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Which steering box brace? Bearing or not?


NAXJA Forum User
Ithaca, NY
1995 XJ 2-door with cheap 2.5 in lift and 30"s from a PO. Mostly a daily/work vehicle. New adjustable track bar and parts ended up with a good alignment and decent ride.

It's always had steering that was vague on center, but since I've been doing a bit more off-road I thought it was time to add a little insurance, stiffen up the steering and hopefully take out some of the slop.

Seems like there's two main designs out there. Both brace from frame rail to frame rail. The first just clamps in at the steering box to reinforce:


The other also adds a lower support bearing, would require some sway bar drop brackets and looks a bit more complicated an install:


I 100% believe the ironman is "better", but just wondering if I need it for a pretty mild daily.
It sounds like you should address the steering first before spending money on a brace. If you have known cracks in the frame then that changes things, but it's fairly unlikely. Do you already have a steel steering box spacer?
I had one on my last xj from boostwerks and it gave me peace of mind but I don’t think it really did anything. What did do stuff for feeling stiffer and stronger was frame stiffeners and the old stinkyfab steering spacer that included a plate to weld to the inside of the engine bay as well as tube spacers for the bolts so the frame couldn’t be squished when tightening the bolts. BUT! All of this was with kinda hard abuse wheeling. My current xj has 35s and sees a lot of really bad streets in Tijuana as well as some wheeling and all I have is frame stiffeners and 1 ton steering and it feels plenty strong and stiff. If yours is loose or doesn’t feel right on 30s then something isn’t right. Do the physical visual check of having someone turn the steering wheel with the car on the ground while you see if anything moves. Frame flex at the steering box, worn ball joints will cause movement and get overlooked a lot because they aren’t super obvious by just feeling around or looking without parts moving.
I have the Boostwerks Comp Mount, and it has made a difference for me.

It used to be that almost every trip through the rocks resulted in a slight shift in my steering. Since I put in the Comp Mount (over 5 years) I have had no shifts in my steering.

I will also not that prior to the Comp Mount I plated the front frame rails and added a good steering box spacer. Those things did not stablize the picture. The Comp Mount did.
For what you describe the Barnes is probably plenty strong. With that said, I have the Ironman 4x4 style and it is ROBUST. Keep in mind I now run 37s and previously 35s, but the pillow block support on the sector shaft makes a huge difference.

As other said, stiffeners help a ton, including an inner weld in stiffener/steering box spacer. I just did the under frame stiffeners from ruff stuff, and that along with a track bar bracket made My jeep feel way better.

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Last year at winterfest, I broke the steering box bolts and it wasn't a pretty recovery out of the woods. After looking at it closer, the frame was cracked and had a lot of flex on the driver side. I bought the barnes brace to transfer some of the force to the passenger side which worked great however it still had some flex to it. I ended up plating both sides and adding a front bumper which tied it all together very nice. I can't notice any flex in it now.
I have a Baddad bumper which incorporates a steering box brace and sector shaft bearing similar to the Iron Man setup. I really really like having both the sector shaft brace and box brace. It absolutely stiffened up my front end. I also have frame stiffeners and am on 35's.

For the use case you describe, I think the Barnes kit would be fine. However I don't think it will resolve sloppy steering unless you're fighting a broken steering box space or cracked frame.
I have Ironmans, Bad Dad Fabs , Kevin's Off Road, and Boostwerks Hidden winch comp mount (not installed). Kevin's is more of a mid street. I did not have the sector shaft on Ironmans. My frame was tweaked a bit. If your frame is cracked, these will not prevent Death Wobble. I do have frame stiffeners on my current XJ. Also, might look at a trackbar brace. Also, possibly check your steering shaft. I have a Borgeson's some where.