DIY drag link steering damper relocation 

Inspired by various “cheap bastard” projects, I decided to give this one a try. A week away from an off-road trip in my 1996 Land Rover Discovery, I didn’t want to lose yet another steering damper to the rocks; the current one had to vacate the factory Land Rover location behind and under the front axle.

After some guesswork, I thought I had an idea. Not the cheapest in the world, since it required a purchase of a new steering damper, but yet another small step towards unification of my Jeeps’ and Land Rovers’ running gear (at the time of writing of this article, it was an even 2/2 split - not 1/5 of 2020).

A trip to the Pick-A-Part in Chula Vista resulted (among many other things) the steering damper bracket from an ’84 Jeep Wagoneer. The size of U-bolts used on this bracket and hole spacing seemed perfect for use with my 1.25”-dia solid stainless steel drag link. In the big jeeps from late-70s onwards, the steering damper had 5/8”-dia eyelet mounts on both ends; if I had to use one, I needed a bracket to provide an eyelet attachment to the right-side framerail. The Land Rover frame conveniently had through-holes (punched for the RHD steering box mounting) in just the right place, so the bracket design only took about 5 minutes.

The frame bracket was cut out from a 7”-long piece of rectangular steel heavy-wall tubing (see below).

Here's the list of hardware used, with prices when available:

  • 7”-long piece of 2”x2” steel tubing (free)
  • one wasted 4.5” cutoff wheel ($1.50)
  • Two 4”-long, 7/16-20 grade 8 bolts to attach the bracket to the frame, two nylock nuts, and four washers ($6.00)
  • One 3”-long, 1/2-13 grade 8 bolt, four washers (to fill the gap between the bracket walls and bushing), and one nylock nut (free)
  • One 1.375”-long, 0.5” ID, 0.625” OD, sleeve (came with the steering stabilizer)
  • Full Size Jeep steering stabilizer to drag link mounting bracket ($7.00)
  • Rancho steering stabilizer (ask for 1980 Jeep Wagoneer) from Off Road Warehouse ($50.99+tax). For ORW-deprived folks, you can use NAPA part # SC2911, or order a good Heckethorn unit from JC Whitney, part # ZX749854B.

So, altogether, it hit the wallet about the same as a new LR-spec Old Man Emu steering damper. But, hopefully, this one won’t become a wearable item – and if it does, I could count on NAPA to get me a replacement quickly!

The “fabrication” took about 30 minutes, installation (including removal of LR OME unit, and prolonged general observation of my Discovery’s underside) about 30 more.

The bracket is bolted to the right framerail, and the steering damper attached to it

Steering stabilizer attached to the drag link using full-size jeep bracket from junk yard

View of the steering stabilizer from the front

The visual observation of the setup suggested that the drag link is not going to hit the frame bracket when the right front wheel is stuffed; some aggressive driving over uneven terrain didn’t reveal any noises; no wheel shimmy was detected on highway up to 80 mph. It remains to be seen how much wear will the cylindrical bushings experience (they are bound to be stressed lightly when the pitman arm moves into its extreme positions). (10 years later: the bushings are still there and unbroken).

FWIW: The FSJ-spec steering damper is 14.5” long eye to eye fully compressed, and 23.5” – fully extended.

Looking back - the steering damper survived 10 years and a trip to Rubicon, and is still there:
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