consistent with the dropped track bar slope: The sector attachment face looks parallel to the tie-rod/draglink attachment plane.  Am I seeing that accurately?

 

Also, the splines look swaged down from the beefier sector shaft diameter (which is clearly much larger than the OEM gear!).  Are these splines the same as the OEM pitman?  I knew the steering gear kit includes a pitman arm and presumed that the new arm is to compensate for larger splines on the sector.  Is that correct?

 

You do have a cool gear brace.  Is that part for the stock original gear?  Whose brace kit—Carli?  Does the support brace have a bearing that rotates with the sector shaft?  Looks like it supports the lower end of the sector—at the nut?

 

Your system does have gains at the linkage to resist toe-change.  The one piece tie-rod between the knuckles is a major improvement for toe control!  However, I don't see a steering damper attachment on the tie-rod between the steering knuckles.  In my photos of our OEM Y-linkage, there is a damper ball stud seat on the tie-rod.  The Mopar lift kit uses that ball-stud mount point to align and reinforce the center support for the two steering dampers...Where does that end up with the '09-up T-steering linkage?

 

From your photos, I see one more thing we have in common: The desire to improve aftermarket lift kits.  Looks like your "bolt-on" kit needed better bracket attachments through welding.  (Your dropped track bar bracket at the frame is a good example.  I elected to do the same with my install.)  I also like what I can see of your stabilizer bar links, Heim joints and hefty mount plates...Welding is an essential skill in this business!

 

Moses



#8 Moses Ludel

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 08:29 AM

As a point of interest, I looked up the popular recalls for our Ram 3500 trucks, Megatron...Your recall might have been related to the Fabtech or Super Lift pitman arms.  Or maybe you caught the tie-rod end recall that I received.  (This is for later models or any '03-up that had a tie-rod end changed using Mopar parts.) 

 

In any case, these are the two recalls posted, nothing specific to the steering gearbox yet: http://www.motortren...m_3500/recalls/

 

Did your recall fall under the steering box itself or these other two items?  The dealer would have avoided a repair on the pitman arm, as you use the Carli item.  You might compare your 2010 steering linkage to the tie-rod end recall.  Make sure your T-linkage has the safe tie-rod ends and not the tie-rod ends that Mopar recalled...



#9 Megatron

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 02:38 PM

Your question about the Pitman arm tip is correct. The pitman arm provided with the new gearbox kit is canted a little at the tie rod end, the Carli one is not. Given the extra drop I assume it was not needed. The alignment of my tie rod end seems to be within spec and suffers no binding from lock to lock even under a passenger side droop.

 

The sector shaft diameter, at the splines, is way larger than the factory one. The original 03-08 nut will not fit it, nor will the factory style pitman arm. That created 2 problems. 1, your factory pitman will not work and if it was a drop version like my original it will have to be replaced. the supplied one is designed for factory steering geometry. 2, if you already have a steering box brace (BTW mine is made by BD performance and so was my original) fitted for the factory box, it will no longer work. I had to upgrade to another one from BD which comes with the new sector shaft nut. This nut is the key because of the shaft machined on the end that rides in the steering box brace bearing plate (That is the answer to your question about it having a bearing plate). Plus, the Mopar box seems to extend from the frame further than the factory box.. could be me but I didn't think to measure that in a before and after scenario. You almost have to trim the fan shroud.

 

  Good eye on the steering dampener lol. My truck had an aftermarket 2 shock system that would not clear the new diff cover so I ordered a new single from Carli (Bilstien single setup) I have plans to finish that over the 4th of July weekend. It required new mounting locations (more like stock) and my stock ones had been removed to make room for the twins.

 

     So that leads us to your other comment. Yes, welding is a very good skill to have when playing with suspension components. Also over the fourth we will be installing my own 4 link (Parts complementary of Ballistic Fabrication). Its all new 2.63 poly bushing rod ends (Best of both worlds) with 2" aluminum links and frame tabs. Write up with pictures to follow. In my opinion, the kit on my truck now lacks proper triangulation and upper to lower bar angles and ratios. (Thanks 4 link calculator lol)

 

  I pieced the sway bar end links together at my local race shop (Circle dirt car guy stuff). The pieces provided with the original lift kit lacked proper alignment so 50$ later they are adjustable and short.

 

  As for the recall notice, mine said recall "steering components" contact Dealership A immediately. When I got to the dealership, mechanic a came out and said "you already switched your truck to the "T" style so there is nothing for me to inspect". That being said I assumed it was for the linkages?? I never got anything specific besides "they were done and you can leave" haha.

 

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  Attached is the photo from last Friday after it got back from paint and body. I had the silver stripe painted black. Bumpers are at powder coat but I have pictures and a write up for that on another thread as well. The Rhino WIY (Weld it Yourself kit) Very pleased..


If you think its expensive for a professional to do it, wait until you see what it cost for an amateur to do it... 


#10 Megatron

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 02:46 PM

I found these pictures for some reference on factory versus Mopar upgrade for the 03-08. Enjoy.

 

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If you think its expensive for a professional to do it, wait until you see what it cost for an amateur to do it... 


#11 Moses Ludel

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 03:37 PM

This is great info...I like your approach!  The new photo sizing is perfect...Mopar's replacement gear is just what I want!

 

Thanks for clarifying the need for a new dropped pitman arm with the Mopar upgrade gear, I sensed that was the case from our earliest discussion.  Pleased that the new gear box is that much of an improvement. 

 

The BD Performance brace looks well conceived.  Does the bearing plate have a replaceable, permanently sealed bearing?  Should last a long time in this kind of service.

 

I, too, sacrificed my factory (right side) damper end bracket during the lift kit install.  (See my photos in the earlier threads at this topic, I fabricated left and right side, weld-on brackets from the supplied "bolt-on" pieces.)  So, I'll be fabricating a damper solution, too, based on the layout of the new steering linkage:  '09-up factory Y-type with a dropped pitman arm or possibly the Pure Performance linkage alternative.  The Pure Performance linkage would work with the stock replacement pitman arm that Mopar supplies with the upgrade steering gear kit; however, it gets into a mix of Mopar and Ford Super Duty tie-rod ends.  Will investigate here...

 

Engineering, fabricating and welding come together on your four-link upgrade.  I've offered a welding section at the magazine and will take that discussion to the welding and metallurgy forum.  Weld Mold Company has great niche filler materials for welding alloys if you need them.  We can move to the welding category to expand on that subject...

 

Sounds like the dealer recall was looking for either stock replacement Mopar tie-rod ends or your original lift kit pitman arm.  Fabtech or Superlift, each had a Ram truck recall that involved Mopar, apparently.  (Was your truck sold originally with a dealer-installed lift?)  I like your priorities in any case: family safety!

 

Your '06 looks great, Megatron, thanks for sharing the photo!  Of course, I'm partial as the owner of an '05 Ram 3500 bought new.  Each of us has a "keeper", we're in it for the long haul!  (Priced a new one lately?  That's an incentive to keep ours!)

 

Do you have a Cummins?  48RE automatic or 5600 manual transmission?

 

Moses



#12 Megatron

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 05:09 AM

I did price a new truck a month or so ago... scary lol. 

 

    The BD steering brace does have a sealed bearing that can be pressed out and replaced. The whole bearing unit looks like a piece you would see on some farm implement/tractor. Not that its a bad thing, just a reference idea.

 

     Now if you can tell in the picture I did run into one snag with the combination of steering parts. The Carli pitman arm is slightly thicker (not much) and the spline cut is a bit narrower (In reference to top to bottom taper) than whatever BD used as a template to build  their brace. This is evident if you look at the fact I had to shim the bearing plate away from the support bar so it would clear the taper of the sector shaft nut. The remedy is to cut the tab off the steering support box and lower it roughly 1/4" then reattach. I assume if I would have utilized the supplied Mopar pitman arm this would not have been an issue, but after years of mixing other vendors parts together I have grown used to little modifications to get the desired results.

 

  The next point of this topic I would like to get others input on is the steering pump itself. I have read on other articles that the old pump may not flow efficient volumes to support the new Mopar box. This is kind of supported by the fact they released a new pump and reservoir kit for my truck.  I will research it as time goes, but any outside help or knowledge would be appreciated. I have not noticed any lack of steering pressure yet, but that doesn't mean I won't.

 

  I do have the 48re, and yes I have worked on it... That can be another topic/thread!


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#13 Moses Ludel

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 01:58 PM

Nice analogy for the BD Performance sector support bearing: ranch grade, and that's good!  Wondered about your shimming of the plate in the photos, thanks for the explanation.  Others would want to position/match the bearing plate for whatever "height" or alignment their pitman and steering gear present.  This likely applies to any gearbox upgrade (other than Redhead, they work with the OEM gear).  A Borgeson or Mopar upgrade steering gear (with or without an aftermarket dropped pitman arm) could, like you describe, put the sector and nut at a different point than stock, enough to require relocating the BD Performance bearing brace. 

 

Not surprising that you should mention the pump.  I did talk to Jeff Grantmeyer at Borgeson about their upgrade steering gear and the stock pump.  He said the stock pump seems to be Ford-type and could be marginal in output.  We can research and compare output volume and pressure; however, the wild card is the specs for the upgrade Mopar steering gear. 

 

I have the "factory" shop data from our Ram truck era, but any upgrade, retrofit gear might follow another guideline.  The Mopar upgrade gear might use the same specs as the '09-up stock steering gear/pump requirements.  I'm willing to research this further if you think there's an issue with your pump output.  If the '09-up pump is the fix, we need to verify the pump mounting for the 6.7L Cummins diesel, too. 

 

I'm guessing that your Mopar upgrade steering gear kit did not mention the pump and whether to test capacity or pressure?  They do not describe a need to change the pump, right?

 

I'm sure you like the Cummins diesel, much room for discussion here!  I offer some basic upgrades for every Chrysler RE/RH automatic at the magazine.  The Sonnax valve body work is a bare minimum: http://www.4wdmechan...nsmissions.html.  With your '06 Ram 3500, I'm guessing you've gone deeper, Megatron! 

 

I am curious if you changed or added a transmission cooler, and if so, please start a new topic on that one.  I'm at a crossroad with our '05 Ram 3500.  After doing the valve body gains with the Sonnax upgrades, I now need to increase cooler flow capacity.  Not sure whether the factory "thermostat" in the OEM cooler is essential, I have a restriction issue and would like to replace the OEM cooler.  Note: Sonnax recommends removal of the anti-drain back valve after installing the valve body upgrades.  I do not recommend removing the anti-drain back valve for any other reason!  My article clarifies these issues.

 

Moses



#14 Megatron

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Posted 29 June 2013 - 08:56 PM

To date, I have no issues with the stock pump. I believe the up grade kit for our trucks is just the 09 and up model pump. I believe they can be visually compared by reservoirs, one is square while the other is round. Makes sense because the new trucks have a bigger steering gear from the factory. I will continue research and let you know what I find.

 

  I plan to do a new BD double stack transmission cooler when I do the Fleece coolant bypass. I will post a start a thread then, but it might be a month or 2 out. Still researching some things before I buy 1k in parts.

 

  Good call on the transmission lol, I have been as far as you can go with it still in the truck. I shopped out everything through Cascade transmission.


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#15 Moses Ludel

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Posted 30 June 2013 - 06:52 AM

If the steering gear kit does not talk about retrofitting a pump, I'll guess that the OEM pump can work.  If an issue does arise and the '09 pump is a direct replacement, that's worth exploring.

 

Curious about the Fleece coolant bypass and why?  Double stack transmission cooling sounds ample...I have some questions and will start a new topic on the 48RE and cooling.  See that post...Thanks!





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