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Ross TL Steering Gear Installation and Wheel Alignment

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Note:  The link quote below ("Rebuilding the Jeep Ross TL Cam and Lever Steering Gear") is a lengthy exchange with Moses Ludel.  Below is my original question from this thread, followed by Moses' response:


As I'm reassembling the steering gear and thinking about how to install it on the jeep, I have a bit of a problem on which I'm hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction.  I had hoped it would be solved by being able to reference my brother in law's Ross box, which I now have in hand for rebuilding.  Unfortunately, however, it did not answer the question at hand.

The issue is that the Pitman arms on the three V6 boxes I've now disassembled (the one from my jeep, my brother in law's, and the one from the '68) were each in somewhat different positions relative to the levers on the sector shafts.  It turns out that each box had already been rebuilt at least once, as evidenced by the shafts and in at least one case, the Pitman arm having been previously replaced with aftermarket (as opposed to genuine Ross) parts.  Two of these lever / sector shafts are pictured below as found, showing their significantly different Pitman arm alignments.

Though the three pairs of Pitman arms and lever shaft ends do have alignment marks, all three are in different places relative to each other on the "old" boxes - and on none of the three are the Pitman arm and sector shaft marks aligned with each other.   Since all three boxes are different in terms of their Pitman arm alignments, I don't have a reliable original example to base the Pitman arm positioning on for the rebuilt boxes. 

Any ideas as to how I might go about determining the proper spline alignment position of the Pitman arm?  The only thing I've been able to come up with so far is to install the box on the jeep without the Pitman arm attached, then determine the center of the steering wheel travel vs. the front wheels being straight ahead, and attach the Pitman arm accordingly (an approach which seems imprecise at best).




Moses' reply and our exchange can be found by clicking the quote link: 


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Note:  The posts below correspond to the following earlier thread discussing the rebuilding of the Ross TL Steering Gear:


The restored steering gear (discussed in the thread linked to above) was installed in my 1967 V6 CJ5 today.  During this installation I had the privilege of working with, or more accurately, helping my friend Van Sullins, a semi-retired - and truly excellent - mechanic with a great deal of experience in older jeeps.  (Van worked for over a decade as a mechanic at a local Jeep dealership during the late 1960's and 70's, after which he was its service manager for several more years.)   Fortunately, we were able to use his lift, which greatly simplified the task.  Below is a series of photos taken at various points during the process.

Beforehand, Van looked closely at the tie rods and ends, and pronounced them in very good shape.  He further determined that they were all already properly positioned, and that the caster angle and toe-in were likewise fine.  For this reason, we agreed it would be appropriate to move forward with the steering gear installation without adjusting these. 

Earlier in the week, Van filled the rebuilt gearbox with the Penrite Steering Gear Lube while it was in his bench vise.   At room temperature this specialized NGLI 00 semi-fluid grease, with a viscosity of 1200W, is similar in texture to thick applesauce.  Van partially submerged the bottles in boiling water for a few minutes, and at 200 degrees F +/-, the lube became very fluid (he compared its heated consistency to that of STP oil treatment).  This enabled him to put it into the gearbox using a large syringe I had bought for this purpose.  It took about 1-3/8 of the 500ml bottles of Penrite to fill the gearbox (* see note below) .

Before starting the actual installation this morning, I measured from the inside molding bead of the front tires to the outside of the leaf springs on both the front and back faces of each front tire, and adjusted as necessary until the measurements confirmed that the tires were pointed straight ahead (taking toe-in into account).  Bar clamps (30" long) spanning from behind the tie rod ends over the front bumper were then put in place to keep the wheels "locked" in that exact location.




Van threaded the steering column through the floorboard opening from below, while I guided it from above.  He worked the gearbox into its place on the frame and loosely bolted it on, and I did the same with the steering column dash bracket.  (Note the Sharpie marks on the lever shaft and housing that were made during the assembly of the gearbox in order to permit visual alignment from below.)





Van had already installed the NOS bellcrank I'd purchased by the time we got started today.  With that task completed, the next step was to rebuild the drag link, and install the NOS pitman arm on the rear end of the rebuilt drag link.  The front end of the drag link assembly was then installed on the newly mounted bellcrank. 

Note: The service manual indicates that when installing the drag link, the front threaded plug should be screwed in tight and then backed off a quarter turn, while the rear threaded plug is to be screwed in tight and then backed off one full turn before the cotter pins are installed to lock them in place.  If you're installing an Omix-Ada drag link rebuild kit, be sure to keep all of the original parts.  We found that we had to re-use the original rear threaded plug, as the one that came with the kit was too long to allow the cotter pin to be inserted.  This is a good example of the reason I prefer to use US-made parts whenever possible.  





UPDATE:  A week or so after originally writing this post, I located a source for Made-In-USA NOS drag link kits, part number WO-A-6791, available from Debella Jeep parts.  I bought one to replace the previously installed Omix-Ada kit, which was made overseas.  Here's a photo of the NOS kit, which based on the look of the box probably dates from the 1960's or 70's.   The parts had some surface rust, but cleaned up nicely using a wire wheel on a grinder: 



Here are a couple of photos comparing two parts from the US-made NOS drag link rebuild kit (on the left) with those from an Omix-Ada kit (on the right).  In the first, as noted above, the difference in length / height of the rear threaded plugs is clearly visible:


.....and in the second, the difference in the weight and length of the coil springs from each kit is likewise obvious.  'Nuff said!:



Back now to the gear installation . . . .

The three bolts securing the rebuilt gearbox to the frame were then tightened up, and the marks I'd made on the bottom of the housing and lever shaft end were visually aligned.  To check the lever shaft's center alignment from the steering wheel end, we also verified the position of the slight center drag "feel" at the end of the steering column tube (which was right where it was expected to be). 

With the lever shaft's exact center point position confirmed, and the front wheels still clamped in the straight ahead position, the spline of the pitman arm was slid onto the lever shaft.  I'm pleased to say that before the nut was installed, by using a small mirror we could see that the factory alignment marks on the NOS lever shaft and NOS pitman arm were lined up perfectly.



The steering wheel, which had been loosely engaged on the cam tube spline up to this point, was then exactly centered and installed to correspond to the now on-center steering gear.  Lastly, the drag link's dust covers were snapped on, cotter pin ends bent, and zerk fittings greased, and the bar clamps securing the front wheels were removed. 

And now for the results:

Measured at the outside of the steering wheel, the steering wheel play at half-left and half-right turns - which are the points inside the gearbox where the most lever shaft free play exists - has been very significantly reduced. 

Before rebuilding the Ross gearbox, the steering wheel play at those points measured over 5".  After the rebuild of the gearbox and drag link, and the replacement of the bellcrank, this same measurement is approximately 3/4".  Note that this measurement was taken with the lever shaft set screw installed.  The TightSteer unit, which will be installed and tested later (replacing the lever shaft set screw) should hopefully even further reduce steering wheel play. 

Also, it appears that the Penrite Steering Gear Lube is going to work out great.  I was surprised at how much easier it now is to turn the steering wheel when the jeep is sitting still (on smooth concrete) than it used to be.  This is obviously not completely due to the use of the Penrite, but I tend to believe that this specialized steering lube is a big part of the reason.

That said, though I'm extremely eager to do so, I haven't been able to drive the jeep again yet because we ran out of time to get the exhaust system, which was partially removed to enable the initial removal of the steering gear, reconnected today.  That will unfortunately have to wait until next week.

However, it is already clear that the steering gear restoration is a success.


*  From above:  Though about 1-3/8 of the 500ml bottles of Penrite Steering Gear Lube went into my top-fill-port steering gearbox, my brother-in-law's basically identical side-fill port box (see the Ross TL Rebuilding thread referenced above) only took about one bottle.  Rather than being a result of the different fill port locations on the two boxes, I believe this differential is mainly due to the fact that his box was filled after being installed on his jeep, when it was at a fairly steep angle.  Mine, on the other hand, was filled while in a bench vise at an angle of about 10 or 15 degrees above horizontal, which allowed a good deal more fluid to flow into its internal cavity.  In other words, my brother-in-law's box has the amount of lube in it that it was intended to hold (plus the 1/2" - 3/4" gained from the added pipe elbow), while mine is technically overfilled. 

I can see how this overfilling might, but might not, create an issue.  It would provide greater coverage of the internal moving parts, which is fine - as long as the "extra" lube doesn't leak out over the top of the gearbox's upper cover.  If a Ross TL gearbox were overfilled with the originally specified oil, some of the relatively low-viscosity oil would almost certainly "slosh out" there.  But the Penrite lube, with its much higher viscosity, might or might not do so.  (On this subject, see:  http://earlycj5.com/xf_cj5/index.php?threads/sector-shaft-bushing-length-ross-steering-gear-box.123721/#post-1324058)

If its higher viscosity does keep it from leaking out, there would seem to be an advantage to filling the box this way when using Penrite, as it would keep the moving parts more thoroughly covered with lube.  Van told me later that this was what he had in mind when he filled the gearbox at that particular angle.  Now that it's installed, it'll be interesting to see if any of the Penrite ends up coming out.  The worst-case scenario would be that I have to use the syringe to remove some of the lube later.

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I drove the jeep yesterday for the first time since the rebuilt Ross gear and other new parts were installed, and was pleased to find that, as hoped, the steering is far more responsive and precise (if precise is a word that can ever be used to describe to the Ross gear!) than it was before.  To put it in a nutshell, virtually all of the "slop" that was present in the steering system before has disappeared.   A friend who was with me and also drove it said the jeep feels almost like it has power steering now. 

I have to say that it was well worth the effort, time, and money it took to make this happen. 

I want to drive it with the original lever shaft set screw setup for awhile, just to get a better "feel" for how it drives currently before I install the TightSteer - but I will do that soon, and report back with the results.

So far, there is no leakage of the (overfilled) Penrite lube from the steering gearbox. 




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Thanks for the thorough account of this gear and wheel alignment process, snoopy2x!  You discuss the best practices and also distinctions between NOS and current aftermarket parts.  This is a tremendous service to others...Your thoroughness has made for a safe and road/trail worthy V-6 CJ Jeep!  True restorative work.

Enjoy driving your classic and pristine Jeep CJ-5...What a rig!


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