Steering has bad 'wandering' - Steering Shaft or Gear Box? - JeepForum.com
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Unread 08-29-2010, 06:07 PM   #1
pmarascal
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Steering has bad 'wandering' - Steering Shaft or Gear Box?

I just bought a 97 TJ a few weeks ago and have been fixing up little things on it slowly. Next on my list is the steering problem, it wanders all over the road and gets pretty dangerous when I'm on the highway. It has play in the steering wheel, I can turn it a good inch or 2 to either side without my wheels actually turning.

I own an 87 YJ that had this same steering problem and I bought a steering shaft and new lower steering bearing off ebay. The thing drives beautiful now.

I will check the play in the u-joints of the shaft more closely, but I figure it was definitely that again (bad shaft) because I could feel the play and move it up and down by pulling on the shaft. But now I'm thinking that maybe it could be the gear box at the bottom of the shaft, maybe it is worn out at the spot where the shaft goes into?

Not sure if I'm just over thinking it or what, but I know a lot about the YJs (so I think) and I'm now trying to learn everything about the TJ. What is the "common" problem when the steering wanders? Any info would be great

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Unread 08-30-2010, 01:09 PM   #2
pmarascal
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I'm looking to pull this apart and start working as soon as possible. Has anyone else tightened up their steering and how so? Would the gear box even be an option, where the shaft meets the box being worn? Or should this most likely be the same job as on the YJ with a shaft replacement and possibly a bearing in the shaft?
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Unread 08-30-2010, 01:18 PM   #3
erickpl
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Is it lifted at all?

My 97 has a lift on it with stock short arms. I had a very similar feel and thought it was the steering box. I installed some adjustable lower control arms and adjusted the castor more to stock.

Driving down a 2lane road with deep ditches on either side was nerveracking and took 100% attention. Now, it is just like I'm driving my wife's sedan. Very easy and not nearly so twitchy.

May not be the only problem, but something worth considering. I don't know if it was the castor issue or the fact that the bushings were SHOT in my lower CA's, but something has it a lot better. Even my son drove it and asked what I had done to make it so much better.
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Unread 08-30-2010, 01:24 PM   #4
pmarascal
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Yea it has a 3" lift. I guess I have to see if there is any play in the steering shaft u-joints. I know the guy before me used it for a lot of off roading trips and with the big tires and stock shaft I'm leaning towards that again. It was an "easy" fix on the YJ and made a world of difference.

Just like you said yea its nerve racking flying around in this thing. I'm like completely focused on the road in it. Sucks that my 87 drives smooth as a whistle and this thing needs some work.
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Unread 08-30-2010, 04:05 PM   #5
pmarascal
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Alright well I talked to my dad for awhile about it and my control arms are going bad we think. But I am pretty sure that that is a different problem, it feels like 2 different things. The bad control arms had a feeling like my jeep was 2 separate pieces and like my rear end was floating behind the rest of my jeep.

But this is more like the steering is loose, like its all over the road. Its either my steering shaft or possibly the little shaft that comes out of the gear box (maybe a bearing inside the gear box?)

Anyone out there with suggestions about the steering?
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Unread 08-30-2010, 04:24 PM   #6
Jerry Bransford
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Before doing anything, take it to a front-end alignment shop and have its caster and toe-in angles checked. Both of those are responsible for how well the Jeep tracks, steers, and and how well the steering wheel returns to center after completing a turn. I'm betting the problem you're having could be one, the other, or both causing your problem.

Caster angle for stock size tires should be between 6 and 7 degrees with 7 being optimal. Toe-in angle should be .15 degrees.
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Unread 08-30-2010, 05:17 PM   #7
pmarascal
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Well I'm not thinking its the alignment just because that would make it veer to the left or to the right not both right? This will like drive straight for awhile then without moving the wheel start to turn off into the other lane then straight again then off towards the ditch you know? Like constantly correcting the steering wheel back and forth to stay in my lane. Not just constantly veering off to the ditch, which would then be the alignment (from my understanding?)

Unless I'm missing something about toe-in angles or something it could be it?

Still learning a lot so sorry if I'm off with what I'm saying.
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Unread 08-30-2010, 05:22 PM   #8
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Without time to read more.....

Tow-out will make your car track to either direction depending on the subtle road changes, also bump steer will make it worse. Also, more caster will help the jeep track straight, the same way a chopper motorcycle tracks very straight.
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Unread 08-30-2010, 05:27 PM   #9
Jerry Bransford
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmarascal View Post
Well I'm not thinking its the alignment just because that would make it veer to the left or to the right not both right?
I must have just been making all that stuff up, it must not be alignment if you don't think it could be based on that.
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Unread 08-30-2010, 08:09 PM   #10
pmarascal
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
I must have just been making all that stuff up, it must not be alignment if you don't think it could be based on that.
Well I mean that its all over the place. it'll drive straight, then fly off to the left, then back to the right then straight, etc. etc. And drastically so this alignment must be the worst I've ever seen, thats why I believe its a bad part, there IS play down on the steering shaft, it's just I can't tell if its the shaft or the part of the gear box that goes to the shaft.

I'm learning new stuff everyday, so don't mind if I'm totally off on something
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Unread 08-30-2010, 08:19 PM   #11
Jerry Bransford
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Once again... a bad toe-in angle and/or a bad caster angle can cause all kinds of wandering issues because those two settings are primarily responsible for how well a Jeep tracks.
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Unread 08-30-2010, 08:30 PM   #12
pmarascal
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Alright sorry bud, you know how it is everybodys telling me something different. Why can't it ever be easy! lol thats the first thing I learned when I started working on cars and mechanics... its never straight cut nor easy.

Then I'll definately check the alignment. Any idea what the angles would be for a 33x12.5? Thanks man
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Unread 08-30-2010, 08:38 PM   #13
Jerry Bransford
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmarascal View Post
Any idea what the angles would be for a 33x12.5? Thanks man
The .15 degree toe-in angle I gave above doesn't change, the optimal caster angle for 33" tires is pretty close to between 5 and 6 degrees.
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Unread 08-31-2010, 12:42 AM   #14
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I don't want to highjack pmarascal original post too much but I have a question about the caster adj; I have a 04 Rubicon with 3" tereflex lift and 285/75 16 and a teraflex trackbar and looking at the service manual it talks about marking the lower suspension arm but I haven't found adjusting it, like where would you put the gauge to find the degrees plus with a lift I thought that 8 degrees is better? I've been reading posts and making notes so not sure where I got the 8 degrees but figured I'd ask also

Last edited by Eskimo; 08-31-2010 at 12:43 AM.. Reason: spelling
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Unread 08-31-2010, 07:13 AM   #15
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pmarascal, my Jeep did the same thing too. Wandered EVERYWHERE and it felt skittish - my wife refused to drive it.

I put on the new lower fronts to fix the castor angle and the wandering is GONE. It is MUCH more stable. My tires are aligned, so that wasn't an issue, and they have a very slight toe-in, as Jerry mentioned.

With a lifted Jeep, the castor angle seems to play more of a role in controlability. My TJ felt like this ever since I put my lift on, and I thought my steering box was going bad. But the simple solution (adjusting castor) was the ultimate fix.

You may have cam adjuster bolts on the front of your lower front control arms. You may be able to adjust them a bit to affect your castor a bit to 'push' the lower part of the axle forward a bit. With a lift, it would be a good idea.

You can see the cam bolt 'washer' by the nut on my axle connection in the pic below. I can get better pics if you need them.



Edit: MAN I need to really powerwash the underside of my TJ. That Alabama dirt and mud is unreal!!!! A bit of touchup would help too!
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