The steering on the CJ is really wandering badly. I am thinking it is the steering box going out because it feels like when that happened on my Ford and I can turn the wheel 1/3 around in both directions without the tires moving. I do not believe it is in the linkage but might be. I also have about 3" of lift without a drop pitman arm, could this cause wandering and unresponsive steering? Is there a way to check the steering box? Tighten it?
You'll have to take it to an alignment shop. They'll tell you if your measurements are within acceptable range. They can install the correct shims. I would check ALL of your steering components first before messing with the caster. You say that you can turn the steering wheel a 1/3 turn before the wheels move. Is that while sitting still? If so then it's definitely a steering issue not a caster issue. As far as the pitman arm, I would think that if you need a dropped arm and are running stock arm, then you would feel the steering bind. Someone else should be able to shed some light on that. Good luck!
You need someone, who knows what they're looking at, to inspect the condition of your steering system. It could be one or a combination of parts and steering isn't something to guess at. What you're describing is not the result of not having a drop pitman arm. It is probably the result of worn out, broken and/or loose parts.
__________________ '81 Scrambler w/ FI 360 AMC, 33x12.50 BFG M/T's, 5" of lift, ARB'd Dana 44's F & R, Dana 300 clocked & twin sticked w/4:1, Warn XD9000i, etc...
2002 Grand Cherokee Limited, 2008 Overland Grand Cherokee, a 1976 CJ-7 in pieces and 3 more off-brand 4x4s............... John N
I also have about 3" of lift without a drop pitman arm, could this cause wandering and unresponsive steering?
I just went through this exact thing. Turning the wheel was actually rotating the tierod about a 1/3 of a complete revolution before it would affect the steering in the least. Putting the draglink on the same plane as the tierod solved my problem completely.
So many answers...I dont know what to choose. Well, I know it has to be from either the pitman arm or the steering box at this point. I doubt it is caster, I know it isnt the linkage, so I guess I will try the pitman arm first.
Check your steering box bracket. CJ steering brackets are known to be crap. Over time they loosen up, and break. Then, when you turn the steering wheel the steering box starts moving all around instead of turning the wheels.
Have someone turn the steering wheel while you sit in front of the Jeep and watch the steering box (or for any other odd movement).
What's left of a '79 CJ5
3 - 4" total lift
4.88 gears in a Dana 30 and off center ff Dana 44 with disc brakes
258 with TFI /T18 /D18 drive train with Saturn O.D.
33 x 12 DC Mud Country Radials
All good suggestions above.. a good way to generally diagnose your steering system is to have someone jump in the Jeep and turn the wheel fully to the left and right several times while you inspect. Start with the hood open. Check the steering shaft for play/slop. Then, move down to the box itself. Make sure it's not moving around on the mount, check to see if there's any sort of delay between the steering shaft input and output which would indicate a worn box (internally). Check the steering joints starting at the end of the pitman arm and working your way down to the steering joints (tie rod ends) at the axle ends.. look for slop. Check your leaf spring mounts and shackle mounts for slop and movement (a little movement is unavoidable.. rocking back and forth a couple inches isn't). If all that checks out, put a jack under the axle and raise tires off the ground. Grab tires at 12'oclock and 6'oclock and wiggle tire to check for slop in the wheelbearings or balljoints. Those are pretty much the major contributing areas/causes of steering slop. If the steering is pretty tight but the vehicle wanders, then you probably have caster issues (not enough positive caster) which can be remedied with shims.
'80 CJ5 w/AMC360, T176, D44 w/Detroit 4.56, RE 4" YJ lift and 35s..
check the universal joinyt at the bottom of the steering shaft where iyt connects to the steering box. I had the same problem with my 79', replaced the shaft and attached u-joint, and now it drives like new.