By OTTO MECHANIC
Early hot rods and customs were never known for precise steering. Often the steering boxes we used were well worn and turning the steering wheel was just a suggestion for the front wheels. Hitting bumps in the road was often a white knuckle event. Nowadays we have the luxury of new reproduction boxes like the Vega and reversed Corvair boxes. This helps tremendously but there is sometimes shaking in the wheel due to tire imbalance or worn components.
Modern vehicles often come from the factory with a steering stabilizer or damper, basically a hydraulic shock absorber mounted somewhere in the steering linkage, often on the tie rod and attached to the frame. Big 4×4 trucks often have two huge ones to settle down large tires and wheels. The same theory applies to our hot rods and the change in drivability will astound you. They are inexpensive and very easy to mount. Want to take all the shake out of your steering wheel and make your rod drive like a new car? Install one!
Just like shock absorbers, steering dampers are available with different mounting possibilities like rubber mounted eyes a large bolt goes through or a threaded shaft with rubber grommets that goes through a hole on the frame. They come in different “throws” to fit different steering systems with different overall physical movement of the tie rod from lock to lock. You obviously don’t want the stabilizer to bottom out before full steering travel is reached. They also come in different damping levels, based on vehicle size and weight.
Where do I mount it?
The tie rod is the typical mount point going to the frame on the other end. If you run a straight axle, the other end mounts directly to the axle. I came up with a tie rod mount and axle mount for either I-beam or tube axles I’ll show you. Aftermarket kits for 4×4 trucks typically clamp to the tie rod with two small U-bolts like those used for U-joints on driveshafts, and bolt or weld to the frame on the other end. I had a clearance problem under my very low rod and mounting to the tie rod was problematic, so I mounted mine to the steering arm on the driver side spindle. I welded a bolt to the end of the arm and mounted the stabilizer to it. Same for the frame end where I welded a bolt to the frame for the shock to mount on. Couldn’t be easier and the change in drivability is amazing.
Where do I get one?
All the corner auto parts stores sell them, as does our advertiser, Summit Racing. I just looked at the computer catalog’s pretty pictures and picked one with eye mounts on both ends. I made sure the throw was enough and snagged it. It fits hundreds of different vehicles from Astro vans to F350 Ford super duty trucks and it works great!
Of course, when you go in the parts store and ask for a steering dampener/stabilizer, they will want to know what car it’s for and they won’t have one for yours, so you’ll need to do a little detective work to see what works for your application. Typically, they can bring a selection up on the computer screen and let you pick one. If not, it takes a cool parts guy to let you look through their stock and pick one by opening the boxes and looking at it but it works.
Here are some starting points: 1). Moog’s SSD-125 kit with universal mounting brackets for tie rod mount with the stud type ends. It’s the one shown in the lead picture for this article. It’s $66.99; Monroe SC-2914 is a gas damper without brackets. It has an eye mount on one end and a stud type on the other. It’s only $36.99; Rancho’s RS-5406 is a steering stabilizer without mounts and comes with eyes on both ends for $64.99.
Let me know
E-mail me and give us a driver testimonial on how you were amazed at your rod’s new handling after installing one. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the full Tech in issue 79 on sale now