All of us have done it: one upgrade leads to the next, and the next, and so on. The problem is that we focus on big off-road performance gains and neglect some drivability issues we took for granted in stock form.
Take steering for example. We may beef up the tie rod and other steering components, but we leave the stock power steering pump and box to struggle against the larger tires we worked so hard to fit.
On our TJ, aka Barney, it went kind of like this...First was the increased whine of the power steering pump straining to turn our 35? tires. Next, the power steering was barely able to turn the tires while rockcrawling. Finally, since we were a little slow to pay attention to the warning signs, Barney made it quite clear that steering help was desperately needed when the steering gearbox started to blow oil out past its seals.
Now that Barney clearly had our attention, we thought it best to make a power steering upgrade rather than just throwing more inadequate stock replacement parts at the problem.
Our search for a simple bolt-on power steering upgrade, with enough muscle for rockcrawling with 35? tires, led us to West Texas Off Road. There we met Matt, who explained their Redneck Ram high pressure pump and steering gearbox would be more than capable of meeting our needs and is a direct bolt-on replacement. Even better, it has the capacity for future upgrades based on our needs.
Having been around the block too many times with ?bolt-on? products, we wanted to know more. Matt explained the high pressure Redneck Ram consists of a factory pump and gearbox rebuilt and modified to increase the hydraulic pressure from (stock) 900psi to about 1,200psi. Using rebuilt stock parts ensures direct bolt-in replacement without modifications.
What about the ?capacity for future upgrades?? Matt explained that while building our gearbox they could install a couple of ports in the side for hydraulic lines. In the future if we decided to go to a hydraulic ram assist setup, we would simply uncap the ports and install the hydraulic lines for the Ram.
More than satisfied the Redneck Ram was for us, we installed it and hit the trails. In the five months the Redneck Ram has been installed, we have recorded over 7000 miles traveling to off-road shows, wheeling events, and daily driving.
Why so long? There were a couple of reasons. Not long after installing the Redneck Ram, Barney started having some steering issues. While traveling on the highway our steering would go from understeer to severe oversteer at the drop of a hat. To tell you it was scary would be an understatement.
Of course anytime you install something new, you immediately focus on that product as the problem. After checking and rechecking the Redneck Ram and finding nothing wrong, we eventually turned our attention to other parts of the steering setup; and here is what we found: Remember how we stated earlier that the gearbox had started blowing oil past its seals? That leaked oil eventually caused every nut and bolt on the underside of the Jeep to come loose, coincidentally, at the same time we installed the Redneck Ram. Once we cleaned and tightened the bolts, the problem went away. The Redneck Ram performed perfectly the whole time.
Our other concern was how well the power steering return line (discussed in the install article) from the gearbox would hold up. The return line fitting is pressed into the pump by hand. You can?t help but question is this line really going to stay put? We are happy to report that after repeated checking the line, it is solidly in place and our concerns were unfounded.
So what do we think, and how does the Redneck Ram perform?
WOW!!! Is the only way to describe the performance gain.
On the road: Honestly, what you will notice on the road is minimal. It doesn?t take much to turn a moving tire. The difference is quite noticeable in parking lots though. On the other hand it would be reasonable to wonder if you lose the feel for the road. Although the steering is much lighter, in no way did we lose our connection to the road.
On the trail: A good portion of any wheeling trip is trail riding. You know, the portions of dirt road we drive between obstacles. Never before had I noticed how much seesawing of the steering wheel occurs or how fatiguing this can be until I got a chance to drive a similarly built Jeep without the Redneck Ram. Maybe I?ve been living the good life too long with the Redneck Ram, but damn it?s a lot of work making all the steering corrections over uneven terrain without it.
Playing in the ROCKS!!!: God forgives, rocks don?t; and so it is with your stock steering. Too many times were we using muscle to help the steering pump try and turn our 35?s. More times than not, the rocks win. The 33% hydraulic pressure gain of the Redneck Ram has more than enough muscle to go toe-to-toe with any rock we have encountered without so much as breaking a sweat.
If you were to wheel a stock Jeep after being used to your built one, you?d be amazed at how well everything works. The engine has enough grunt to turn the wheels, and the steering doesn?t even notice the little pizza cutter tires. A properly built rig should perform equally well if not better than stock when done right. The Redneck Ram restores the steering to that same ease and enjoyment long since lost on your Jeep when you went with 33?+ sized tires.
MJ would like to extend a huge thanks to West Texas Off Road. They understand us wheeling enthusiast (nice word for fanatics) and our needs, no matter how twisted the buildup. The best part is how they deliver the steering performance we all need at Wal-mart price with Toyota quality.
A specific thank you to Matt of West Texas Off Road; he answered all of our questions and had the foresight to make suggestions in choosing the right setup for our needs both present and future.