Reviewer's Notebook: CALMINI's Steering Stabilizer

Nov. 01, 2005 By Dr. Sean Michael

CALMINI's steering stabilizer kit arrives complete with every part required to install it.

Who needs a steering stabilizer?

So you forked over the bucks for new, big rubber, you got them mounted?

Now you're ready to rock, right?

Not so fast.

Before you hit the trail, consider upgrading your steering stabilizer if those meats are 32" or larger. Isuzu designed the stock Trooper, Rodeo, Pickup and Amigo steering stabilizer to work with 31" tires. As you move to larger tires, physics soon rears its ugly head. The tires that were to be your salvation soon seem to have a mind of their own. They pull and grab, and the steering wheel jumps around a lot more than it did with the old tires. What's up with that?

The increased diameter of your new tires also increases leverage on the steering components. When you make small changes in tire size this may not be too noticeable, but more than that and the steering wheel begins to obey your tires rather than your hand. Ruts, changes in the pavement, and other surface variations cause the tires to pull, jump, and generally respond with more force to what they are rolling over.

The result can range from a mild tug to a sharp jerk of the steering wheel. Off-road this can be both fatiguing and dangerous. That subtle tug wears on your wrist, and the vehicle tends to be pulled around as the tires respond to terrain -- rather than you. This diminished steering control gets old fast.

Fortunately, all is not lost. The jerky steering that larger tires can induce can be alleviated with a simple device, the steering stabilizer. It is essentially a shock absorber for your steering components, and it dampens motion in the tie rod.

CALMINI's Very Own

As with most things Isuzu, Steve Kramer and the fellas at CALMINI knew the need before we even signed the loan papers for our rigs. Back when they were running early Troopers at Baja and the like, they learned the importance of reining in extraneous steering response. Today, they offer a simple solution in the form of a steering stabilizer, made to their specifications by a leading manufacturer of shocks and shock related products. When we moved up to 32x11.50s Bridgestone's new Dueler M/T w/ UNI-T, we contacted CALMINI about handling the change in steering. Before long we had a gleaming white steering stabilizer for Project WomBAT.

Skidplates disrupt the view, but the bar that crosses the top of the picture is the steering relay rod that connects the Pitman arm and the idler arm. The top end of the CALMINI steering stabilizer mounts to this relay rod in the upper left corner of the picture and the axle/differential assembly in the lower right corner.

The Install

CALMINI's stabilizer comes with all the mounting hardware necessary for the job. You need only a few simple wrenches/sockets and a half-hour of time. The unit comes with simple but adequate instructions. The key with the installation is 1) keeping the prescribed incline in the stabilizer, and 2) assuring adequate extension and compression of the piston. Don't tighten the U-bolts until you're sure all the angles are correct. (Hint: roll over on your stomach for a final inspection, because working upside down tends to skew your ability to judge angles.)

Performance Impression

The WomBAT benefited in many ways from the addition of the Bridgestone Duelers, but steering response was not among the improvements. The big tires tugged and jittered when on the trail, and were easily led astray by changing surfaces on the road. Fortunately, all that changed when we added CALMINI's steering stabilizer.

WomBAT claws uphill through deep muddy ruts with much improved directional stability.

After we added the stabilizer, steering response returned to nearly the same feel as we had when we ran the stock 235x75x15 tires. Steering wheel play is less apparent, and the former large tire-induced jerkiness is all but gone. The tires track much better, and are drawn into ruts and other depressions much less readily. These stable characteristics remain constant across a range of speeds and surfaces. Barreling down rutted roads with deep pot holes no longer fazes steering, and causes only minor pulls, with none of the previous jerking. Slower speeds result in similarly neutral handling. Hitting large rocks and deep holes can still manage to move the wheel, but the suddenness of the movement is greatly reduced.


Have you already graced your 'Zu with larger than stock rubber, or have you finally convinced the spouse of such a purchase's wisdom? If so, you have seen or will likely soon see what physics can do for your wrists (and blood pressure!). Give Steve, Randy, or Edwin a call about this worthwhile and very affordable addition to your truck. It'll make you appreciate the new tires more, and priced well under $100, it won't break the bank. Newsletter
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