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Unread 03-10-2014, 07:21 PM   #1
motoxracer801
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wandering steering and caster angle questions

Hey everyone,
I have a 2002 Jeep wrangler. My jeep wanders all over the road. I've done research and figured out what I believe it is. I just want more opinions on it.
Okay, from the beginning. I bought my jeep already lifted. After having a few fellow Jeeple checked it out I always got the same answer. That I have a 3" black diamond lift kit. The lift was sold without lower control arms. To my knowledge it was only sold with coils and extensions for the sway bar disconnects. When I bought the Jeep it had steering problems. I got it pretty reasonable so I figured I would fix it. It was wandering all over the road and death wobbling from 45 - 50mph. Well, at first I realized my track bar was bad on both ends. I replaced the bushing on the axle side and later realized the ball joint side was very sloppy. As a temporary fix I tightened up the ball joint side. It significantly reduced the death wobble. It was actually bearable. Well then I rotated my tires. I moved the backs straight forward and crossed the fronts to the back. After the rotation I have absolutely no death wobble but now the touchy steering has magnified. It feels like the wind is always blowing me around on the road. I'm constantly having to correct the steering. It's worse the faster I get. Its always needing constant attention to keep it straight. I imagine people think I'm driving drunk all the time. When I'm turning the steering will just stay turned unless I correct it. So that brings me to my caster.
As I said above, the lift came with select items. So my lower control Arms and uppers are stock. So my caster obviously has to be off right?
Should I just buy a 4" rough country lift so I can get the control arms and new shocks and hardware. Or should I just buy JKS adjustable lower control arms and keep the Black Diamond lift? I guess I should add in that I am wanting to move to a 4" lift and I am going to start the DIY highline fender kit in a few weeks. I'm just getting opinions on all of this. I don't want to invest money into this If that's not the problem. Thanks everyone.

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Unread 03-10-2014, 07:30 PM   #2
Jerry Bransford
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The correct caster angle also depends on the size tire you're running. WIth 33" tires, 6-7 degrees of caster angle is fine but also realize that the exact caster angle is not critical... you only need "enough" angle to add stability to your steering and to provide good return-to-center after completing a turn. Generally speaking, larger diameter tires don't require quite as much caster angle.

Unstable steering is usually either a bad toe-in, a bad caster angle, or both. I would first suspect the toe-in angle is not correct and I wouldn't be surprised if the toe-in was never readjusted to compensate for the suspension lift which reduces the toe-in angle. .15 degrees is the factory spec for toe-in.

Or you can set your own toe-in just as accurately as a shop can. Rotating the tie-rod so the front edges of the tires are 1/16" to 1/8" closer together in the front than in the back will put your toe-in where it should be.

You can use the info at this site to set your toe-in and center your steering wheel after you get the toe-in set... http://www.4x4xplor.com/alignment.html

The caster angle is fixed and not adjustable on your 2002 unless you install adjustable length control arms for the front axle. Most fixed length control arms however set the caster angle pretty darned close to where it should be for the height of suspension lift they came with. For that reason, I kind of doubt your problem is caused by your caster angle. Maybe, but I suspect your toe-in angle is the main culprit.
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Unread 03-10-2014, 08:00 PM   #3
motoxracer801
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So with 3" of lift and stock control arms my caster angle is good/close enough? I also wonder if the toe has ever been properly adjusted. The reason I say that is because my steering wheel is slightly crooked. When I release the steering wheel it tracks straight down the road. Well, until I hit a bump or uneven grade to throw it off.
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Unread 03-10-2014, 08:06 PM   #4
tjitis
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Same here, jeep feels like a boat on waves/carnival ride, should be a sticky. I've been reading for over a week on this now. Good luck
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Unread 03-10-2014, 09:25 PM   #5
motoxracer801
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Have you recently changed anything or added anything to your jeep? Mines always driven this way since I've owned it so I don't know when mine started exhibiting bad driving characteristics.
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Unread 03-10-2014, 09:41 PM   #6
Leffnasty
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Mine is similar. Not too bad going 55 but at 65-70, it just will not stay in a straight line. Even after an alignment (at the shop) it is the same behavior.

My lift is almost exact to yours. Before I put the lift on, steering was mostly normal. I would be very interested in at least finding out what is causing it and how to correct it. I know it lies in the lift, most likely in control arms. But we shall see. Hopefully.
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Unread 03-10-2014, 11:36 PM   #7
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Unread 03-11-2014, 01:13 AM   #8
tjitis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motoxracer801 View Post
Have you recently changed anything or added anything to your jeep? Mines always driven this way since I've owned it so I don't know when mine started exhibiting bad driving characteristics.
Just bought the jeep. Just changed my tires and rims, helped but not cured.
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Unread 03-11-2014, 02:02 AM   #9
Mike5087
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I have the same issue. I only have a 2.5" lift with 33's. Little shimmy around 40-45. Had DW after I put my lift on, but thought I solved it (2yrs ago). Now I feel like it's coming back. Was planning on swapping out my control arms for adj ones. Opinions on if that would help out or is that just wishful thinking?
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Unread 03-11-2014, 06:41 AM   #10
-jb-
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Caster should not cause DW. Many things can cause it though including: bad bushing/control arm joints, bad TRE's, Toe not set right, uneven pressure in your tires, uneven wear on your tires, bent wheel or not in balance, unit bearing, ujoint, ball joints.

Simple test can be done with the help of another to determine what is moving around that shouldn't for most of the things I listed above.
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Unread 03-11-2014, 10:37 AM   #11
motoxracer801
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My death wobble is "mostly" cured. The reason I say mostly is because even though it's gone for now. I know it will come back if I don't tend to it. I have to replace my track bar and one tire that got some decent size chunks taken out of it on the rocks. After that I feel I can safely say my DW will be gone. But for now it's cured. My main issue is still the wandering on the road. Which I'm convinced is my caster. My springs raised 3" over stock. Yet retained the same factory stock control arms. My caster has to be out of whack a good deal. I'm going to check my toe in today. Even of it is off. I still believe it will wander when it's corrected. Just because the caster is bad. Yes, 2002 is non adjustable which confirms my beliefs even more. That with 3" of lift with the factory control arms that have absolutely no adjustment has really thrown my caster off. So my options are keeping a 3" black diamond lift. Which I heard was a smooth riding lift compared to others (not that it matters much to me) and of decent quality. Adding JKS adjustable lower control arms to that lift. So I can adjust my caster. So spend roughly 300ish give or take. Or I can order rough country's 4" lift that will give me fixed control arms front and rear. That will give me "close enough" caster plus an extra inch in lift. I'll also get all new shocks. So all that for roughly 500 dollars. That's where I'm kind of hung up at. Which route I should go.
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Unread 03-11-2014, 11:00 AM   #12
Shiftee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by -jb- View Post
Caster should not cause DW. Many things can cause it though including: bad bushing/control arm joints, bad TRE's, Toe not set right, uneven pressure in your tires, uneven wear on your tires, bent wheel or not in balance, unit bearing, ujoint, ball joints.

Simple test can be done with the help of another to determine what is moving around that shouldn't for most of the things I listed above.
Agreed. Your caster is not likely to be the issue. I'm running 33x12.50's with a 4" lift, my camber is at 4.6 and I managed to get rid of the problems you're having. These guys have you on the right track. When I got my TJ from the PO it was all over the place. I did a little reading here (I think Jerry had a post with pictures somewhere) and now I'm able to run 80mph with no steering stabilizer smooth enough that I could eat taco bell and text message with a kardashian. Took me a couple weeks but I, a) got my trackbar/pitman angles parallel, b) changed out bad TRE's c) set my toe and d) replaced my tie rod with a HD rod from Iron Rock. I was getting a lot of flex and bounce from the stock bar which caused some wandering. Iron Rock's tie rod is about 3/4 inch thicker and completely solid as opposed to the hollow oem rod.
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Unread 03-11-2014, 12:22 PM   #13
motoxracer801
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I just checked my toe in. The rear is 52 1/4" and the front is 52 1/8". So I believe this is correct.
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Unread 03-11-2014, 02:56 PM   #14
Mike5087
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Would you say caster plays a part in my tj sorta "wandering" I don't have DW. I have a slight shimmy that comes and goes every once and a while. My bigger issue is a floating feeling on the road.
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Unread 03-11-2014, 03:26 PM   #15
afusco1222
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Do you have a drop pitman arm? Sorry if I missed it in the thread somewhere.
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caster setting , death wobble , lift kit advice , wandering

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