By Scott Rossow
Installing The Rocky Road Stage 1 Over The Top Steering System
Like most Samurai owners I like to think I am frugal. Actually I am cheap! I will cut corners and save my hard earned money every chance I get. A good example of this is the spring over I did to my tintop. I fabbed the perches from scraps laying around. I booty fabbed the steering arm too. I am not proud of that fact, but it does prove just how frugal I can be. I was willing to put up with an ugly steering arm that transferred any bump steer up to the steering wheel with an ugly jolt just to save a few bucks. Recently a deep mudhole, and a bad angle on the only winch anchor point bent my money saver into an unusable piece of steel. Time to pony up and install a real steering solution.
By researching on the Internet and speaking to a couple of vendors I found what I think is the best overall solution for a reasonably priced, solid, stable steering on a lifted Sammi. The Rocky Road OTT Stage 1 Steering System.
There are two basic kinds of setups for over the top of the knuckle steering setups. They both move the drag arm above the top of the leaf spring by using a new bolt on arm that raises the connection point for the drag link arm. The first option uses the four bolts of the kingpin to hold the new arm in place and the second uses the same four bolts and the two-caliper mount bolts for a six-bolt attachment solution. I think that more is better in this case. The Rocky Road OTT Steering Solution has the six point attachment arms for strength. It also allows you to easily upgrade to the Stage II Steering, which includes a second bolt on arm and a new tie rod so that it also will be above the leaf springs. This two stage install option appealed to my frugal nature.
With my decision made I called Rocky Roads toll free 800 number. The sales guy asked me several questions about my lift setup, he wanted to know the total lift, the kind of spring set up I have and my perch design. These are all good questions and show that Rocky Road is aware that a one size fits all solution is not going to work. After answering all his questions he let me know that it would be 7-10 days for delivery to Florida for my Stage 1 package. I placed the order and nine days later there it was, on my front porch. When I opened the package I found one arm, the drag link, two rod ends, four new king pin bolts and two studs for the caliper mounts. All of it impressively beefy compared to the stock stuff about to be replaced. There was also a detailed page of installation instructions.
The first step to installing the new arm is making sure the wheels are pointed exactly straight and then jacking the Sammi up. Next, remove the passenger wheel. Be careful not to let the wheel turn as you work with it, this will make reassembly much easier. As you can see I used a couple of chunks of 6x6s to securely stabilize the truck so that I could work on it safely.
The next step is to remove the old drag link arm. There is one 17mm castle nut to remove on each end of the arm, dont forget to pull out the cotter pin first. The arm came off easily because of the on-trail repairs I had made recently. It is possible that a pickle fork will be needed for the removal.
Next using a 17mm socket remove the brake caliper and rotor from the axle. You can see in the picture that I propped the caliper on top of the shock mount so that it was not dangling by the brake hose.
Then take out the four 12mm bolts holding the top king pin in place. Be careful with the shim that was under the kingpin, it is very thin and easy to misplace. With the kingpin removed take advantage of the opportunity to pump a good bit of high quality grease down into the hole.
Now you are done taking things apart and it is time to start the fun.
With all that fresh grease in the kingpin bearing the kingpin part of the arm slid right in place and bolted to the axle replacing the kingpin that was removed. Tighten the 4-13mm bolts to factory specs.
The next step is to put the two studs into the brake caliper. As you can see in the picture I used two nuts to tighten the studs down. I also used a drop of blue thread lock on the threads of each stud to make sure they dont back out.
With the studs in place it is time to put the caliper and brake disc back in place. The studs go through the caliper mount holes and then into and through the new arms. Put the new lock nuts on the studs as they start to come through and tighten them down a little bit. There will not be enough room to start the nuts if you wait until the caliper and disc are all the way on before you start to thread the nuts. I used a couple of extra nuts on the lugs to pull the disc up tight straight, which made getting everything tightened up very easy.
Now that the arm is completely mounted it is time to install the drag link. The first step is to install the ends into the bar. They thread in easily, I test fit the drag link several times until I had a total length that allowed the arm to easily line up with the front hole on the new steering arm and the pitman arm on the steering box.
Then it is a simple matter to line the drag link ends up with the holes and tighten the provided castle nuts until the cotter pin can be put through the hole and bent in place. Finally tighten down the lock nuts to hold the spacing on the ends and put the tire back on. It is time for the test ride.
The first thing I noticed is how much easier it is to steer with the correct geometry between the pittman arm and the wheel. Not as easy as power steering would be but much better that the previous setup. The next thing is the lack of bumpsteer. I have a section of pine tree roots that cross my driveway that have always given the steering wheel several jerks as I crossed them. Not any more, just the feeling of crossing them, not fighting the wheel across them. After a quick double check to make sure everything is tight I headed out for the pavement to check the on-road manners: in a word awesome! It was really good but I still have more wheel play than I wanted so I put it back up on the jack and had my buddy turn the wheel while I checked the front end for play. I found that the ends on tie rod that I did not replace had a good bit of play in them. I could easily continue to drive it like this but it looks funny with that single arm under the springsand it is looseso it must be time to order the Stage II upgrade and put the tie rod where it belongs!
Check back next month for the install of the Rocky Road Stage II Over The Top Steering System.
For more information from Rocky Road: