Q I have been building my ’85 Toyota Truggy for several years. It does great on the trails, but my power steering always overheats. I’m running crossover steering with a stock steering box from an ’87 Toyota pickup and the stock steering pump, no hydraulic assist yet. I’m using a good-sized transmission cooler as a power steering cooler, which is mounted in front of the radiator where the A/C condenser use to be.
The problem occurs shortly after driving in four-wheel drive, even on the easy two-tracks that we drive between obstacles. It will overheat to the point that the power steering fluid will actually boil out of the reservoir. My tires are moderate-sized 35-inch BFG KM2s, but my front axle is welded. I connected the lines to the cooler in the same fashion that they were connected to the stock cooling tube.
I read where the power steering lines must be hooked up in a certain manner to prevent cavitations and overheating. However, I’m confused on which line goes where—from pump to bottom of the cooler, or from steering box to bottom of the cooler, or rotate the cooler 90 degrees and start over? Can you provide any insight on how to make things right? Thanks.
A Steering issues can be aggravating, and you’re probably due for a few simple upgrades. First, be sure your steering system runs from the pump, under pressure to the steering box, then from the box to the top of the cooler, then from the cooler bottom to a reservoir, and then back into the pump. Also, if you’re cooking your fluid you may have already done irreversible damage to your pump. And when replacing one part of the system it is important to drain the rest of the system, as you may have run contaminants through them all. An entire system flush wouldn’t hurt.
Adding a ram assist to the system may help as well since it reduces the strain on the box. The hydraulic ram attaches to the axle and tie rod and, when activated, pushes or pulls the tie rod, assisting the steering box. When changing to ram assist you may want to have the pump rebuilt as well as the steering gear to eliminate any worn parts.
Finally, having the front diff welded could also be adding to your dilemma because it would make steering a bit harder, but I don’t believe that is the major issue here.
Q I lifted my ’00 F-150 6 inches about three years ago, and I have not changed the gears in the axles. As of yet I am still running open 3.55 gears. What is your take on towing with a lifted truck? I am looking to purchase a trailer hitch and am not sure that it is worth it to spend the extra cash for a Class IV if I will not be able to pull a car trailer in the future.
Pearl River, NY
A Towing with a lifted vehicle isn’t a bad thing, but as with any modification some care needs to be taken. I would recommend a gear change first to protect your engine and transmission. Since you have a 6-inch lift I’ll assume you are running 33- or 35-inch-tall tires. I’ll also assume you have a V-8 gas engine. I think going to a 4.10 gear ratio would be better with these larger tires, especially if you wish to tow a car trailer. I’m not saying you can’t pull it with the 3.55 gears, but you are adding stress to the transmission and engine. Towing with a suspension lift will require a drop hitch to keep your trailer level. It is also advisable to use properly working trailer brakes, as your half-ton brakes may be taxed with the large tires combined with the load of the trailer depending on what you are hauling.