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Old 08-05-2012, 06:35 PM   #1
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Black Magic Brakes power steering cooler installation and review

I was reminded again last weekend just how stiff my steering gets while wheeling on difficult terrain when my tires aired down. It's caused by an overheating power steering system. I could barely turn my steering wheel after a short but difficult section of trail and decided to install a power steering cooler to cure the problem once and for all.

Whenever you’re wheeling on rocks or difficult terrain, the added load on the power steering system can be significant when you have any or all of the following… large tires, aired down tires, a warm day, a tight twisty trail, and/or a front locker. Those can place enough load on the steering system that it heats up and loses much or all of its effectiveness. Even hot enough to boil over. My steering system hadn’t boiled over yet but it was hot enough that I could barely turn my steering wheel. It was so bad that I stopped to check my power steering system to make sure it hadn’t blown a hose or boiled the fluid out. Everything was fine, it was just too hot to be of much help steering.

Rather than re-invent the wheel on putting together a power steering system on my own, I went with a subset of parts from a kit made by Black Magic Brakes. You can see the entire kit at TJ Nearly Bolt-in Hydro Assist for Currie Steering which is what a full-on ram-assist system requires.



The entire kit should be considered the first-step towards “good steering” which is ram-assist. Since many here are interested in ram-assist, this will show the cooling step of that process. Mine is not ram-assist yet so my installation did not require all of those parts.

The below show the parts used for my stock power steering system, which requires fewer and slightly different fittings than would be needed for ram-assist. The required two quarts of fluid shown are not included. For 2003 and newer TJs, your power steering system requires ATF+4. For 2002 and older, they require a good quality synthetic Power Steering Fluid. Most ram-assist power steering systems will require a synthetic Power Steering fluid.

The cooler is placed in the low-pressure side of the power steering system. The power steering fluid passes from the low-pressure output side of the power steering box and back into the top of the PS fluid reservoir at the rear of the power steering pump.



The above pic shows the subset of parts my stock PS steering required. The special bracket included that makes attaching the cooler to the V-shaped braces easier than other approaches. To use an engineering term, the cooler’s attachment method takes advantage of a very elegant design.





The above grooves machined into the cooling fins are part of Black Magic’s very elegant design. Some aftermarket coolers may look similar but they don’t have those V-brace grooves machined in which makes it fit securely into, instead of on top of, the V-brace used to hold the radiator in place.

The first task is to remove the headlight bucket, three small nuts on the rear hold it in place. Removing the bucket instead of just the headlight makes for an easier/faster job.



Next remove the bolts that hold the top of the brace and the top four bolts that hold the radiator to the grill. The job will go faster if you remove the fan shroud first. Then loosen the bottom two radiator mounting bolts. This allows the radiator and condenser to be pushed back enough to give enough room to insert the cooler through the headlight opening.



Position the mounting bracket in and position it over the V-shaped bracket rods.





Apply Teflon tape only to the fittings that screw into the cooler itself. These fitting need to be tightened very firmly, holding the cooler in a vise while you do the final tightening will help. Not crazy tight but no worries about the aluminum cooler’s threads either, they are very strong.

Push back on the top of the condenser and radiator to create more room and insert the cooler. Be careful not to damage the cooling fins as you insert it.





The cooler mount goes on the V-bar first and then the plate goes on the front face of the mount and slips under the bar so the mount can't come forward. Or put another way, it will stay in place without the stud plate. Place the cooler in place so its bolt holes are over the screws that are part of the bracket, then finger tighten the stainless steel nyloc nuts over the screws.

Use a nut driver to tighten the four nuts, not a ratchet driver. The use of a ratchet driver could create enough torque to snap a bolt off from where it is spot welded to the bracket.



Next unbolt and, if possible, swing your bumper out of the way for access to the fittings on top of the power steering box. With many bumpers, you can just unbolt it and swing it out towards the passenger side. My Savvy Offroad bumper worked well for this. Leave one bolt inserted in the passenger side so you don’t accidentally pull the bumper off if you have a winch or driving lights mounted onto it.



The lower end of the low-pressure hose is removed and drained into a bucket. The low pressure side is on the passenger-side of the steering box. This only drains the hose and reservoir, not the steering box itself.

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Old 08-05-2012, 06:36 PM   #2
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The upper end of the low-pressure hose is connected to the plastic port on the rear of the steering reservoir. Cut the steel clamp and remove it. Then VERY carefully work the hose off. Be careful here, that plastic port can be brittle and snap off if you are careless. If it doesn’t come off easily as mine did, carefully cut it off with a razor blade or very sharp knife. The above photo shows the new hose in place and secured with a stainless steel hose clamp.



The hoses are pushed onto their fittings after lubricating the inside-end of the hose with a dab of the appropriate power steering fluid. Not a lot force is required to push them into place but even so, they can withstand 400 psi of pressure or their hose rating, which ever is lower. Either way, it can withstand way more pressure than the low-pressure side of the PS system has in it. Do not add hose clamps to any of these fittings, they can only make them more prone to leakage. The only hose clamp needed is at the upper end of the cooler’s output hose where attaches to the PS pump reservoir as shown above.



This is the new hose that goes between the steering box and cooler.



Hoses are attached to the cooler at this point. Again, do not use Teflon tape on these fittings. The only fittings that need Teflon tape are those that thread into the cooler as described above. Give the fittings one final tightening and you’re done.



Fill the power steering reservoir with fluid and then start the engine for 2-3 seconds and then immediately shut the engine off again. Add more fluid to bring it back up to level, then run the engine a few more seconds and then shut the engine off and top the fluid level off again. Running the engine more than a few seconds at a time before getting the system refilled with fluid can damage the PS pump. It should take just over a quart to refill the system.



All done and leak-free, it’s a big relief now to finally have a cooler for the power steering system. For those Jeeps that do moderate to difficult trails, I consider this a must-do upgrade.

The special mounting bracket makes what can be a difficult mounting task easy. I previously installed the same type of cooler in my previous TJ for my transmission but this time, the job went much faster and easier due to the special mounting bracket kit and V-bar grooves machined into the cooler’s fins.

In closing, the quality and design (!) of the kit is outstanding. The cooler itself is made from high-quality aluminum which is a highly efficient conductor of heat, and all the mounting hardware is a mix of aluminum and stainless steel. The included hose fittings are pre-angled where needed to make the installation easy.

Click on TJ Nearly Bolt-in Hydro Assist for Currie Steering for more information.

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Old 08-05-2012, 06:43 PM   #3
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Man I am gonna have so much Savvy stuff. That is a sweet cooler
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Old 08-17-2012, 08:09 AM   #4
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Have you had a chance to go wheeling with the cooler and how big a difference does it make?
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:38 AM   #5
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WOW! $395.00 for an oil cooler. Thanks but no thanks.
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Old 08-17-2012, 09:39 AM   #6
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Great write up and pics Jerry. Got me thinking ........I had 2 Jeeps, plus an FJ40, and a 4x4 pickup without power steering.......and no, I don't want to go back
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Old 08-17-2012, 11:05 AM   #7
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WOW! $395.00 for an oil cooler. Thanks but no thanks.
if you had read the entire review, you would have quickly discovered that is not what I installed. That kit is only installed when you are also installing ram assist. I don't have ram assist so my installation was based on a subset of the parts in that kit that are readily available separately.
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Old 08-17-2012, 12:49 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford
if you had read the entire review, you would have quickly discovered that is not what I installed. That kit is only installed when you are also installing ram assist. I don't have ram assist so my installation was based on a subset of the parts in that kit that are readily available separately.
What's the price for what you did install? Around 150?
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Old 08-17-2012, 01:06 PM   #9
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WOW! $395.00 for an oil cooler. Thanks but no thanks.
No, as Jerry said, that's not the price for an oil cooler. That price includes -8 90's with adapters and a modified cooler to fit around the V-bar and a stainless steel mount for it.

It also includes the bracket kit I developed to almost bolt in a specially modified steering assist cylinder and the two custom fittings I make so you can do it all without a body lift.

To give a small idea on the fittings, there are two of them and both require weld on steel threaded AN fittings which are about about 7 bucks each. Then I have to get the fittings that go into the steering gear so they can be modified. One is from Edelmann and it's about 10 bucks and the other is a SOB to get so much so that I was buying complete steering lines an cutting the fitting off of one end and that was 20 bucks.

That puts the cost at 44 bucks and I haven't silver brazed them into something useable yet and silver solder ain't cheap nowadays.

I don't know if you've priced Fragola -8 90's lately, but they don't give those away either.

This is average I think- Fragola Performance Systems 209008-BL : Fragola Series 8000 Push-Lite 90° Race Hose End - Black -08 AN and there are two of them.

Just the 4 fittings to get in and out of the cooler and steering gear are right at a 100 bucks when you get the -8 x 3/8" NPT adapters in there.

If I could do it cheaper, I would.
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Old 08-17-2012, 02:07 PM   #10
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Question....Wouldn't it be better to use a fin style transmission cooler to allow air to pass through it? It does seem that bracket and chunk of aluminum will block a bunch of fresh air from reaching the radiator. Add an integrated solenoid winch in front, put a transmission cooler below that, and it would seem a good portion of air flow is disrupted to the condenser/radiator? Is that a concern?
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Old 08-17-2012, 02:40 PM   #11
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Question....Wouldn't it be better to use a fin style transmission cooler to allow air to pass through it? It does seem that bracket and chunk of aluminum will block a bunch of fresh air from reaching the radiator. Add an integrated solenoid winch in front, put a transmission cooler below that, and it would seem a good portion of air flow is disrupted to the condenser/radiator? Is that a concern?
We have about 25 of these in our local area. We have no issues so far. Many of us have been running the heat sink style coolers for many years with no issue.
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Old 08-17-2012, 03:10 PM   #12
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Count me as one who has run this exact same cooler in the same location (but as a transmission cooler) for years in my previous TJ without problem even though I also had (and still have) an integrated solenoid winch. The OE radiator is not at the ragged edge of having sufficient cooling capacity so even when combined, those two items don't cause overheating issues.

Not to mention a stacked plate cooler is fine for a transmission and engine but it's not a good choice for a lower fluid capacity power steering system that can occasionally have very high fluid velocities when the power steering system is worked hard. Though the cooler is installed into the lower pressure return line, occasionally higher pressures and velocities seen there require a minimum number of direction changes which is why a straight-line cooler is desireable in this particular system. The problem is turbulance, which is what happens when a stacked plate cooler is used for power steering. Too many angles and fluid flow direction changes with a stacked plate design for smooth PS fluid flow without turbulance.

Even Currie limits the cooler style they recommend and sell to this straight line style of cooler. Derale also recommended and sent me this exact same cooler when I ordered one suitable for my power steering system last year before I learned Savvy had come up with a version of it that made for an easier and faster installation. I traded the one I received from Derale for Blaine's modified version just before installing it. Blaine agreed because it was identical to what he modfies for his kit.
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Old 08-17-2012, 03:14 PM   #13
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Blaine,

Will you be adding an option to buy just the necessities to add the PS cooler to the BMB site? I want to get the entire assist setup after we get married and move to our new house, but in the meantime I could use a PS cooler.
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Old 08-17-2012, 04:30 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
if you had read the entire review, you would have quickly discovered that is not what I installed. That kit is only installed when you are also installing ram assist. I don't have ram assist so my installation was based on a subset of the parts in that kit that are readily available separately.
Can you list what you bought? I like the other posters thought you were using the $400 kit. I read the entire review again and cannot find a parts list. We all appreciate a thorough how-to, but it really would be nice to know what is needed and what it cost as well.
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Old 08-17-2012, 04:43 PM   #15
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I showed a pic of the exact subset of parts I used, I can't give an exact list of parts or price for those parts because I did some parts trading with Blaine. Email Blaine via his website at BlackMagicBrakes.com to get it right from him. He is working to put together a kit of the subset of parts I used so he may not be able to price it for you immediately.
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Old 08-17-2012, 05:12 PM   #16
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Blaine,

Will you be adding an option to buy just the necessities to add the PS cooler to the BMB site? I want to get the entire assist setup after we get married and move to our new house, but in the meantime I could use a PS cooler.
We are working on it. The problem is I don't like selling stuff to folks that they don't need or won't use later. In this case, one side going into the cooler out of the steering gear will be -8 and works well as it is. The outlet to the reservoir due to the nipple on the plastic reservoir needs to be -6 or 3/8" line.

So, do I build a kit that is -6 and -8 that makes you buy additional fittings when you install the steering system?

Do I build a -8 -8 kit that includes the temporary -6 stuff?

Or, do I build a kit that is -6 -6 and you just cut up your stock return line out of the steering gear?

If you get the kit for the steering like it is on the website, it includes all the -8 fittings and adapters.

The reality of it is, I'm not really in the cooler business and don't really care if I am. Lots of places sell coolers that you can buy and mount quite easily in the same spot with a pair of hose clamps around the V-bar and a bit of grooving on the fins with a file.

I only include the cooler because of the mount and the somewhat unique way I found to groove the fins to make it mount easily and very securely. But, not any easier or more secure than the hose clamps which is how I used to do them quite often.

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Old 08-17-2012, 07:35 PM   #17
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Nice write up as always. It is seeming that I keep adding Savvy parts to the Jeep since they are such a great company. I just put another order in this week.
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Old 08-17-2012, 08:08 PM   #18
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We have about 25 of these in our local area. We have no issues so far. Many of us have been running the heat sink style coolers for many years with no issue.
Interesting.....see, I would think something like this:
Derale 13210 Derale Power Steering Coolers
...would be more efficient & practical, could be mounted more out of the way and wouldn't block so much radiator....

would you sell a fittings only kit?...basically just the PS fittings one would need to plumb in their own cooler?
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Old 08-17-2012, 08:33 PM   #19
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I hate to be repetitive but I'm thinking of doing this mod. How much of a difference have you noticed while wheeling?
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Old 08-17-2012, 10:46 PM   #20
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Interesting.....see, I would think something like this:
Derale 13210 Derale Power Steering Coolers
...would be more efficient & practical, could be mounted more out of the way and wouldn't block so much radiator....

would you sell a fittings only kit?...basically just the PS fittings one would need to plumb in their own cooler?
I already stated I'm not in the cooler business and not really in the fitting business. I made a kit as a means to an end and it's been proven to work and work well for what we do.

If that doesn't suit your needs, there are lots of styles of coolers and lots of places to get them so no, I very likely won't be selling just a fittings only kit.
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Old 08-20-2012, 07:57 AM   #21
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We are working on it. The problem is I don't like selling stuff to folks that they don't need or won't use later. In this case, one side going into the cooler out of the steering gear will be -8 and works well as it is. The outlet to the reservoir due to the nipple on the plastic reservoir needs to be -6 or 3/8" line.

So, do I build a kit that is -6 and -8 that makes you buy additional fittings when you install the steering system?

Do I build a -8 -8 kit that includes the temporary -6 stuff?

Or, do I build a kit that is -6 -6 and you just cut up your stock return line out of the steering gear?

If you get the kit for the steering like it is on the website, it includes all the -8 fittings and adapters.

The reality of it is, I'm not really in the cooler business and don't really care if I am. Lots of places sell coolers that you can buy and mount quite easily in the same spot with a pair of hose clamps around the V-bar and a bit of grooving on the fins with a file.

I only include the cooler because of the mount and the somewhat unique way I found to groove the fins to make it mount easily and very securely. But, not any easier or more secure than the hose clamps which is how I used to do them quite often.
That makes sense; given how cheap a regular cooler and hose is I'll probably go that route until I get the entire steering kit at once.

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