Ball Joint D60 Steering Arm

How do you get a highsteer arm bolted onto a steering knuckle that never had provisions for anything to be bolted on the top of it?  You get creative and machine your own mount.

Joe came to me and needed a way to get a steering arm on top of his superduty D60 steering knuckle.  There are no bolt holes on top and in fact its just a raw casting thats not even flat.  After some trial and error with cardstock templates I came up with a plan to work around the existing brake caliper mount web thats in the way and finalized the drawings.steering arm2

I then set about making a fixture to hold the knuckle upright so I could mill the top perpendicular to the wheel bearing hub.  I drilled the face of the fixture with two different patterns so I would be able to do left and right knuckles.


I started out by making the arm.  It was machined out of 1018 cold roll bar stock, 1″ thick.  The step in the arm and knuckle as well as the slot for the brake caliper mount web allow the arm to be “keyed” to the knuckle and no tappered cone washers are needed.  After the arm was done I pressed the ball joints out of the knuckle and mounted it to the fixture on the milling machine.  Quite a bit had to be cut off the knuckle since every surface is at an odd angle and the top needs to be flat.  Six holes were drilled and tapped for 1/2-20 bolts.  Due to the proximity of the brake caliper mount web, grade 8 socket head cap screws were used.DSCN3834DSCN3843

While it was a bit of work, this was a fun project and a good challenge!


Design Ideas

I’ve been working on some ideas.  These are kinda random thoughts at the moment.

Here is a break away mirror for tube chassis vehicles.side mirror, main assy, image1

I’ve also slowly been designing a 3 Link front for my toyota.  This needs a lot more work.  I need to get the panhard in.  So far this is basicly just a rough sketch to get an idea of what I can do design truck front link suspension, image1toyota truck front link suspension, image2

Double Shear D60 Highsteer Arms

I originaly designed the jeep buggy to be road legal, which meant having to keep a standard steering box and mechanical connection to the wheels.  So my front suspension was set as a 3-link with panhard.  Due to the steering relationship between the panhard and draglink, I didn’t have much room to put a tierod up front.  I also thought it would be better to get the tie rod and hydro assist cylinder behind the axle and out of the way.  I did some quick mockups and determined that a tierod could indeed fit in between my upper suspension link and the pinion on my D60.

I did some CAD design work to figure out how long and at what angle to make the steering arms.  I designed these for correct ackerman for my wheelbase, remember I was expecting this to be streetable.  The length was determined by figure out my max steering angle and the 8″ throw of my hydro assist cylinder.  If the arms are too long then the ram won’t have enough travel, if they are too short, then the ram has too much travel.  You really want everything to max out at the exact same time.  I did the same for designing the draglink arm.

Here is a point I’d like to stress.  A vehicle is a complex collection of different mechanism working together to create a driveable vehicle.  Not thinking about how one alteration affects the other systems will often lead to issues using the vehicle and a less than stellar driving experience and potentialy a few long nights on the trail.  The way the steering box interacts with the steering arms, knuckles, tie rod, assist cyl, rim offset and tires, and panhard all effect how the vehicle behaves on and off road.  You can’t simply focus on one part.DSCN2521

I went to work and machined some 1″ plate to form the base of my steering arms.  The sides were milled and the kingpin cap bolt pattern was drilled into them.  I decided to upgrade the kingpin cap bolts to 9/16″ from 1/2″ for a bit more strength.  The cap was also cut for the kingpin bearing thrust washer and shims.  I also decided to do away with the upper kingpin bearing spring.  The spring deflecting at full steering lock is a known issue that causes broken u-joints and knuckles.DSCN2522

1/4″ cold roll plate was used top and bottom to form the actual pockets the rod ends would attach too.  All the pieces were beveled substantially before welding, welded then ground smooth.  Some 3/16″ plate was then wrapped around the outsides to help tie everything together.DSCN2524

3/4 x 3/4 rod ends were used for the tie rod, while 7/8 x 3/4 rod ends with misalignment spacers were used for the draglink.  I made my own 303 stainless steel cone washers and used grade 8 bolts throughout.  I know everyone’s going to tell me I should use studs and nuts to hold the arms to the knuckle and that studs are stronger.  Show me proof!  Show me some actual engineering that similar size and grade, stud and nuts are stronger than bolts, and not internet hearsay.  In my experience studs are commonly used for ease of assembly or in situations that will require frequent disassembly.

So far the only real downside I have found to these steering arms has been the inability to remove the front calipers with the arms installed.  Everything, including the hydro assist ram is tucked up neatly and out of the way.DSCN3050

Future revisions will hopefully include a 9deg angle correction for the kingpin inclination, as well as externally adjustable preload for the upper kingpin bearing and a dedicated hydro assist mount.

For now they’re working out great!


Plated D60 Knuckles

Its common knowledge that stock D60 front kingpin outer knuckles aren’t the strongest.  Luckily, I have chevy front knuckles that are stronger than the ford versions.  The weak point is where the top of the kingpin meets the spindle attachment area.  Vehicles with highsteer wind up twisting that kingpin mounting surface off the rest of the knuckle.


An easy, and better yet, economical solution to expensive aftermarket knuckles, is to plate the knuckle.  Simply by adding plates front and back can significantly increase the strength of the stock knuckle. 

I used some cardboard to make templates and cut them out of 1/4″ plate.  I then used a sanding disc and cleaned up the knuckle surfaces in prep for welding.  Heating the knuckle up with a torch helps get a better penetrating weld at the start.  Luckily these are cast steel and weld rather well.  Then just let them slow cool, the slower the better.


I did have to do a bit of “blacksmithing” to get the plate pieces to conform to the contours of the knuckle, but it was rather easy.  I’ve seen others that have plating tying the side in above the spindle as well, but for these chevy knuckles I wasn’t as concerned.

So far they’ve been holding up just fine to 40″ tires and hydro assist steering!


Trussed Toyota Rear Axle


After bending my toyota axle in an accident, I had chronic, reoccuring wheel bearing issues.  It was time to build a new rearend, and while I was at it, it was time to beef things up a bit.


A new rear axle housing was found and stripped of every mounting bracket and tab on it.  Once cleaned and checked for alignment to assure it was starting out straight, the first order of business was raising the fill plug higher to clear the new back brace.  I cut out the fill plug and welded in a piece to fill it..  I then ground the welds smooth so no one would ever know, cut a new hole higher up and welded in the old fill plug.  I also wanted to get rid of the drain plug as they have a nasty habit of pulling out when getting caught on a rock.  I was able to cut the weld around the plug and knock it out, then weld in a circle of steel where the plug was.  I went and plated over the whole bottom with some 3/16″ just for more protection.  In retrospect, I should have just shaved the bottom.

I put the axle on two jack stands sitting on a large solid steel beam.  Chains wrapped around the beam and the housing would help to pull the ends down.  A bottle jack in the middle would force the housing up and help it retain its straight shape during welding.  I have found this technique works well, but you have to be careful, too much pressure and you’ll warp the housing the wrong way, too little and its not enough to overcome the forces when welding.


Some leftover 2x4x0.120 wall tubing was cut to fit for the back brace.  I cut templates to fit around the odd diff profiles in the housing and transferred that to the tubing.  Of course I still had to do quite a bit of grinding to get things to fit just right.  This process was repeated for the upper truss as well.

I had to cut some holes in the back brace to allow for u-bolts to run through.  I wasn’t going to be satisfied with just cutting holes in it however.  I sleeved the holes with some 1″ square tube to keep dirt and mud out.  I am not a fan of all the dimple died excess holes used in a lot designs.  Even in sunny California I feel those extra “lightening” holes tend to allow things to get filled up with mud, dirt and dust, and that creates extra weight and more importantly retains moisture which leads to corrosion.  I try to keep my designs away from retaining mud and dirt as much as possible.

The back brace was welded on first.  I took my time welding small 2″ long sections randomly.  Afterwards I released the pressure from the jack and checked it for straightness again.  There was some minor warping the I wound up fixing by heating and cooling.  The housing was rotated, reset and the upper truss welded on in a similar fashion.


I had purchased a used Toyota e-locker and that got rebuilt with all new gears and 4.88 ring and pinion.  I had to modify the housing to fit the new diff by cutting a notch into the side, adding some material where the diff bolts up, and drilling for four new studs.


After all the welding and grinding was done, the housing was thoroughly cleaned inside and out, then painted.  The diff was installed and the axles with backing plates reinstalled.  I wound up reusing my old backing plates and brakes as they were still in good condition, however new wheel bearings were used.

The axle has been on several wheeling trips and typical gets driven to the trails.  I have yet to have any issue with wheel bearings and the selectable locker is awesome on and off the street!

New rearend 2New rearend 1