West Texas Off Road Hydro Assist Steering System

Product Review

  1. CK5
    Article/photo's courtesy of:

    West Texas Off Road Hydro Assist Steering System
    So you have big tires and you like the rocks, both are great but together they can be a nightmare when it comes to navigating your ride, upgrading to a hydro assist setup is almost a must. After many frustrating trips on Colorado and Utah trails without the ability to turn a tire that was wedged against a rock it was time to call Matt at West Texas Off Road.

    One of the two reasons we chose the West Texas system was price, right around half the cost of the other setups available and the other was service, Matt was always available to answer any questions we had and is very knowledgeable about steering systems. We shipped a 2x4 GM steering box (2x4 box needed for cross-over steering) that we pulled from a local salvage yard and shipped it to Matt who had it rebuilt and tapped along with a hydraulic ram, lines and mounting tabs in about a week.

    Hydraulic assist steering systems often deliver between 100-150% more hydraulic turning force (depending on the application) over a stock setup. Something that we should mention is that hydraulic assist steering is just that, it assists the mechanical steering system, it does not replace it like a full hydraulic system would, thus hydraulic assist steering is street legal. The West Texas Off Road Stage II kit is a complete system which starts with your existing steering box. The box is disassembled cleaned, rebuilt, modified with hydraulic fittings and includes the mounting hardware kit and rod ends. The reason this kit is so affordable is because it reutilizes much of the existing steering system and can save 50% or more over an an aftermarket setup. For the budget minded, West Texas Off Road offers the Stage 1 kit, they modify your existing steering box for hydraulic fittings then you supply the hydraulic fittings, hoses and ram (Porting and Tapping only).

    Stage II kit (Chevy 2" Ram)

    Stage II kit (Jeep 1.5" Ram)

    The best part about this kit is the service, let's face it what works well for one application may not always work well for another, that's why the kit can be tailored to meet your needs. West Texas Off Road can supply the hydraulic lines in any length you need or create the fittings with a 45 degree angle instead of a 90 etc., what ever your unique needs are they can help. They can also explain how to modify your existing power steering pump to increase pressure/flow or they will do it for free with the purchase of the Stage II kit.

    After the steering box is installed, the included hydraulic ram brackets will have to be welded to the axle and tie rod, it's up to you to decide the location where they will work the best for your application. In most cases the ram can be mounted where the old steering stabilizer lived, but in our case we have hi-steer which puts the tie rod above the axle so that situation would not work for us.

    Old box removed

    Rebuilt box installed
    We ended up mounting custom brackets to our Avalanche Rock Ring differential protection, and of course the other brackets were welded to the tie rod. This was about the only spot available with enough room to allow full range of motion and still have the ram on the same plain as the tie rod (parallel). At the time we received our kit WTO only had the large 2" ram available, so we went with a smaller Howe 1.5" ram due to clearance problems, the good news is that, now WTO offers the 1.5" and 1.75 ram as well. Whether you mount the hydraulic ram closer to the stock steering stabilizer location or have a custom application like ours be sure that the ram has full range of motion from left to right and under droop and compression.

    Hydraulic lines installed

    Tabs welded to Rock Ring

    Tabs welded to tie-rod

    Finished install

    We opted to install a new stock power steering pump while we had everything apart, in a 1990 model this was probably that hardest part of the whole install. After the ram is mounted the hydraulic lines will need to be installed, be sure to route them as to allow plenty of movement as the suspension articulates. We used are friends the zip ties to make sure the lines stayed where we wanted them.

    Next the system is filled with a quality synthetic power steering fluid, synthetic fluid will have less foam buildup over non-synthetic fluid, we chose Pyroil by Valvoline and it has worked great. One thing to note here, depending on which way the ram is mounted and also how the box is taped will determine which line connects to which port on the steering box. The best thing to do is just hook them up to see if they are correct, on our first shot the steering wheel shook back and forth while trying to turn the wheel, so we just switched the lines at the box and then the turning was smooth.

    Place your vehicle on jack stands and cycle the steering by turning the steering wheel to the left and right, you will need to do this several times to get all the air out of the system. As we were bleeding the system it became evident that we now needed extra fluid capacity, as the wheel was turned one way it would overflow as the ram pushed the fluid out and then drain our reservoir as it pulled fluid in. We still had the old power steering pump laying around so we cut the neck off of the old reservoir and attached it to our new reservoir using radiator hose and clamps to give us an increase in fluid capacity. After the steering system is cycled through several times we started the engine and cycled it again. The entire steering system has to be free of any air bubbles to work properly or it could overheat so this is a crucial step.

    Clamp, hose and top of old reservoir

    Reservoir top clamped to hose

    Extended filler cap


    After the install we got the opportunity to trek out to Moab to test the Redneck Ram where we met up with Matt Hodges the owner of West Texas Off Road for a weekend of wheeling. We found that we could actually turn the tires with ease while they were crossed up for the first time, what a difference, no more backing up several times on an obstacle just to maneuver the tires. The system worked flawless on any terrain that we ran, we started to wonder how we ever wheeled without it.
    West Texas Off Road
    1811 W. Beauregard
    San Angelo, TX 76901
    Phone Number:
    Tel: 877-833-7464
    Fax: 325-653-7004