Replacing the Steering Gear in My 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee — Part 1

Of course some­thing­has to go wrong with the truck in the few days before Christ­mas.  This is the first of two arti­cles that will deal with the replace­ment of the Steer­ing Gear in my 2000 Jeep Grand Chero­kee.  Here we’re going to deal with the diag­no­sis and the start of the repair.  A future arti­cle will fin­ish the repair (there’s real opti­mism for you).

I had been notic­ing some steer­ing noise that I had writ­ten off as rust or lack of lubri­ca­tion in the steer­ing col­umn (that is: the bit inside the car).  On the day this got real­ly bad, I was going to two a trail­er to pick up some com­put­er servers.  When I got to the U-Haul store, it was real­ly noisy, so I checked the pow­er steer­ing lev­el.  It was dry.

Since I fig­ured it was bad to go on emp­ty, I dashed over to the near­est Crap­py Tire (and that’s a Cana­di­an term of endear­ment, BTW), which was coin­ci­den­tal­ly prac­ti­cal­ly across the street and bought a liter of pow­er steer­ing flu­id (and topped it up in the CT park­ing lot — anoth­er Cana­di­an Tra­di­tion).  We had a good day fetch­ing the com­put­ers dur­ing which I per­formed sev­er­al nigh astound­ing trail­er back­ing maneu­vers.  Note that this prob­a­bly stressed the sys­tem a bit.

By the time we end­ed up back at the CT gas sta­tion (my part­ner has a CT gas card that gives 10 cents per liter), the pow­er steer­ing pump was dry again and I filled it again.  I returned the trail­er lat­er that night and pulled the truck into the garage.  There I found it again fair­ly low.  It appeared that I need­ed to do this job before Christ­mas; sigh.

2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Steering Gear

2000 Jeep Grand Chero­kee Steer­ing Gear

My wife helped me on the diag­no­sis.  I had her fire up the Jeep and turn the wheel while I peered into the engine com­part­ment with a light.  I could see flu­id leak­ing slow­ly from under­neath the low pres­sure (return) hose on the steer­ing gear.  In the pic­ture, that’s the hose to the right of the “r” in “Gear.”

My next stop was research.  The Jeep Forum is very help­ful.  I have a post going there (although much that I’ve found out has been from oth­er search­es).

The Steer­ing Gear of the 1999 to 2004 Jeep Grand Chero­kee  (indeed also for the ZJ: 93 to 98 and prob­a­bly most oth­er Jeeps of the time) is of the Recir­cu­lat­ing Ball type.  I would nor­mal­ly link to Wikipedia for this, but the page on How Stuff Works is far more clear.  Rack and Pin­ion is far more com­mon and used in more mod­ern jeeps, but Recir­cu­lat­ing Ball is not with­out mer­it.  When going over an uneven bump, recir­cu­lat­ing ball steer­ing will not wrench the steer­ing wheel out of your hands.  Rack and Pin­ion steer­ing deliv­ers more road “feel” at the expense of con­trol.  Recir­cu­lat­ing Ball steer­ing is more com­mon in trucks and truck-like vehi­cles.

Both types of pow­er steer­ing are bet­ter described as “pow­er assist” steer­ing as, while dif­fi­cult, it is still pos­si­ble to steer the vehi­cle with com­plete fail­ure of the pow­er assist steer­ing sys­tem.  How­ev­er, any­one look­ing at this post­ing and com­par­ing it to a vehi­cle with Rack and Pin­ion Steer­ing will not find many com­mon­al­i­ties.

Stub Shaft Housing O-Rings

Stub Shaft Hous­ing O-Rings

Back to the pic­ture above.  The image to the right is the part out­lined in green — the Stub Shaft Hous­ing.  It is rotat­ed such that we’re look­ing at the inter­face between it and the Steer­ing Gear.  The posi­tion of the leak leads me to sus­pect the o-ring at (2).  It’s pos­si­ble that it is the main o-ring, but in either case it needs to be replaced.

Accord­ing to my research, this part can be replaced sep­a­rate­ly.  My local Chrysler deal­er charges $377 for it.  Appar­ent­ly they all cur­rent­ly reside in Wis­con­sin, which is not that help­ful to me before Christ­mas.  The local Car Quest could source me an entire rebuilt Steer­ing Gear for $299 (which he had rushed — such is the advan­tage of deal­ing with local busi­ness­es).  So while I could replace the small­er bit, there is no guar­an­tee that it is an eas­i­er repair and it wouldn’t hap­pen before Christ­mas.

Anoth­er con­sid­er­a­tion is that in the image up top, it seems that the stub shaft hous­ing has already been replaced (it looks much new­er) and this fail­ure has re-occurred.  In my research I also came across exam­ples of this short-cut repair fail­ing.  The deal­er also men­tioned that the part is sel­dom ordered — which may be due to the expense or the inef­fi­ca­cy of replac­ing it.

Get­ting on to the repair, All Data sug­gests the fol­low­ing pro­ce­dure:

  1. Set the wheels straight — the steer­ing wheel cen­tered.  This appears quite sen­si­ble: You’re going to want the steer­ing wheel to match the wheels when you’re done.
  2. Remove the left front wheel.  You’ll prob­a­bly want to put it on a jack stand or some­thing else suit­able.  All Data had this at step five, but I’ve moved it here because it will be eas­i­er to get at the nuts for the air clean­er hous­ing if you do it now.  You might also pull out a few of the plas­tic clips that hold in the flap­py here — you’ll need to replace them, but, again, you need access to the air fil­ter nuts.
  3. Remove the air clean­er hous­ing.  This was a bit of a pain.  The bolt-ends and nuts are exposed to the ele­ments behind a bit of plas­tic flap in your wheel well.  I got one bolt out, broke one bolt and man­aged to pry the box out from under the last.  I will also need some new plas­tic clips to re-fix the wheel well flap.
  4. Flare-Nut Wrench Use

    Flare-Nut Wrench Use

    Remove and cap the pres­sure and return lines.  I assume you “cap” them if you’re going to replace them.  You’ll need a flare-nut wrench to remove these: they’re tough and were even spin­ning in the first 12-point flare-nut wrench­es I bought.  I returned to Princess Autoand got six-sided flare-nut wrench­es (although the joint in this mod­el of wrench is a snare and a delu­sion).

    I had to clean up the nuts with my Dremel to get the 11/16″ wrench on them — they were bad­ly rust­ed.  I had lib­er­al­ly applied  liq­uid wrench to the nuts 24h pri­or and I applied some heat from a plumb­ing torch.  I still had to impro­vise more more lever­age with a vice-gripon the end of my wrench.

    While tough, they turned smooth­ly after the first turn.  The low pres­sure came off intact.  The high pres­sure was ful­ly bug­gered.  This was lucky as I bought an extra high pres­sure hose, but have had trou­ble find­ing a low pres­sure one.

  5. Steering Gear Coupling Bolt

    Steer­ing Gear Cou­pling Bolt Loca­tion

    Remove the Cou­pling Bolt and Shaft from the Steer­ing Gear.  This one is a bit easy… but I did wimp out an use my big impact gun since my impact ratch­et wouldn’t move it.  I haven’t moved the shaft yet as I can’t fig­ure that out quite yet and I’m assum­ing when the whole Steer­ing Gear comes out it will be easy to finesse.

We’ll con­tin­ue this all in the next post.

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4 Responses to Replacing the Steering Gear in My 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee — Part 1

  1. Pingback: Replacing the Steering Gear in My 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee – Part 2

  2. Heather says:

    Replac­ing the Steer­ing Gear in My 2000 Jeep Grand Chero­kee — Part 1” was a delight­ful blog, can not help but wait to read through
    far more of ur blogs. Time to squan­der sev­er­al time on the inter­net hehe.

    Thanks for your time -Kristo­pher

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