Willys Jeep: Badger’s Steering Requires Advice

In Jeep by J Michel MetzLeave a Comment


This weekend was frustrating. So frustrating that I had to send out this tweet:

When my wife and I went out to work on Badger over the weekend, it seemed that we got stymied every step along the way. What’s worse, it’s made me rethink what I need to do to get Badger’s steering running again and opened up the (previously healed) wound of deciding whether or not to convert to a Saginaw system.

In short, I’m looking for thoughts and advice, so feel free to make suggestions. Consider me in perpetual “sponge mode.”

The Intent and Goal

I’ve become obsessed with replacing worn-out parts on Badger with NOS (New Original Stock/New Old Stock) parts. I managed to find some NOS steering linkage equipment (tie rods and connecting rods) and was extremely enthusiastic about putting them on Badger.

Still got the cosmoline

Still got the cosmoline

After cleaning up the steering parts I had received the new equipment and was getting prepared to mock everything up on Badger’s frame.

Prepping for mockup

Prepping for mockup

Everything went well, until we needed to assemble the bell crank.

Okay, gotta get this... into this...

Okay, gotta get this… into this…

Pressing it in by hand was a no-go, so we needed a bit more oomph.

In lieue of a hydraulic press...

In lieue of a hydraulic press…

It took some elbow grease, but it went in just fine. The problem, though, was that there was no easy way to get it in far enough to get the gasket seal inserted as well.

No room at the in(side)

No room at the in(side)

The inner bushing easily slid up and down the outer bushing (as designed, I bet). However, the outer bushing is flush against the bell crank, and the metal is too soft to use a punch or screwdriver, and as you can see from the other side it’s not exactly centered:

All on one side

All on one side

Now, I did look online to see if there was any type of “how to” instructions for the best way to do this, but like most things it’s one of those things “you gotta know before you know.” Just one of the many Catch-22s of the project.

So here’s my questions:

1. Did I do this wrong? Was there a special tool that I was supposed to use?

2. How can I fix this so that it’s done correctly, or do I need to start over, buy new kit, and try again?

Ross Steering Box

As if that weren’t enough, I thought I was going to be able to re-assemble the steering box, now that I have it cleaned and painted. I even found a very cool video from Kaiser Willys on how to go about rebuilding the steering box:


Almost immediately I realized there was a problem. My rebuild kit didn’t come with a horn wire tube (at :30 in the video).

Source: Moses Ludel's 4WD Mechanix Magazine

Source: Moses Ludel’s 4WD Mechanix Magazine

In fact, I searched high and low around all the parts I removed off of badger, until I happened to compare the old worm gear shaft with the new one.

Found it!

Found it!

Try as I might, though, I couldn’t get it out of the worm gear shaft. As you can see, the tube itself was slightly misshapen as the metal is very soft and malleable. I began to look online to see if I could find a replacement, but as of this writing I have yet to have any luck.

Desperate, I decided that since I had a brand new worm gear and wasn’t planning on reusing this one anyway, I’d try cutting through the shaft and see if I could push it out from inside.

What the...

What the…

Not even close.

Previous owners of the Jeep had stuffed so much grease into the steering box that it had crawled up inside the worm shaft.

Moses Ludel has a fantastic step-by-step process on how to do this repair, by the way, including great pictures [28.36MB Download].  In his rebuild, he brazed the horn wire tube to the plug to restore straightness and a better seal. I would be prepared to have a machine shop do that for me, if I knew how to either get the horn wire tube out of the existing steering column or find a place to get a new one.

So, my questions are:

1) Does anyone know how to get a new horn wire tube?

2) Badger didn’t come with a horn, so how do you actually thread a horn wire through the shaft? Is this done after assembly to the steering box?

Brake Lines

According to the manual I have, brake lines are supposed to be run from the front wheels up to the frame cross member, but when we looked at how that might work it really made very little sense. When looking for a graphic for this, I happened to run across this one from the CJ-3A Page:

How I found them anyway

How I found them on Badger anyway

(Honestly, I should have just started and stayed on that website from day one.)

Here’s the thing. I did convert the front brakes to disc (well, had them converted, I didn’t want to risk screwing that up on my own), but I’m confused as to how the brake lines are supposed to be run now.

Loop de loop

Loop de loop

The strange contortion that the brake line has to go through does look dangerous, really. But it doesn’t look elegant, either. It does, however, show some parity with the passenger side:

Passenger side brake line

And aroouuuuund we go!


Looking straight down at the passenger side brake line:

Passenger side brake line (1)

Doesn’t look so bad… I think

Of course, changing the master cylinder from a single to a dual meant that the “pre-formed” brake lines were no longer the right fit.

Caaaaaaan't quite reeeeeaaaach...

Caaaaaaan’t quite reeeeeaaaach…

So I’ll have to get a new brake line re-formed for that last stretch to the flex hose attached to the frame. In the meantime, here are my questions:

1. Does the disc brake hoses look set up correctly? Is there a better way to do this, or more importantly, is this dangerous in any way?

2. The brake relay in the last picture is, well, just “attached” to the end of a brake line. Where is the best place for that to go?

Clutch and Brake Return Springs

I have a suspicion that my “perfect” powder-coating is about to get messed up. In the original deconstruction, the clutch return spring was jury-rigged to the outrigger:

Gettin' jury-riggy wit it

Gettin’ jury-riggy wit it

I can see that it is supposed to go to a piece connected to the outrigger, but when I had it replaced and re-welded onto the frame, I obviously neglected to add it onto the assembly:

Oh Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuudddge... (only I didn't say, "Fudge." I said THE word...)

Oh Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuudddge… (only I didn’t say, “Fudge.” I said THE word…)

At least, I think I haven’t screwed up the brake return spring. It seems to look roughly the same from when it came off….

Spring bone connects to the cross member...

Spring bone connects to the cross member…

I think I shouldn’t have a problem with this one, fortunately:

Shiny shiny

Shiny shiny

I have been having some problems with the pushrod of the brake arm, however.

Sitting pretty... as long as it doesn't move very much

Sitting pretty… as long as it doesn’t move very much

Thing is, it seems to fall out of the master cylinder plunger at the drop of a hat. I know there’s going to have to be some adjustment going on, but what is a generally good measurement for the push rod supposed to be?

They say size doesn't matter, but in some cases I think it does!

They say size doesn’t matter, but in some cases I think it does!

I’ve had to go back and forth with a couple of vendors for push rods (and push rods assemblies – I’ve already spent far more than I care to on this one part), and I can’t seem to get a standard or consistent guide as to what the proper length is supposed to be.



So, my questions are:

1) Is there any way to fix the clutch return spring and make it look nice without having to re-powder coat (yeah, not going to do that for this bit)

2) What’s the best way to know how the keep the push-rod stable for the brake arm?

In Sum…

It wasn’t the best weekends in terms of results. Far more questions than answers, and by and large we got blocked at every stage. I’m really looking forward to continuing to make progress on this, but I could use all the advice I can get.

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