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Cognito Upgrades Improve GM Steering Woes

Back in 1988, with the introduction of the GMT400 pickup platform, General Motors made a radical change: they introduced an independent front suspension (IFS) for 4×4 trucks, which provided a smoother ride than the old straight axle. GM continues to use an IFS in their trucks right up to the present day, but time has shown that this design is not without its problems.

As with anything that has more moving parts, the IFS has a propensity to wear out steering components much faster than the old straight axle. The individual components don’t necessarily wear out any faster, but with more parts, the accumulation of error is greatly accelerated. If not addressed promptly, the accumulation can make these trucks downright scary to drive—it’s surprising just how quickly small amounts of wear in the steering can result in an accumulation of error that becomes unmanageable. If your truck has larger than stock tires, a lift, or both, the problem becomes apparent sooner than on a stock truck. In fact, simply turning up the front torsion bars can accelerate a truck’s steering woes.

One of the best ways to address this problem is to install upgraded components from Cognito Motorsports. Kit availability varies depending on the year of your truck, with more options for later-model trucks. Follow along and we’ll show you the highlights of fixing the suspension on a 2008 Chevrolet 2500 HD using components from Cognito Motorsports (CMS). This upgrade features the eight-lug Truck and SUV Pitman/Idler Arm Support Kit and the Alloy Series Race Steering Kit. Both kits are for 2001-2010 eight-lug vehicles and can be used on stock or lifted trucks. DW

1 Besides providing poor steering response, a worn front end can and will cause excessive tire wear. GM’s independent front suspension system is known for wearing the inside edge of tires, and worn components accelerate this greatly.

2 Here’s the Cognito Motorsports Truck and SUV Pitman/Idler Arm Support Kit and the Alloy Series Race Steering Kit, with the stock setup below. This author has seen the stock tie-rod ends on GM 4×4 trucks fold or break on the drag strip and at sled pulls. These new and bigger components are less susceptible to breakage.

3 Steering disassembly starts by removing the stock steering stabilizer frame bolt. Look closely and you’ll see that the front suspension has already been removed. Along with the Cognito kit, this Chevy received a full front-end rebuild.

4 The IFS setup on the GM trucks has a center link that’s connected to the pitman arm and idler arm. Here the link is being unbolted from the idler arm.

5 The center link is connected to the pitman arm on the driver’s side of the truck. The steering stabilizer is also bolted to the center link on this side.

6 A pitman arm tool is required to press it and the idler arm out of the center link, as using a hammer can damage the threads. Of course, if the wear is severe, the parts will have to be replaced anyway.

7 The stock idler arm and tie-rod ends are removed and sent to the scrap heap.

8 These small but simple items make up the Cognito pitman arm and idler arm brace kit. The stock components move around as you steer your truck down the road. Stiffening the mounting improves steering feel and response, and reduces component wear.

9 These are the components of the Cognito Alloy Series Race Steering Kit. Not only are these components stronger than stock, they look better and last longer.

10 The new center link is made from a straight bar and is less susceptible to bending than the factory unit.

11 The idler arm is supported with the pitman/idler support kit from Cognito.

12 With the new steering kit and pitman idler arm support kit in place, it’s time to reassemble the rest of the front end. The truck will need to be re-aligned, and then it’s time to hit the road.

13 The new tie rod ends in the Cognito kit are stronger than the OEM parts and should serve you well on the street and the track.

14 With the front end components refreshed and the steering upgrades from Cognito Motorsports installed, the change in steering feel is immediately noticeable. The upgraded components should last longer than the stock parts as well.

The Real Cost Of A Steering Upgrade

While upgrading your GM IFS 4×4 with these components from Cognito Motorsports will take a bite out of your wallet, the overall cost isn’t as great as you might think. If your truck is lifted, you could be replacing stock tie-rod ends as quickly as every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, and the wear on your tires will be accelerated as well. The investment in time and money to install upgraded steering components will be well worth it in the long run. Even stock truck owners should consider making the change. If you’re like this author, you’ll surely keep your truck long enough to make it pennies per mile in the long run.

Check Steering Play

Not sure if you really need to do a steering upgrade? Have the play in your steering checked. Most competent shops will give you an honest evaluation, or you can check for steering play yourself by raising the truck on one side, turning the front tire, and looking for component movement. A little movement in the suspension equates to a lot of movement at the tire. The center link, pitman arm, and idler arm are the components to which you should pay attention, but worn ball joints, A-arm bushings and other front suspension pieces can contribute to poor steering as well. Any components that are determined to have excessive wear should be replaced. The Cognito upgrades seen here won’t fix worn components, but they can help to reduce wear on your new replacement parts and make your truck steer better than the day it rolled of the dealer’s lot.

SOURCES:
Cognito Motorsports
866-426-4648
www.CognitoMotorsports.com

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