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Unread 08-02-2007, 05:20 PM   #1
jadams68
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Why your steering wanders or seems loose.

<This should be a sticky topic>

Why your steering wanders or seems loose

One of the biggest issues with Jeeps and a topic that almost repeats itself in a new thread each week is "wandering or loose steering". As a forum contributor on JeepForum for close to 5 years now, I see it over and over.

I'll first volunteer that there isn't always a single factor contributing to all steering issues, but one prevails quite commonly and that's, Castor Angle.

If you have no idea what castor angle is, please see this link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caster_angle

When you put a suspension lift on your jeep, you alter the steering geometry of the vehicle. There's no exception, if you lifted your jeep, your castor angle is wrong and your steering demonstrates one or more of the following characteristics:

1) The steering wanders, particularly at higher speeds.
2) The steering wheel has a lot of play, usually 1-2" before the wheels turn.
3) The steering wheel doesn't center itself after a turn.
4) When the vehicle hits a bump in the road, you are white-knuckled trying to correct your course.

People, including me, have spent hundreds of dollars in new ball joints, flaming river steering shafts, new steering boxes, steering box mounts and of course, the new steering stabilizer!!!

Sometimes one of the solutions above will ever so slightly improve the situation which sends you further down the rabbit hole with buying more new parts and away from the $45 plus shipping fix with adjusting your castor angle.

So how does one fix castor? Well first off, go to Home Depot and buy an Angle measurement tool, aka an Angleometer. Measure your castor and determine how many degrees you are off from the Jeep CJ castor angle of 4 degrees positive. So if your measurement is 0, you have to correct it by 4 degrees positive. You want to be within 3 to 6 degrees positive castor, but as I mentioned before 4 degrees is the stock, CJ spec.

So there are two easy and one more difficult way to correct castor angle. The more difficult, but best way is to cut the spring perches off your Dana 30 axle tube and reweld them in the correct position to give you proper castor.

The two easier ways are castor adjusting, upper balljoint sleeves or steel degree shims. For this thread, lets focus on the easiest castor correction, that being the steel shims. It's also the cheapest.

Tom Wood (http://www.4xshaft.com/index.html) sells 2 and 4 degree steel shim kits depending on your need. Most 4" of spring under lift require a 4 degree correction. If you lifted your jeep 2.5" you "may" not need to do a thing.

The shims are placed under your spring perches, above your springs with the fat end of the shim facing the front of your jeep. So facing your front driver's side tire, the fat end is to your left. These shims take about 25-30 mins to install and you will notice a 100% difference in the quality of your steering and general handling of your CJ. One note to mention is to toss your old, rusty ubolts out and get yourself 4 new ones. Reusing old ubolts is not recommended.

Seriously consider this as a first step in fixing a loose steering problem because you're fighting the laws of physics if you lift your jeep higher and expect the stock steering geometry to cooperate.

Hope this helps!!

James (www.bustedjeep.com)

Here's an article that you may find helpful as well :
http://www.jeepfan.com/tech/CasterCamberToe.htm

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Last edited by jadams68; 08-02-2007 at 06:53 PM..
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Unread 08-02-2007, 05:54 PM   #2
evil-ant
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Well said, I don't comprimise in drivability, even if I have 9"s of lift, I rotated my pinnion to fix driveline and my knuckles for steering, yes at 9's you'll need a cv shaft but it's the only way to have it all, good drivability and a functional driveline for many years to come.
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Unread 08-02-2007, 05:55 PM   #3
spankyway
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I like what I read. I just got my first Jeep, a CJ5, and the PO did a spring over conversion. Not real impressed with it but I want to enjoy my Jeep before I start to "work" on it. I need to look into the shims as my steering is very "light" and my Jeep does tend to wander.
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Unread 08-02-2007, 06:03 PM   #4
Fatman
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Well writen James,
Easy job to do, especially if you take the time and do it while installing your new lift.
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Unread 08-03-2007, 11:50 AM   #5
Blthomas
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Very good info James. Thanks very much for taking the time out to write that up.

I'm putting on a 2.5" Rancho lift now, hoping I need no shims cause' I'm cheap, but it's good to have the info available if I need it.

Once again you've provided some great info for fellow Jeepers.
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Unread 08-10-2007, 09:19 AM   #6
lou h
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Any advice???

James -

I am ordering the shims today. Have a stock 79 CJ5 258 that I just put a 4" lift, 1.5" shackles, 33" tires, drop pitman arm and steering stabilzer on. All your symptoms were present. Thanks for the information.

Any idea on this??? There now is a slight grinding noise in gear when you accelerate and take your foot off the gas. At high speeds this moring, it actually felt like it fell out of gear with a lot of grainding to put it back in gear. I also noticed the shifter arm is loose and easily move left and right. Is this a transfer case issue or a tranny issue because of the lift or something else?

Any advice appreciated.
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Unread 08-10-2007, 12:24 PM   #7
jadams68
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Lifting the jeep wouldn't affect the tranny or t-case, however some things to look at are:

Did you by any chance put in a body lift or a transfer case drop kit in?
If so, this sometimes causes curved shifters to smack into the hole cut in the tub. The shifter can be a pain to get in gear in 2nd and 4th gear especially.
If this is the case, grind or cut some of the tub away for better clearance.

Another thing to consider is that the grinding is possibly "clutch chatter" from those bigger tires. Sometimes when you go from stock tires to larger tires, the weight of those bigger tires puts strain on take off and your clutch can chatter or studder going from a dead stop to 1st gear.
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Unread 08-10-2007, 11:43 PM   #8
80cj
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jadams68,
Great info but where do you place the angle finder to measure caster?
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Unread 08-11-2007, 05:05 AM   #9
jadams68
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Here's a pic that evil-ant posted in another thread showing how he used the lower part of the steering knuckle. I believe you can use the top part of the knuckles as well.

http://img166.imageshack.us/my.php?i...rt44009br5.jpg
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Unread 08-11-2007, 07:37 AM   #10
Fatman
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If you're using std (non offset) ball joints, you can set your gauge up on the flat of the nut on the top ball joint or the plate of the bottom ball joint.
(if you're using offset sleaves on the top BJ, this won't work)



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Unread 08-11-2007, 09:24 AM   #11
jadams68
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Excellent pics! Helps others know what the Angleometer tool looks like.
Thanks!!
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Unread 08-13-2007, 09:30 AM   #12
lou h
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Thanks again for the info James. I am having the tranny and transfer case pulled off today as they showed signs of needing work. I think I broke her out in the fields right after the mods were complete. I think I pissed her off on the overly aggressive driving... she's now making me pay for it...
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Unread 08-14-2007, 01:39 AM   #13
jeepmor
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I've written steering wheel to tire writeups on this topic before. Search "jeepmor and steering" and you should find directions on how to evaluate all components in the steering system minus that angle checking gauge.

It's easy stuff, but there are quite a few components that can make the hystereis of the system (fancy engineering term for slop, gotta justify that education somehow fellas) quite over the top. None of the components are particularly bad, but add them all up and you have a wandering CJ.

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Unread 08-14-2007, 02:07 PM   #14
Totallymetal
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Looked around for an angleometer and found this for cheap!

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=34214
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Unread 08-19-2007, 12:05 PM   #15
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I thought about using the bottom ball joint cap as a reference point for taking measurements but it's at a compound angle which I thought would affect the reading on the inclinometer. I guess what works, works.
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ball joint , camber , caster , drag link , loose steering , tie rod , Tie rod end , toe in , toe out , wander , wandering , wheel bearings
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