Besides the wheels and tires, aftermarket bumpers, and even the rugged steering wheels, off road truck owners rely on the ability to carefully steer their trucks over obstacles with precision. Four wheel drive vehicles utilize a number of steering setups, each with their own pros and cons. Depending on things like tire and wheel size, power steering set-up, suspension, and other details, various systems can make the difference between easy steering over rough terrain and having to really work at it.
Crossover steering setups are available in two types; both involve a drag link that attaches directly to a straight tie rod. This can be set up so the drag link attaches at the base of the passenger side tie rod knuckle at the axle or so the drag link attaches onto the tie rod itself on the passenger side, partway to the knuckle.
Crossover to the tie rod is one of the most common set-ups used on off road trucks today, although it allows a bit of play between the tie rod and the drag link. Crossover to the knuckle has the least bit of play; however, it may not be an option due to the placement of other mechanical elements under the vehicle. Crossover to the tie rod was developed to alleviate this problem.
Double Crossover Steering
Double crossover steering is similar to the crossover to the tie rod end setup, although it does involve an additional component, a bellcrank. The tie rod attaches to the bellcrank, which attaches to the tie rod, which then connects to the knuckle on the driver side. This setup was designed as a way to work around other essential parts while still providing steering accuracy.
The V-link set-up is similar to the crossover to tie rod set-up, except in this case the tie rod attaches to the center of the drag link as opposed to the drag link attaching to the tie rod. As such, the two meet to create a V with the drag link reaching to the passenger side knuckle and the tie rod reaching to the driver side knuckle. This set-up can be affected by the suspension as the truck is in motion and the suspension compresses. Tires can toe in or out as a result.
Ball and Tie Rod Steering
Recirculating ball and tie rod systems are common with independent front suspension (IFS) vehicles. These steering configurations involve two tie rods that connect from the outer knuckles on each axle up to a center link between the pitman arm and the idler arm. The pitman arm moves the center link, which, in turn, moves the tie rods.
The main drawback to this design is that maintaining steering accuracy of an off road truck can be a challenge if the truck is lifted. Additionally, there are more parts involved that can wear over time and potentially cause problems as they do.
Rack and Pinion Steering
Rack and pinion steering setups are an advancement on the ball and tie rod setup. Although this setup also involves two tie rods controlled by a center link, the center link - called a rack in this case - is controlled by a rotating pinion gear, which is controlled by steering wheel movement. Rack and pinion offers greater precision than other set-ups, although they may not be as durable and can lack the power needed for extreme off roading.
When deciding on what activities can be done with a 4WD vehicle, steering set-up should be one of the many specs for off roaders to consider. Based on the advantages and disadvantages that come with different steering setups, off-road truck owners can learn what they should expect from their trucks. Before rushing off to climb those rocks and hills, take some time to learn what set-up you’re dealing with to know how to get the greatest advantages without risking safety or vehicle damage.