Installation date: 4/20/03
If you’re running large tires (ie: 33″+) and you like to wheel you XJ hard, you’re going to need to do something to beef up your steering box mount. One way is to use a steering box brace like the one from Rusty’s OffRoad. This helps brace the box but doesn’t address the actual frame mounting of the steering box. That’s where C-ROK Engineering frame reinforcement plate comes in. The plate can be used in conjunction with a steering box brace or instead of one, however I would recommend both so you’re covering all the bases.
Without any kind of additional reinforcement, your steering box could rip out of the frame like what happened with this guy, and he even had a steering box brace! The upper mounting bolt for his steering box ripped clean through the frame! Not good… The C-ROK plate will keep this from happening, and it can be used to repair damage if it’s already occurred. C-ROK is currently working on a complete system that will include a new spacer plate to replace the factory cast aluminum spacer plate between the steering box and the frame as well as sleeves to go in the frame.
The current kit consists of the reinforcement plate and grade 8 hardware to replace the OEM steering box bolts along with tying into the rear-most tow hook bracket mount. The rear bolt supplied is 9/16″ x 3.5″, however if you’re going to be installing the plate along with an aftermarket bumper mount like I did, you’ll need to pick up a 9/16″ x 4″ bolt. The plate itself is made of 3/16″ steel, laser-cut and bent for a perfect fit.
The instructions are very thorough, and are a whopping 5 pages long! The install’s really not that complicated, but the instructions go over quite a bit of detail, including different mounting options such as below or on top of existing aftermarket bumper mounting brackets or tow hook brackets.
The plate comes bare metal, so it’s up to you to paint it or have it powder coated. I opted to rattle can mine bright red, after primering it of course. This article will cover installing the C-ROK steering plate underneath the mounting brackets for my Custom4x4Fabrication winch bumper. The C4x4 mounting brackets bolt to the bumper, so it’s possible to mount the C-ROK plate between the frame and the bumper brackets, which is the recommended way to do it. The first order of business is to start unbolting the bumper brackets. Be sure to properly support your bumper, especially if you’ve got a winch, before removing the bumper mounting brackets.
You’ll also need to remove the triangular fender support brace. There is one bolt connecting it to the frame rail, and another two connecting it up inside the fender, behind the turn signal housing. The top most bolt is a bit hard to get to. The support bracket is also attached to the frame via an L-bracket that’s spot welded on. The bolt holding this bracket to the frame is really hard to get to, so I just rotated the support bracket and forth until the spot weld broke. Problem solved, heh-heh. At first I was hesitant to remove this support bracket, but after looking at the way the fender is constructed, it seemed to be braced fine without the bracket, so I’m not too worried about leaving it off. I tried to see if anything wiggled or moved around after removing the bracket, but all I succeeded in doing was bouncing the front end on the suspension, which makes me think that area is pretty solid on its own.
Now that the bumper mount and fender support bracket are out of the way, it’s time to remove the steering box bolts. You’ll also need to unbolt the swaybar mount because the C-ROK plate wraps around the bottom of the frame and ties into the two swaybar mounting bolts.
To help prevent a bolt from breaking, I’d suggest spraying everything down with PB Blaster they day before you’re planning to do the install, and then again a few hours before you start.
Here’s the C-ROK plate in place, with the new grade-8 steering box bolts already put in. When you put the steering box bolts in, be sure to put some threadlocker on them, to keep them from working loose in the future. C-ROK recommends checking the bolts once or twice over the following week to make sure they haven’t come loose.
Since the C-ROK plate is 3/16″ and I was installing it under my C4x4 bumper brackets, I needed to fab up some spacers to go between the bracket and the bumper’s winch housing. I got some 3/16″ flat steel from Lowes and made two 5″ spacers using the bumper bracket as a template for the holes (FYI: the holes are 3.25″ center to center measure horizontally, and 3″ center to center going vertically). Add some primer and you’re ready to finish up. Put the bracket over the C-ROK plate, put in the remaining mounting bolts, torque everything down, and you’re done.
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