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Power Steering - It's Electric!

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pts211 View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 July 2020 at 6:10pm
I'm making a post seperate from my main build thread to highlight my steering plans. If you haven't came across my Qwaaazy8 build thread, you might check it out - I know some people enjoy it. 



Background

If you've been following along on my build thread you might have caught that one day I want to design and build a "Tesla Willys". That's still a few years out, but there are still a few things I plan to experiment with and prove out. The one I'll discuss here is electric power assisted steering, or EPAS for short. It just makes sense for an all electric Jeep to have electric power steering.

I hate waiting, and as I've researched ways to go about this I've gotten really excited at how easy it appears be in it's simplest form. I decided that I'll be proving out one method on my "mostly stock" CJ2A. 

First let me go over a few approaches to this.

Electric over hydraulic
This would be most similar to what people adapt today, the only difference would be the hydraulic pump would be electric instead of mechanically driven by the motor. 

Pros:
  • All the power of hydraulic
  • In theory could use a lot of components that have been proven out
  • Electric pump can be less draw on the motor under load (if a sufficient battery is present to help)
Cons:
  • Adds another fluid system
  • All the cons of the current power steering options, plus figuring out the electronics

Electric Rack and Pinion
Some modern vehicles use an electric rack and pinion like is pictured below.


Pros:
  • Closed system 
  • Can be less strain on the motor with sufficient battery than a mechanical hydraulic pump.
  • Might have a better mechanical advantage than other options.
Cons:
  • Expensive! I've not found this for cheap
  • Hard to adapt to CJ2A- From the looking I've done, I really don't see a clean way to adapt this to our Jeeps without getting in the way.
  • It'd get in the way - just expanding on my previous point, with how a flatty is set up in stock form I think this option would likely get hit by rocks and other obstacles.

Electric Power Assist Steering Column
An alternative is having the power assist in the steering column. To put it simply, this puts an electric motor in line with the steering shaft. It uses torque sensors to detect force being applied to the steering wheel and activate the motor and "assist" the driver to turn in the desired direction. This option would utilize the factory steering box and other components, the motor would just assist the driver with added steering force.



Pros:
  • Closed system
  • Uses existing steering components, only the steering column has to change
  • Affordable
  • Can be less strain on the motor with sufficient battery than a mechanical hydraulic pump.
Cons:
  • Uses stock steering
    • Since all of the force is going through stock steering components, who knows what might break.


From the above I'm choosing to go with an EPAS column, I was able to pick one up out of a Toyota with the u-jointed shaft, column, and the motor controller for under $150. The Toyota module I'm using will default to a "limp mode" amount of steering force since the Jeep won't have the rest of the Toyota's CAN bus that the module expects. By all accounts this will be optimized for around 45mph and is well balanced. Since I'll need it most at low speeds, I'm hoping it'll work fine for my case. Otherwise I might have to do some reverse engineering on the CAN bus.

Another concern is wear on steering components. Can a 2A handle the added force? Since I've seen multiple people pulling on Stan's steering wheel to turn under pressure, and his steering seems to hold up... I'm not too worried about that. If the motor manages to overpower the stock steering I'll be very happy. I'm mostly curious, will it supply enough power to make for a nice driving experience? As part of this I expect I might need to invest in a nice battery to supplement the alternator output when doing low speed steering. 

Another bit of good news is that even if the motor dies I'll just fall back to full manual steering. I plan to mount a switch to turn it on and off to compare how much it helps. And to let others experience  a before and after effect.


Fitment

This conversion has had me excited from day one because the only thing that has to be changed is the steering column itself. If this works as I have imagined a swap could be done less than a few hours. Not only that, but it should tuck up under the dash - I don't think many people will know that it's even there unless they are looking for it. Several weeks ago when designing our seating mods we held it in place and got a good idea for how it can look.







Making the Modifications
Last weekend we finally reached a point where we could think about the steering again and got to it. 

Step one: Cut the stock steering shaft.
This mod requires that we splice the power steering module in line with the steering column.





With that cut down we needed to adapt the u-joint connection from the EPAS unit. We got on the lathe to make it a press fit into the 2A steering column and welded it in.





Here you can see it coming together. At this point we've adapted the stock CJ2A steering column to the EPAS unit. It's not pictured but we also adapted the CJ2A steering wheel spline to the end of the column. This will allow us to mount the stock steering wheel if desired, but for now the plan is to use a 15" wheel with the same spline.

Another note the u-joint shaft might be avoidable, but is purposeful here for two reasons.
  1. Install-ability. The stock steering shaft is usually removed through the hole in the floor once the steering wheel is removed (in my experience). This isn't possible with the motor attached.
  2. Extra space. As you will notice in the fitment section we are moving the steering column to sit in the crevice instead of in the factory bracket. This helps us gain a little more belly room at the wheel - as well as help hide the motor under the dash.
 
This is where we are at so far. In the coming week we'll be mounting it all in, hooking up the electrical, and seeing how it works. Stick around, hopefully we'll be steering in circles with our pinkies very soon!
Paul S - son of Ricco
1947 CJ2A

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Siskiwit Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 July 2020 at 6:50pm
I am very interested in your project. Please let me and everybody else know the progress and issues involved.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chasendeer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 July 2020 at 6:58pm
Looks good!! Can we get part numbers?
Jay
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Daniel_Buck Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 July 2020 at 9:31pm
I'm quite curious about how well that column mounted electric motor works!.  I would love to have a little bit of extra steering power in my 33 Chevy, but I don't want to run a power steering rack or pump.  And I don't NEED power steering all that bad, but a little extra help would be nice.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Flatfender Ben Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 July 2020 at 11:22pm
Very cool idea!!
Looking forward to updates!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Oldpappy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 10:06am
This is a very interesting and creative innovation. 

Many have used electric vacuum pumps on hot rods to have power brakes when there is not enough room for a regular brake booster, but I have never even thought about electric power steering. I guess I am behind the curve on modern automotive designs.

Bravo!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote OnlyOneDR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 12:59pm
This is great.  At one point kits were made making it possible to do this same "column assist" with hydraulic power as well (called a steering servo).  A torsion bar is mounted inside a valved box that interposes the steering column to add power assist to a manual system.  Same principle as how a modern recirculating ball power steering box valving works without the worm and sector shaft.


I am sure curious to see how the "limp" mode works out.  I know when the engine is not running in my 2014 Chevy 1500 then vehicle provides no power to the electric rack and it is a bear to steer.  This would be better because you still have the same steering ratio that the box gives you.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pts211 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 3:59pm
Originally posted by chasendeer chasendeer wrote:

Looks good!! Can we get part numbers?
Jay

Jay I don't have specific part numbers. But I picked up a steering column, u-joint shaft, and the steering control module from a 2012 Toyota Prius for this conversion. I know there are several model years that should do the trick, either from about 2007-2010 or from about 2012-2014 if I recall. Many are the same, there are also few other manufactures who have very similar mechanisms that should work, I just went with what I could find the most information about.
Paul S - son of Ricco
1947 CJ2A

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pts211 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 4:00pm
Originally posted by OnlyOneDR OnlyOneDR wrote:

This is great.  At one point kits were made making it possible to do this same "column assist" with hydraulic power as well (called a steering servo).  A torsion bar is mounted inside a valved box that interposes the steering column to add power assist to a manual system.  Same principle as how a modern recirculating ball power steering box valving works without the worm and sector shaft.


I am sure curious to see how the "limp" mode works out.  I know when the engine is not running in my 2014 Chevy 1500 then vehicle provides no power to the electric rack and it is a bear to steer.  This would be better because you still have the same steering ratio that the box gives you.

Thanks for that info, that seems to be a very similar concept indeed - just with hydraulic. I didn't realize that was a thing!
Paul S - son of Ricco
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Oldpappy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 4:02pm
Did you pin the welded joints ?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pts211 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 4:18pm
Originally posted by Oldpappy Oldpappy wrote:

Did you pin the welded joints ?

We turned each end so they would be a nice press fit to establish parallel, then did a full welded bead around the joint.
Paul S - son of Ricco
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Metcalf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 4:47pm
Neat stuff!

It will be interesting to see how the increased force wears the pin in the Ross box over time compared to stock. That would be my only real worry....and maybe throw an extra bellcrank pin in the parts bag!


42 MB that had a one night stand with a much younger 69 CJ5 and a 50s GM truck.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rocnroll Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 5:06pm
My concerns would be along the same lines as Metcalf raised.

Additional force applied to pieces not designed for that force.

Interesting option I guess but I'll stick with a Saginaw......good luck with it and kudos for trying something different. Hope it works out well for you.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pts211 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 July 2020 at 5:37pm
Originally posted by rocnroll rocnroll wrote:

My concerns would be along the same lines as Metcalf raised.

Additional force applied to pieces not designed for that force.

Interesting option I guess but I'll stick with a Saginaw......good luck with it and kudos for trying something different. Hope it works out well for you.


That was an initial concern when I started thinking it through. 

But, then I thought of it this way. Imagine how much force a full grown man is able to put on the steering box with the ~9" lever (the stock steering wheel radius) that it comes with. Although this is a beefy motor, I don't think (in this configuration) that it is even technically capable of applying more force than a human driver can in our Jeeps. So for now, I don't consider this as a device that is applying force in places they weren't designed for, instead it just reduces where the force comes from. ex. 50% human, 50% electric. 

That said, in day to day operation I don't expect any additional wear. However, in the extreme cases I imagine it could help incur damage. I'm certainly looking forward to exploring the effects!
Paul S - son of Ricco
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ol' Unreliable Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Aug. 2020 at 5:31pm
That's weird.  Electric power steering?  Just last week I replaced the water pump in my '04 Grand Cherokee and discovered that the radiator fan is hydraulic powered.  Is everything backward lately??  Wacko  Big smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rocnroll Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Aug. 2020 at 10:41pm
So in an 'unpowered' state does the column feel just like it would in original condition?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pts211 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Aug. 2020 at 10:06am
Originally posted by rocnroll rocnroll wrote:

So in an 'unpowered' state does the column feel just like it would in original condition?


Yep, it should feel just like stock. I plan to put a separate power switch to it so I can do testing with it on versus off to compare.
Paul S - son of Ricco
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Metcalf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Aug. 2020 at 1:31pm
Don't get me wrong, I love the concept.

I do think that there will be 'more' input force now from the steering assist. I don't think there is anything from the driver giving 100% and the assist giving more? There might also be less 'kick-back' force also which could be nice. I have seen increased and accelerated wear on the pins in Ross boxes when used with front lockers and people cranking on the wheel harder.

I can't wait to hear the report after a year or two of use.
Rebuilding the box more often isn't the end of the world either.




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