April 21, 2016
Your truck may have been built tough, but the factory components weren’t designed to handle heavy off-road use or modifications. Upgrades to the drivetrain and suspension system can have negative effects on your handling and add stress to the steering gearbox — an expensive component of the steering system. This is especially true when you add a lift and larger-than-stock tires. Large tires amplify the damaging effects of bumps, dips, and potholes in the road and exert forces on your steering gearbox that it was never designed to handle. So, you have two options at this point. Either leave the stock wheels and tires that the truck came with, or reinforce your steering gearbox.
Since leaving the stock wheels and tires is not an option, you’ll need to reinforce the steering gearbox. A steering gearbox stabilizer is what you need. The stabilizer bolts to the frame of your truck, and the sector shaft from the steering gearbox threads through a sealed cartridge bearing in the stabilizer bar. When your truck hits a bump or a pothole, the force is transferred to the frame of the truck rather than the steering gearbox. The frame, unlike the steering gearbox, is built to handle much, much greater forces, so it won’t even notice the hit. As a result, your steering gearbox will last much longer and your truck won’t develop a problem with loose, wandering steering.
With your steering gearbox protected, it’s time address the handling issues that are associated with larger wheels and tires. Generally, there are two issues that develop with handling after larger tires have been added. The first is a dangerous vibration (shimmy) that develops at high speed. The second is called “bump steer” — when you hit an obstacle and the front wheels are jerked hard to the left or right. Sometimes the force is great enough to pull the steering wheel out of your hands. Fortunately, both of these issues can be addressed with steering stabilizers.
Steering stabilizers are just shock absorbers that are mounted to the steering system to absorb impacts and eliminate shimmy. One end of each shock absorber is mounted to the axle and the other is mounted to the center of the steering linkage. Most steering stabilizers employ a single shock absorber to dampen steering forces. Some high-end designs, like the Hell Bent Steel Dual Shock Steering Stabilizer, use two shocks for additional protection. This means that one shock compresses and one shock expands with each movement of the steering linkage. Additionally, the shock absorbers are specifically designed to move at rates that are normal for steering. The results are improved handling and safety and more durable, longer-lasting steering components.
Any time you change your truck’s drivetrain or suspension configuration from stock, your modifications will affect other systems. You can’t lift your truck and dramatically increase your tire size without changing the truck’s handling characteristics. Don’t just slap a lift kit and some huge tires on your truck without preparing the suspension system first. Your components will last longer, your truck will drive better, and you’ll increase your driving enjoyment on-road and off.