Is the steering, or me? - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 16 Old 08-07-2020, 10:02 PM Thread Starter
DonVecinos
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Question Is the steering, or me?

After all, the last six vehicles I have owned have all had rack-and-pinion steering.

Seriously, I think my new WJ is probably somewhat out of alignment, but since I am new to these vehicles (I have had one three days at this writing), I could use some input.

I feel like I am having to provide a bit too much input to keep it in a straight line or in a nice clean arc going around a corner. There is absolutely no vibration, shimmying nor noises out of the front end. It just seems to want to wander a bit, and I have to rein it in. I've considered the possibility the shocks are getting weak, but it rides too well. Steering stabilizer, perhaps? My only experience with one of those was on an air-cooled VW, and it shimmied like crazy when that went bad on it.


Any input would be helpful, and I'm sure I'll come up with some other newbie questions for your entertainment.




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post #2 of 16 Old 08-08-2020, 06:49 AM
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Start it up and have someone turn the steering wheel while you look at the trackbar bushings.

The frame side bushing on mine was shot but you could only see the slop in it while the wheels were being turned.

If you grabbed it and shook it it felt OK.

New bushings got rid of the play in the steering.

If yours has a lot of miles, you will probably need tie rod ends as well, maybe ball joints too.
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post #3 of 16 Old 08-08-2020, 08:11 AM
CJ7-Tim
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It could be both. By the complicated nature of solid axle 4x4 suspension and steering, it will never handle like a sports car. One might suppose that if the maintenance history is unknown, it is likely the suspension bushings and steering are well worn, and could use some attention and new parts.

Your first step should be an alignment check and front end inspection. Find a trusted locally owned frame and alignment shop with gray haired technicians. Most retail tire stores that also perform alignments have techs fresh out of school, and they are often clueless when it comes to problem solving.
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post #4 of 16 Old 08-08-2020, 08:16 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by CJREX View Post
Start it up and have someone turn the steering wheel while you look at the trackbar bushings.

The frame side bushing on mine was shot but you could only see the slop in it while the wheels were being turned.

If you grabbed it and shook it it felt OK.

New bushings got rid of the play in the steering.

If yours has a lot of miles, you will probably need tie rod ends as well, maybe ball joints too.

I'll look into the track bar bushings. I know what bad ball joints and tie rod ends feel like. I don't think there is a problem with them, but of course it's worth a look. I drove it about 150 miles on the interstate, and it was fine as a frog's hair. None of the shimmy or shake I would expect with bad ball joints or tie rods. I actually notice the problem more on two-lane roads, and it feels more like bump steer, now that I think about it.

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post #5 of 16 Old 08-08-2020, 08:48 AM
HarryH3
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Take a close look at the suspension. The front axle is held in place by 10, yes TEN, rubber bushings. 4 on the lower control arms, 4 on the upper control arms, and 2 on the track bar. As they age, the total looseness adds up. Add in just a tiny bit of slop in each of the tie-rod and drag link ends and things get interesting.

The rear axle is held in place by 6 rubber bushings and a ball joint. The ball joint can really cause some strange handling when it's worn, as it locates the axle side-to-side, and will really let the axle wander around. Think, uncontrolled rear steer. After lots of miles, all of the additive slop in these parts can make for some crazy handling.

As for alignment, you should know that the ONLY adjustment that can be made on a stock 4WD WJ is toe. There are no adjustments for caster or camber. There are aftermarket solutions such as offset ball joints and adjustable-length control arms, but from the factory it is what it is. See if you can find a shop that will give you a decent price for the "alignment" since they really don't have to do much real work. Alignment techs must giggle with delight when they see any solid axle 4WD come in and pay full price for an alignment.
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post #6 of 16 Old 08-08-2020, 10:43 AM
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got my wj at 138000 tried to grease ball joints. couldnt find the upper !!apparently noone else did either for 19 years , it was frozen. no grease. wonder if they get stiff...?

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post #7 of 16 Old 08-08-2020, 11:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DonVecinos View Post
After all, the last six vehicles I have owned have all had rack-and-pinion steering.

Seriously, I think my new WJ is probably somewhat out of alignment, but since I am new to these vehicles (I have had one three days at this writing), I could use some input.

I feel like I am having to provide a bit too much input to keep it in a straight line or in a nice clean arc going around a corner. There is absolutely no vibration, shimmying nor noises out of the front end. It just seems to want to wander a bit, and I have to rein it in. I've considered the possibility the shocks are getting weak, but it rides too well. Steering stabilizer, perhaps? My only experience with one of those was on an air-cooled VW, and it shimmied like crazy when that went bad on it.


Any input would be helpful, and I'm sure I'll come up with some other newbie questions for your entertainment.
Newbie questions are always welcome, it means you're invested enough to learn about the fantastic piece of machinery you just bought.

WJ's are solid axle, which are naturally more prone to wandering than independent suspension. Add to that the steering gear instead of rack and pinion, a healthy dose of neglect (likely, not always), and a heaping portion of time, and you get your new (to you) WJ.

If you're constantly correcting in a straight line, my first advice would be to examine the ball joint on the rear differential. As stated above, it causes strange steering effects even if your front is squared away. Then check the rear control arm bushings. Odds are they're toast unless recently done. In most cases it's easier to replace the whole arm (usually cheaper too). Then check all your control arm bushings up front. If you've found that your caster isn't right and think it's causing your issues, now would be the time to get adjustable arms (IRO has adjustable short arms from stock to 4.5" of lift), that will also set you up for a lift if you ever plan to do so. Usually trackbar bushing failure would manifest as DW so you can save that for lower on the list if you're trying to do this in stages. You can also adjust the steering box if there's excessive play, but do so in very small increments. There are plenty of posts on here with how to's on each of those things I mentioned but you can also post back and we can help you out.

Like mentioned above, there are a lot of bushings holding these axles in place. You mention bump steer, that's caused by improper drag link to track bar angle. Pay close attention to the road also, as WJs tend to react to the "crowning" of the road, where the center of the road is higher than the edges.
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post #8 of 16 Old 08-08-2020, 10:23 PM
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I always get an alignment when I buy a vehicle. My latest WJ had a nice pull to one side and uneven worn tires when I bought it. $50 later it drives nice and straight.
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post #9 of 16 Old 08-09-2020, 08:29 AM
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Dont forget the tires, If the tires are worn weird or uneven, it can add to the wacky steering "feel". Make sure you have a matched pair on the front(they should all be the same and evenly worn-but this is just for testing purposes) and make sure they are balanced. Two different tires on the front with different tread designs, or one with more tread depth than the other can make it steer funny.

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post #10 of 16 Old 08-09-2020, 11:10 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJ7-Tim View Post
It could be both. By the complicated nature of solid axle 4x4 suspension and steering, it will never handle like a sports car. One might suppose that if the maintenance history is unknown, it is likely the suspension bushings and steering are well worn, and could use some attention and new parts.

Your first step should be an alignment check and front end inspection. Find a trusted locally owned frame and alignment shop with gray haired technicians. Most retail tire stores that also perform alignments have techs fresh out of school, and they are often clueless when it comes to problem solving.

You should have seen the reaction I got when I took my '54 Ford F-250 in for new king pins and bushings! Fortunately I have never had to have the camber aligned on that truck, because it requires a very large mechanic and a special tool which bends the axle into compliance.

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post #11 of 16 Old 08-09-2020, 11:21 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Bigrigr View Post
Dont forget the tires, If the tires are worn weird or uneven, it can add to the wacky steering "feel". Make sure you have a matched pair on the front(they should all be the same and evenly worn-but this is just for testing purposes) and make sure they are balanced. Two different tires on the front with different tread designs, or one with more tread depth than the other can make it steer funny.

Well, it has brand-new tires, which was one of the reasons I bought it. New tires are a double-edged sword, though, because I couldn't examine them to see how they wore.


Coldspit47, I drove a '59 Chevy when I was a much younger man that had no less than six inches of play in the steering wheel. That old worm-and-roller unit was pretty much shot, but hey, I was still indestructible back then!


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post #12 of 16 Old 08-09-2020, 11:59 AM
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After driving into a spot( with the jeep driving as straight as possible). Jack up front end, remove tires, put 2 lug nuts back on to fully seat the rotors(both sides). Clamp a straight edge to each rotor. If you have 29in tires, measure out from center of hub to S edge half the distance ( 14.5in) front and back and on both sides. Then just measure the front side 14.5in mark on the S edge and then the back. Use the tie-rod adjuster tube to adjust the toe to about 1/16 to 1/8in toe in. Tighten the clamps on the tube, put it all back togetter, test drive and if the steering wheel is off a little , adjust the drag link to straighten wheel while its on the ground.... easy peasy!

You just did a jeep front end alignment.... go have a Beer!!!
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post #13 of 16 Old 08-09-2020, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigrigr View Post
Dont forget the tires, If the tires are worn weird or uneven, it can add to the wacky steering "feel". Make sure you have a matched pair on the front(they should all be the same and evenly worn-but this is just for testing purposes) and make sure they are balanced. Two different tires on the front with different tread designs, or one with more tread depth than the other can make it steer funny.
Not only that, D35s (probably also D44a's) can only tolerate 1-2% variation in tire size (can't find the source at the moment)...so if you have old tires and replace only one, your spiders will get shredded in no time. Ask me how I know...
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post #14 of 16 Old 08-12-2020, 09:41 PM
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Always change all 4 tires at the same time on a 4 wheel drive, but most especially if it's all wheel drive. Thats why proper inflation, alignment, and regular rotations are a must, so you wear them all out at the same time.
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post #15 of 16 Old 08-13-2020, 04:24 AM
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^ This is something that gets me with a lot of Wranglers and the external rear mounted spare.

Often you'll see the tires from them for sale with a spare that's "never been on the ground" like it's a benefit, never mind that the tire is 8 years old and dry rotted beyond being unsafe.

One of the sets of JK wheels that I bought had a brand new BFG MT on it from 2011. It looked perfect from 5 feet away. A close look showed major dry rotting between all the tread blocks. I guess being out in the sun for 9 years wasn't ideal for the rubber.

If you have 5 identical tires and wheels, rotate all 5 and extend tire life by 20%.

You also won't end up with a spare that is unsafe to use when you need it.

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