Unique components for pre-1960s Willys and Jeep® enthusiasts

TightSteer: Frequently Asked Questions

Wondering if TightSteer is right for your vehicle? Browse our Frequently Asked Questions section for the information you need.

How long does it take to install and adjust TightSteer?

Provided that you do not experience difficulty removing the original Ross set-screw, it should take less than two (2) minutes to remove the set-screw and install TightSteer. Adjustment is simple.

Do I have to make modifications to my Ross steering box or to my vehicle to install TightSteer?

No. TightSteer replaces the set screw and lock nut that is currently in your Ross steering box. The only situation you might encounter is if some previous owner routed exhaust pipes or fuel lines in front of your steering box, making access to the adjusting nut difficult or impossible. However, in most situations, no adjustment or modification to the vehicle is necessary.

Since the TightSteer unit is forcing metal-to-metal contact, will the worm gear and sector shaft wear out quickly?

The metal-to-metal contact in your steering box is similar to what happens in your engine where you have a metal camshaft in constant contact with the metal tappets. As long as the parts are well lubricated and are turning against each other — rather than hitting each other as they might in a loosely fitted steering box — the potential of wear is very low. The key to reducing wear is to have the steering box lubricated properly. The box should be filled with 80W-140 oil — not grease.

Will TightSteer work in a Saginaw steering box?

No, the Saginaw steering box uses a different type of adjustment system.

Can I get the same results from just rebuilding the steering box properly and not using a TightSteer?

You should absolutely rebuild your steering box if you have worn components such as worn sector shaft, worn sector shaft bushings, loose bearings at either end of the steering box’s cam (worm), and so on. However, even with a brand new (early style) Ross steering box, there are design issues that make it impossible to have a perfect fit of the sector shaft’s pins into the cam through the entire travel or rotation of the sector shaft. Tightsteer’s spring-loaded plunger moves the sector shaft in and out to compensate for anomalies or wear points in the cam, and it forces the sector shaft’s pins to constantly mesh with the cam in all positions of the steering wheel.

Why do you sell different springs?

TightSteer comes with a spring that provides just the right amount of pressure to force the sector shaft sideways to keep the sector shaft’s pins engaged in the cam (worm). The standard spring (“normal-return” blue spring) supplied with each TightSteer provides for a normal response of the steering wheel: After you make a turn, the steering wheel tends to return to the normal, straight-ahead position with little effort.

We also offer a spring with heavier tension (“medium-return” red spring) that delivers more pressure and gives a more truck-like feel with moderate wheel return. This would be ideal for folks who typically ride on unpaved or gravel-covered roads.

Then we have a heavier spring (“truck-return” bronze spring) that provides a tight feel with no wheel return (you need to turn the wheel back to center after a turn). This spring is ideal for Jeep enthusiasts who are engaged in serious off-road and rock-climbing driving (such as might be required on the Rubicon) to help keep the wheel in the set position.

It should be noted that the heavy-tension “bronze” spring could be prone to a bit more wear of the steering-box parts. To eliminate potential wear and improve drive-ability, this spring should be changed for our “normal-return” (standard) spring or “medium-return” spring when the vehicle is not being used for off-road driving.

Can the spring-loaded plunger in Tight-Steer wear down over time?

The plunger’s pin is specially hardened steel that has been heat-treated to a similar hardness as the sector shaft. With proper lubrication, it is doubtful that the pin would wear down.

What would be better: My vehicle’s Ross steering box with a TightSteer unit installed, or replacing the whole thing with a Saginaw steering box?

This is a bit of a tricky question to answer. If you want to keep the original design and integrity of your vehicle, then you should stick with your Ross steering box and ensure that it is maintained and working properly. As to comparing it to the Saginaw steering boxes, there are several types of Saginaw systems, so a broad-brush comparison is difficult.

Comparing the Saginaw threaded rack-and-pinion mechanism to the Ross cam (worm) and two-pin sector shaft mechanism, the Saginaw does have a smoother feel. As to which one is more positive, we feel that a Ross box with TightSteer can be as good a steering box as a Saginaw, and perhaps better.

(However, this discussion should also include where and how the steering linkage is attached, the steering system design, and how it affects the rest of the steering components — all of which falls outside of the scope of this FAQ section.)

What happens if the spring or the pin fails in the TightSteer unit? Will I lose my steering control?

When the TightSteer module is in place, and is adjusted according to the instructions, the threaded portion of the TightSteer body (the part that is around the spring-loaded pin) is backed off from the sector shaft about .040˝. So, if the spring were to break, the sector shaft could only back out as far as the TightSteer’s housing, and the steering would react similar to a standard Ross box with a loosely set adjusting screw.

I thought worm gears were supposed to be very positive. Why is the worm gear in the Ross steering box so loose?

Worm gears are very positive and are an excellent means for transferring energy from one axis to another. The worm and teeth efficiently transfer energy.

In a normal worm and round gear set up, you have a worm gear (similar to what is in the twin-lever Ross steering boxes) with a round gear turning against it. The round gear keeps introducing new teeth into the worm gear at a similar angle and contact (“path of action”) to the worm.

More important, the teeth of the round gear are cut in a design known as “involute,” where the path of action and meshing of gears is continuous. In a twin-lever Ross steering box, the pins of the sector shaft rotate in an arc through the linear motion of the worm gear. Unless the teeth of the cam has proportional spacing, as the pins near the end of the cam, they are met with interference while at the same time, they move further out of contact with the cylindrical worm gear.Ross steering box cross-section.

The sum of these issues leads to a system that while somewhat positive is also not capable of being properly controlled with just one setting of the adjustment screw. This is where the TightSteer unit makes a real difference.

If the Ross steering box is properly lubricated, why do the parts wear?

Lubrication will limit the normal “wearing” of the parts, but it can’t reduce the small surface dents that are caused by the constant hammering or peening of two surfaces against each other which, in turn, causes low spots (different from worn spots).

Since the standard Ross set screw doesn’t eliminate free play, tiny dents can occur in those areas of the sector shaft’s pins or along the faces of the worm gear which, in turn, causes free play to occur. Galling also occurs from un-lubricated boxes that sit for a long period. The resultant free play enables constant hammering which further promotes low spots.

The spring-loaded mechanism of TightSteer greatly reduces or eliminates hammering by keeping the lubricated parts in constant contact with each other.

If a steering box has tapered pins in a tapered slot like those on the worm gear, how come they don’t just jump out? Is TightSteer strong enough to hold them in place?

If the tapered pins and the slot they are in are cut at 45° or less, then yes, there would be a tendency for the pins to jump out, and very little could be done to hold them in place, especially if a load were placed on them. As the angle of the pins approaches 90° (basically, the pins would be straight-sided) then the moment of force would be totally sideways, and the tendency for the pins to jump out of the groove reduced to zero.

But straight pins are not as strong as tapered ones. The Ross engineers knew this, and they designed the pins in the sector shaft to be at 30° (15° off of the vertical 90° axis). This was sufficient to keep the pins from wanting to easily pop out of the worm gear. It doesn’t take a great deal of energy to keep the sector shaft in place with the pins at this 30° angle, and the springs in TightSteer have the necessary force. The Ross engineers designed the gear system to be durable.

Most important, TightSteer is designed so that the threaded shaft that surrounds the spring-loaded pin prevents the sector shaft from backing out to the point where the pins can come free of the worm.

Can TightSteer get rid of the infamous “Death Wobble?”

With all the good news about Jeeps, one thing that haunts its very functional design is the so called “death wobble.” Death wobble is a hazardous situation that occurs when one or more parts of the steering system begins to vibrate uncontrollably. It can start with wheels being out of balance, or loose tie-rod ends, or a loose bell crank pin or bearings, and so on.

According to the speed the vehicle is traveling, once the vibration occurs, it can be promoted or restored (called a “restoring force”) by other factors in the vehicle, making the wobble more intense. The looser or less properly fitted the parts are, the more intense the death wobble can be. And, if the speed is high enough and the wobble not controlled early enough, the constant racking of the steering system during the death wobble can cause a part to fail (which could be disastrous).

TightSteer can reduce the free play in the steering box, but it cannot correct for loose tie-rod ends, bad wheel bearings, unbalanced tires, poorly adjusted steering rod ends ends, worn kingpins, and so on.

My Ross steering box has a zerk fitting on it for grease. Is there any particular grade of grease that you recommend?

The fill port on your steering box is a 1/8˝ NPT pipe thread. While it will accommodate a zerk fitting, a previous owner who put it there did so in error. Replace it with a 1/8˝ NPT brass pipe plug. Grease should absolutely not be used in the early Ross steering boxes. Grease will not flow around the upper and lower bearings and to the sector shaft’s bushings. Use 80W-140 oil only. If your steering box has grease in it, clean out the grease and replace it with 80W-140 oil (whether you decide to use TightSteer or not). The oil reservoir in the Ross steering box should be filled up to the base of the fill port.

Where is TightSteer made?

We are proud to say that the TightSteer module and hardened pin (plunger) are made in the U.S.A. where they are machined to very close tolerances. The springs, cap screw, and lock nut are also made in the U.S.A.

Will TightSteer affect or improve my turning radius?

No. On most early vehicles, the turning radius is controlled by the lock-to-lock stops on the front axle. TightSteer will have no affect on these limit points.

The Willys parts book calls the screw part of the steering system a “cam.” Isn’t it a worm drive?

Willys calls it a cam because it is moving a lever (actually, two levers or pins in the case of a Ross steering box). So, the screw-like gear is acting more like a cam than a gear. If the same screw-type mechanism was turning a round gear, the screw-type part would be referred to as a “worm” and the round gear as a “worm gear.”

What vehicles will TightSteer fit?

We have three versions of TightSteer to accommodate different-size steering boxes:

Part #100 has 7/16˝-20 threads and will fit: MB, GPW, CJ-2A, CJ-3A, CJ-3B, CJ-5 (to 1967), CJ-6, DJ-3, M-38, Jeepster, ’46-’53 Willys station wagon 2WD, ’46-’53 Willys truck, American Bantam 39-40), Auburn ‘35-’36, Crosley ‘39-’42, Pierce Arrow ‘35-’38, Reo ‘35-’36, Studebaker ‘39-’42, Willys Aero ‘41-’42, Willys ‘60-’62 FJ3A, and other vehicles in which the small Ross steering box was used.

Part #200 has 1/2˝-20 threads. It will fit: CJ5 (after 1967), M38A1, ’54-’63 Willys truck, ’54-’63 Willys station wagon 4WD, ’54-’63 Willys sedan delivery 4WD, and other vehicles in which the larger Ross steering box was used.

Part 200-X (extended) features a 1/2″-20 threaded shaft with 1/2˝ extension and standard spring. Model 200-X fits the steering boxes on ’39 -’40 Studebaker, President V8, ’50-’54 Studebaker Commander, ’62 Studebaker GT Hawk, ’64 Studebaker Avanti, and other vehicles in which the larger Ross steering box was used.

(We will add to these lists as we learn of other vehicles and tractors that accommodate TightSteer. We would appreciate hearing from you if you learn of other vehicles and applications not listed here.)

Can TightSteer reduce the freeplay in other parts of my steering system?

TightSteer cannot compensate for worn wheel bearings, worn kingpins or kingpin bearings, worn Pitman arms or Pitman arm bearings, improperly set camber, improperly set caster, improperly set toe-in, or worn tie-rod ends. Ensure that these components and settings are correct before installing TightSteer.

Does a warranty come with TightSteer?

Yes. We will replace the TightSteer unit for any manufacturing defects and/or failure of parts to the original owner for one year from date of purchase. Proof of purchase document is required for replacement. Damaged, broken, or worn parts, or stripped threads due to faulty use or improper installation, are not covered. No other warranty is suggested or implied.

Where can I purchase TightSteer?

TightSteer can be purchased directly from us, from Walck’s 4 Wheel  (610-852-3110), or from Kaiser Willys  (888-648-4923).

PO Box 2992 • Atascadero, CA 93423 USA (805) 801-8750