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Crossover Steering

Tech Article

  1. Depdog
    Article/photo's courtesy of:
    Glenn R. Viveiros
    K5 Crossover Steering System
    Well, this is my attempt to explain the process of converting a 1977 Chevrolet K-5 Blazer from the standard front to back steering (solid axle Toyota 4x4’s have the same style of steering and for “Serious Offroading”, it’s far from adequate) to crossover steering (most Jeeps and solid axle Ford’s have this setup). I thought this was going to be a very difficult and expensive project (it is not cheap by any means, but doing the work yourself saves a lot of money). This process will also work on a solid axle Chevrolet ½ or ¾ ton 4x4 truck or Suburban. It will work on the 1-ton variety, but you will need a different steering arm as the Dana 60 uses a different style. It’s also easier on the Dana 60, you don’t have to get the passenger side knuckle milled, drilled and tapped, it just bolts on using the existing knuckle.

    First off, let me thank the 2 people that gave me some ideas and shared their knowledge with me. Stephen Watson at Offroad Designs in CO. He is a great guy and is always willing to answer emails and phone calls. He was a great help and the photos of his crossover conversion were very helpful. Next is Glenn Gladdis, he is a good friend and also an ASE Certified Master Mechanic. His insight and never ending faith in my abilities were also of great help. When he and I get together, there is nothing we can’t figure out.

    stocksteering.jpg
    I guess the next thing would be to decide if this is for you or not. If you just do the occasional Offroading, and or you just tackle the light trails and dirt roads, then you may not want to do this. Its not that it’s unreliable or that it is unstable in any way, it’s just that the money and time involved may not be worth it to you. If, however, you are like me and Wheel the Wee out of it, than this is what you have been looking for. With the standard front to back steering setup, as your driver’s side tire moves up and down, it will actually turn the steering wheel in your hands. If the driver’s side tire is in extreme droop, you will have very little, if any steering. The reason this happens is that the drag link from the factory is only about 16 inches long. When the drivers side tire droops, the drag link is put in a severe downward angle, which effectively reduces its length to about half of normal. Which in turn takes away almost all steering ability.

    Crossover steering takes the little, short front to back drag link that goes from the pitman arm to the steering arm on the drivers side knuckle, and replaces it with a drag link about 3 times longer that goes to the passenger side knuckle with another steering arm. With this, no matter what angle your axle is at, you have full lock-to-lock steering. My K-5 now also turns sharper than it did before, and does not have the tighter to one side turning radius that most G.M. solid axle trucks have when lifted. I will include as many part numbers as possible as well as their places of purchase.

    fronttoback.jpg
    All right, here goes. You will need to get quite a few parts to do this, I got most of the G.M. stuff from a junkyard, and the rest were from friends and auto parts stores, and 1 from a tool supply warehouse. You will need a 2wd G.M. steering box, make sure that you check your power steering hose ends and find the same connections on a 2wd box. I got a box with different connections and had to actually swap the 2wd shaft into the 4wd box, it was easy to do, but I had already swapped the boxes when I found the problem, and taking those heavy suckers on and off is a pain in the a$$. You need the box because the 4wd box turns from front to back and you can’t change the pitman arm. The 2wd box uses a pitman arm that will let you index it in 4 different locations, so that you can set it to turn side to side, that’s what you need for the crossover. Next you will need a flat top passenger side knuckle. This knuckle will have to be taken to a machine shop to have someone drill and tap the holes for the steering arm mounting studs, it uses that same studs and cone type washers that the drivers side knuckle does. You may also have to have the top part machined flat as the casting is sometimes a little rough. Some rigs have them, some don’t, if you have one already, I would still get one from a junkyard or other supplier. That way, you won’t have to have your axle unassembled just to get the knuckle machined, and your rig won’t tie up the garage or driveway. My machinist was super busy, so I dropped it off with a drivers side knuckle and told him I wanted the mirror image of the drivers side knuckle on the passenger one. It took him about 2 months to get to it, but I trust him and he does great work, also the price was right $$$. I have only seen these knuckles on the Dana 44 axles, but they will work on the 10 bolt axles as well. They are a direct bolt on and the spindles bolt straight to them with no problems, make sure its off a disk brake axle though, I don’t know if K-5’s or other G.M. trucks with Dana 44 front axles ever had drum brakes, but this would be the only one I would not try, it may work, but I don’t know for sure. Also on all the flat top knuckles that I have seen, the tie rod ends come in from the top, and on my K-5, the tie rod comes in from the bottom, you have three options here: 1) You can buy the older style tie rods (if yours uses this already, no problem). 2) You can do what I did and have it re-tapered to go in from the bottom. 3) The last one is to just drill it out and use heim joints and a custom-made tie rod. I wanted parts I could get anywhere, so the heim joints were not an option for me.

    Knuckle1.jpg

    knuckle2.jpg
    Next up is the pitman arm. I have been told that several different arms will work, but for my K-5, the perfect arm was, don’t wince, a stock arm off a Jeep Wrangler YJ, also the price was right (free, thanks Shawn!). Well, I say free I had to do a spring over suspension on his YJ for it. He goes almost everywhere I go, and is a great friend, he does own a Jeep, but I don’t hold it against him. He wheels the wee out of it too. I had to have the end where the drag link connects to it re-tapered for a Chevrolet Tie Rod. The YJ arm looks a little weenie, but when you have the tapered hole opened up and re-tapered, it looks much better. To date I have had no problems with it or any part of the setup. I am, however, going to get another one and have it re-tapered to carry for a spare.

    pitmanarm.jpg
    NOTE*** By far, getting the knuckles and the pitman arm re-tapered was the hardest thing to get done. This took me forever to find someplace with the right reamer to do it. The taper is not a standard one, so you can’t get a reamer at you local tool supply place. I had mine done at a Race Car Shop in a local town a few miles away.

    Next on the list would be the passenger steering arm. I bought mine from Tri-County gear. You can also get it and the flat top passenger knuckle from Stephen Watson at Offroad Designs. You will have to contact him to find out if his knuckles are already drilled, tapped and ready for the steering arm to bolt on. The arm is super beefy and uses the same cone type washers for a super strong wiggle free connection. A large amount of time and effort went into the design of this arm to get the angles right. I don’t know how the Ackerman angle works, but if it’s not right, it makes for a horrible driving vehicle, so don’t cut corners here. I have seen other arms that look way cheesy and even had a guy try to make me a homemade one. The steering is a vital component on your rig and can cause serious injury or death to you and others, SO DON’T USE CHEAP JUNK! This arm has the angles right and is also tapered for the Chevrolet Tie Rod end. I had to do a little hand file work on the edge around the ball joint, because it was a super tight fit and I did not want to have to hammer it on and possibly destroy a ball joint in the process.

    Steeringarm.jpg
    Now you have to make a drag link. I used the stock Tie Rod setup off of an 85 K-5 (I was told 83 and up K-5’s and K-10’s have the same style). Instead of being a solid steel bar like the one I have, it is a hollow piece of D.O.M. tubing that is threaded on both ends and uses a short style tie rod in each end with a jam nut. Instead of having a sleeve with 2 clamps on it to adjust the toe in, it has the jam nut on each Tie rod end that you loosen and turn the tube in the center to adjust toe in. It is left hand threaded on one end and right hand on the other. I used new Tie Rod ends from Auto Zone for mine, they are lifetime guaranteed. The center tube is only available at a G.M. Dealer or the local junkyard. I tried every parts store out there and nobody makes it (it has no joints that wear out, so its not very profitable to make it). The one end that should be on the drivers side if it was being used for a Tie Rod has an eye cast into it to attach the steering stabilizer to. I tried to find one without this eye (just because I don’t like the way it looks) but to no avail. Anyhow this is where it gets fun.

    Now you have to buy a tap, or have a machine shop that has one do this for you. The tap is 7/8” and 18 threads per inch right hand thread. When you cut the tube to length, make sure you cut ONLY THE RIGHT HAND THREADS, if you cut the left hand ones off by mistake, get another tube, the left hand tap was about $150 bucks and had to be ordered. The right hand tap I bought from a supply place called McMaster Carr, it’s like a Grainger, but Grainger did not have this tap. The cost was around $50. The length for my truck was 34”, you must measure yours to make sure of the length before you cut it, it may be different than mine.

    draglink1.jpg

    draglink2.jpg
    Now its time for the final part, this one you have to make yourself, or have it made for you. It’s the cross member for the motor mounts. I have been told that there are different styles and that some of them do not get in the way. To date, I have looked at quite a few different K-5’s and have not found any where the cross member would not have to be moved in order to function correctly. When I say correctly, what I mean is Offroad, on the street it would be fine, but when you flex it Offroad, it would make contact with the cross member.

    The stock one is bolted to each motor mount with 2 bolts and attached to the frame with 2 rivets at each end. They are also prone to cracking, mine was and I had welded it up before doing the crossover. My cross member came forward and went right under the harmonic balancer. To remove it, I unbolted it and cut off the rivets with an air chisel. I still had to cut it in half to get it out from between the frame rails. The new one I made out of 1” by 2 “ rectangle tube, with ¼” thick walls. I used angle iron and flat plate and welded it all together, it bolts to the frame with 2 bolts on each side and to the motor mounts in the same bolt holes as the stock cross member (the motor mount holes, not the frame ones, I had to make 2 new ones for that). The drawing does not have any measurements on it, but will show you the shape of it so that you can understand how to build your own. The measurements will not be exact from truck to truck, so I did not take any of it.

    newcrossmember.jpg

    crossmemberfrontdrawing.jpg

    crossmembertopdrawing.jpg
    I hope this helps explain the function and installation of crossover steering, if you have any other questions that I did not answer, please feel free to email me and I will try my best to help you out.

    Sources

    Offroad Designs offroaddesign.com Stephen Watson- Steering arm, Flat top Knuckle, other G.M. goodies and a wealth of knowledge. He also has made his own cross member for his K-5, he may be fabricating them for a crossover conversion.

    Tri-County gear - tricountygear.com - Steering arm, tell them the passenger side, as they make kits for jeeps and they use both sides on their kits.

    Auto Zone - Tie Rod ends- Part numbers ES2233L (left side) ES22334R (Right side)

    Tom Jumper Chevrolet- 18006485576- Studs for Flat top knuckle-Part number 2570-C (you need 3 and I believe this is the dealer part number, not the G.M. part number)

    McMaster-Carr Supply Co.- mcmaster.com - Tap 7/8”x18 threads per inch right hand Part number 2595 A423 (the A423 may me the number, but the other 4 numbers were in the same column)

    Local Junk Yard - In your area!!!- 2wd Steering box and 83 or newer tube type tie rod.

    You will have to find your own metal for the cross member.