Off Road Consulting has been a fan of and using Off Road Only products for a while. We recently attended an event and had the opportunity to meet the folks at Off Road Only or ORO. Off Road Only was created to fulfill the unmet needs and safety issues that are encountered by off road enthusiasts. After discussing with ORO about the steering issues we have had with our 2006 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon (LJ) Steering they recommended we try their ORO U-Turn Steering.
We had been searching for a steering set up for our lightly modified LJ that could keep up with the business of Off Road Consulting. Our LJ is lifted with 35″ BFG A/T KO2s and a stock drive train. Where we differ from many off road enthusiasts is how much we expose the Jeep and all its components to the trails. The business of training companies and enthusiasts 4-5 days a week for 6 plus hours at a time puts a lot of strain on components and weak points are magnified. With a larger 35 inch tire, combined with the typical off road terrain, the forces it takes to move that additional weight punishes the factory steering setup. So much so that it wasn’t uncommon to replace tie rod ends monthly.
The factory steering quickly revealed to us how it was not up to the tasks that I had asked of it. This began our search for a steering set up that could meet our needs.
Originally that meant we wanted a big, beefy, set up but within a reasonable budget. All parts wear out eventually and I didn’t want a huge repair bill every time we needed a replacement.
Over the years I have learned that if something breaks or wears out, you can be without your vehicle several days waiting on parts to arrive at your doorstep. When you rely on your vehicle as much as we do we can’t be down for an extended period of time.
Looking into steering one feature I looked for is having tie rod ends that are easily purchased from a regular auto parts store. Why is this important? When you are in need of your vehicle, whether work related or have a planned off road driving excursion, the last thing you want to do is wait for parts to arrive in the mail. This also helps when away from home, you can still hit the local parts store up for what you need. If they are a regular SKU at your local auto parts store, you can get yourself back up and on the trails in a more timely fashion instead of waiting on the mail or paying for overnight rates.
The first upgraded steering kit I purchased was a ream the knuckle one ton style. This kit was tough and well built however for some reason it went through tie rod ends. Compared to the factory setup it was an improvement but was not very tight when driving at speed and it felt like we always had to counter steer to stay between the lines while on the road. Another noticeable issue was feeling the steering flop or steering dead spots when the steering goes from right to left.
Check out the video clip to see what I mean. On the right is the old setup that flops around and on the left the new stable U-Turn.
Because of these short falls I continued my search for steering that fit my needs…..Then I was shown the Off Road Only U-Turn Steering. It had the features I wanted, heavy tie rod, auto parts store tie rod ends, and a system that claimed to provide additional strength and improve responsiveness.
The U-Turn™ features a Solid 1.25″ heat treated chromoly steel drag link, includes Moog Problem Solver tie rod ends for the drag link and tie rod which allow for a wide range of alignment, easily adjust toe-in by spinning tie rod, black E-coated to prevent rust and a simple bolt-on installation for TJ Dana 30/44 front axles with or without ABS.
Needless to say I could not wait to bolt this on! This is a 100% bolt-on kit was relatively easy to install and it can be easily removed to return the vehicle back to stock if needed.
From the old steering that my jeep had, the knuckles and pitman arm were reamed out which needed to be addressed. I put a new pitman arm on and used a larger bolt than supplied in the kit to use on the knuckles. The kit has you bolt a bracket to the knuckle and the tie rod and drag link attach to that. Getting rid of the TJ/LJ Y Link and separating the drag link and tie rod. This is similar to the more modern JK steering setup. Now I am not the best with steering geometry but this seemed to be completely different compared to what every other company runs. How will this setup work? I was anxious to test it out.
After getting everything bolted it was time for test drive number one – on the road. Remember the counter steering I had to do with the old system? Not anymore. The jeep handled like it was stock and if I had to I could drive with one hand on the wheel. From having to focus and brace for any bumps on the road, to being able to drive and not having to worry about the road conditions was a huge improvement. No more steering dead spot or floppy feeling. It completely eliminated an issue that is common with a lifted jeep. This was all fine and good but the real question was how would it work on the trails? Time for test drive number two!
To the trails we went and while our LJ is lifted with 35s it rode and responded like a stock vehicle again. The tie rod proved how tough it is tackling various off road terrain including those pesky stumps that like to bend tie rods. Not with the ORO steering as it bounced right back into place with no damage. Off Road Only claims that the U-Turn provides additional strength and improves responsiveness. It goes above and beyond this claim, and with a vehicle that has more trail time than road time, we need all the strength we can get.
What about those tie rod ends that kept wearing out? With the Moog components of the U-Turn providing a more durable and extended life but yet if a part wears out, I can simply visit my local auto parts store for a quick fix.
How about maintenance? With other steering setups we have had, because there was so much movement with the components it forced the grease out prematurely which in return left us greasing weekly with up to 3 pumps of grease. What can you expect with the ORO U-Turn? The greaseable socket design allows new lubricant to flush contaminants from the assembly, reducing corrosion and wear. The Moog ends have tighter tolerances and better grease flow. We went from weekly steering maintenance to once a month and only using about half a pump of grease. Less replacement parts, and less maintenance costs.
The ORO U-Turn steering has been a huge upgrade to the Off Road Consulting training vehicle. After seeing just what this steering set up is capable of doing, we would recommend this product to everyone. To the lifted daily driver that off roads a handful of times throughout the year to those who see the trails 4-5 days a week as we do at Off Road Consulting. The on and off road performance of the ORO U-Turn Steering stands above the other steering systems we have used in the past and has met Off Road Consulting’s steering needs. Off Road Only did just what they said and fulfilled our unmet needs and provided the U-Turn , bringing Off Road Consulting’s steering search needs to an end.