To those running lifts/oversized tires...just a word of warning:
I know that many of us PSD ethusiasts have lifts and run oversized tires...I've had my Ex now for 9 years. Its had a lift, and I've actually upped the tire size twice. That being said, I know that after a "near miss" I had Saturday, I'd like to share what could have been something tragic, and something that I've never thought of being a risk of running the lift/tires.
I was headed out to have lunch with the husband, and jumped in the Ex, put it in drive, and went to pull away from the house. I didn't make it 4" and heard a loud "POP." At that moment, my steering was GONE. The day before I had run to the job site up here in MT, and was on the interstate running near 80 mph, like I do daily...if this had happened at 80 mph on these roads, I am sure that things wouldn't have gone well.
I put the truck in park, got out, and surveyed the damage thinking I had broken the sector shaft, or even less likely, the pitman arm. Nope. Wrong. The three bolts that hold the steering box to the frame, had sheared off completely. The steering box was laying against part of my lift components, and all three bolts were still in the holes on the frame. It became evident that they had snapped, one by one, until the last bolt had broken from the wear/rust patterns on the bolts. I am BEYOND lucky this happened where and when it did.
I know its something I, nor anyone I have spoke to has ever thought about being a consequence of running a lift and oversized tires. Come to find out, after much research, that not only has this happened THOUSANDS of times with the Ford E-series vans under "factory" conditions, but it has led to numerous injuries of people who enjoy driving a truck like mine.
I do routine maintenance on my truck, and do visual inspections before long trips as well as heading out on the torn up dirt roads here. I am SURE, if I had known about this, I could have caught that one of the bolts had broken just by reaching up and seeing if the bolts were, tight, or loose. Yes, these are grade 8, heavy bolts, but were never tested to see how they would withstand the added stress. Mine broke right where they threaded into the steering box. It was NO fun getting the box out, and even less fun drilling, tapping, getting the thread-lock broke free, and getting the 1/2-3/4" of bolt left out of the box. Luckily, the process didn't ruin the threads, and I am now waiting on the replacement bolts from Ford, that won't be here until Thursday, thanks to the holiday. Those gems also run $9.58 a piece, and you have to order 4, even though it only takes 3. Go figure. I looked high and low for a replacement bolt that was collared with no luck. It'll be just as fun getting the box put back in and everything reconnected. I'm also going to replace the drag link, and may also add a second steering stabilizer while I'm at it. Once all that's complete, its heading to the shop to fine tune the steering as well as the alignment.
I know that there's a good chance that many of you already know about the gear box and bolt failure, but if this information can help one person down the road escape what could be a tragedy, it was worth the time to write this.