Steering and suspension help needed

SuperTramp

New Member
Joined
Jul 12, 2022
Messages
18
Location
Los Angeles & Bass Lake
Hi all,

Looking for a little guidance on a steering/suspension issue.



98 TJ Sport 104,xxx miles

4.88 gears Dana 35/30

35 x 12.5 Patagonia M/T tires

3” OME lift (shocks, coils & steering stabilizers)

All core 4x4 adjustable control arms

Both track bars are JXS adjustable

As far as I can tell, stock steering components





I bought the Jeep used about a month ago. I don’t remember it having steering issues particularly, though I didn’t drive it a whole lot so could be wrong.



I took it into a 4x4 shop and had the following done:

Regeared to 4.88

1541 axle shafts in rear (Ten Factory)

Upper and lower ball joints (O’Reilly as far as I can tell)

U-joints on front axles

From axle hub bearings

SYE & Woods rear driveshaft’s



When it came out of the shop it had steering issues, almost no return to center, seemingly large dead spot and wandering, bordering a little dangerous on the freeway. The owner of the shop said the heavy duty ball joints take a while to loosen up and that it shouldn’t need an alignment as they didn’t touch anything on the alignment, they dont have an alignment rack in that shop. They left the transfer case leaking after the SYE and didn’t change the speedo gear as they were supposed to. I changed the Speedo gear today and found the O-ring in 4 pieces… after a new o-ring no more leak.



I took it to a different 4x4 shop a week or so later to have it aligned, which helped a fair amount. They said the axles Cs were tight and that the ball joints may have been over pressed. But they also said I had a bent control arm, I sent them the stock photo (which shows the same bend) from Core4x4 and never heard about it again. They said the caster was set to about 6 degrees which I measured (from the top of the upper ball joint) and came up with the same number. The shop also, reportedly, balance the tires. The shop also adjusted the rear track bar so the axle is now only 1/2” off-center instead of 1”.



This weekend I replaced all 4 tie rod ends (not shown in pictures) and aligned it in my driveway using a couple of the tutorials on this forum. It now drives straight, doesn’t seem to wander. The issues I have remaining are a slight wobble at about 68mph and I still have very little return to center and (what I think) is too much play/dead area in the steering wheel. It now has about 500 miles on everything except the tie rods which I just finished. When I had it apart (wheels off and tie rods disconnected) I tested the movement of the axle Cs and they seemed even.



I think the only suspension/steering component that has not been replaced is the steering box, though from dry testing it I’m not sure it’s the problem.



The return to center and the wobble at 68+ are the two things I’d really like to fix. Any ideas?

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The return to center issue sounds like a caster issue. Could be wrong, but the pic with your dif cover makes it look like you might be 6 degrees in the wrong direction.
 
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Could be too that they went way overboard on the balljoint preload. Dont know what the spec is for a Dana 30, but that would be easy enough to measure with a fish scale.
 
with all of that work, I would at least consider getting the ZJ tie Rod upgrade or the Currie of you can go big.



35’s are a lot of weight for that thin stock tie Rod.

Return to center is usually a caster issue. Do you have Core 4x4 Double adjustable CA’s? If so, go another degree to 7 and see if it makes a difference.

That’s the approach I would take. Unfortunately, this is why I now do my own work on my Jeeps when possible.
 
Sounds like a caster problem, I would take it to an alignment shop. Caster can be tricky to get right on both sides. Since you are in the LA area Blaine should be able to give you lead on a good shop.
 
Could be too that they went way overboard on the balljoint preload. Dont know what the spec is for a Dana 30, but that would be easy enough to measure with a fish scale.

There is no preload on TJ Dana 30 or 44 balljoints. There hasn't been since about 91 or so when they converted to floating pin uppers. That and it would take some serious gooberness to over press one. If you have ball joint cups that fit, it really isn't possible to over compress or over set one.
 
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The return to center issue sounds like a caster issue. Could be wrong, but the pic with your dif cover makes it look like you might be 6 degrees in the wrong direction.

Back shot of the spring perch says it is pointed at least in the right direction or leaned back at the top.
 
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Good point, I didn't look at the pictures that close. So what is your suggestion?

The tie rod isn't causing poor return to center or the wobble. I'd disconnect the drag link and tie rod from the knuckles and turn them by hand to see if they are binding. If not, move onto something else.
 
Thank you all for your responses. I’ll try to answer all the feed back.

I did disconnect the tie rod and drag link today and both knuckles seemed to have equal resistance and were not binding.

Tire pressure right now is at 32. It was at 36, I took it to 26 and then back to 32.

I’ve attached a photo taken straight down (plumb) of the drivers side. The upper ball joint is toward the back of the vehicle vs the lower.

I do have adjustable Core4x4 upper and lower control arms front and back.

I agree with the statement on doing your own work. I’m a concrete contractor, I’m mechanically inclined, though not a mechanic. This weekend I fixed 4 simple issues left behind by two “professional” shops. Speedo gear, transfer case leak, rear diff leak and toe-in… all while smoking a brisket.

I’m thinking of taking it to an alignment shop, just to get the numbers of where it’s at.

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Thank you all for your responses. I’ll try to answer all the feed back.

I did disconnect the tie rod and drag link today and both knuckles seemed to have equal resistance and were not binding.

Tire pressure right now is at 32. It was at 36, I took it to 26 and then back to 32.

I’ve attached a photo taken straight down (plumb) of the drivers side. The upper ball joint is toward the back of the vehicle vs the lower.

I do have adjustable Core4x4 upper and lower control arms front and back.

I agree with the statement on doing your own work. I’m a concrete contractor, I’m mechanically inclined, though not a mechanic. This weekend I fixed 4 simple issues left behind by two “professional” shops. Speedo gear, transfer case leak, rear diff leak and toe-in… all while smoking a brisket.

I’m thinking of taking it to an alignment shop, just to get the numbers of where it’s at.

View attachment 351110

View attachment 351111

Add some caster and see what happens.
 
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Thank you all for your responses. I’ll try to answer all the feed back.

I did disconnect the tie rod and drag link today and both knuckles seemed to have equal resistance and were not binding.

Tire pressure right now is at 32. It was at 36, I took it to 26 and then back to 32.

I’ve attached a photo taken straight down (plumb) of the drivers side. The upper ball joint is toward the back of the vehicle vs the lower.

I do have adjustable Core4x4 upper and lower control arms front and back.

I agree with the statement on doing your own work. I’m a concrete contractor, I’m mechanically inclined, though not a mechanic. This weekend I fixed 4 simple issues left behind by two “professional” shops. Speedo gear, transfer case leak, rear diff leak and toe-in… all while smoking a brisket.

I’m thinking of taking it to an alignment shop, just to get the numbers of where it’s at.

View attachment 351110

View attachment 351111

Mmmmm. That brisket looks good!
 
I'm digging myself a deeper hole at this point. I took the upper control arms off today and adjusted them one 360 degree turn tighter (i.e. the ends of the control arms got closer together. It now seems to have even less return to center than before. I took a couple measurements with a small angle finder just to see if I'm even in the ballpark.

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That seems odd, but if this was me, I would go back that turn, then go another turn the other way, to test what it’s doing.

I don’t have 100’s of TJs experience, but if I go a direction, it gets worse, then I test the other, and document the difference
 
So at this point I’m fairly convinced the lack of return to center is not caster. Caster is about 7.5 or so degrees (in the correct direction). I also don’t think it’s the new ball joints, I dropped the tie/drag link and both axle “C”s moved easily and equally. I’ve driven the Jeep about 2k miles since the work was done, finishing with 10 miles up a dirt road and then the path up to shuteye near Bass Lake/Yosemite. The steering box is about the last component to be replaced, is this potentially the issue with lack of return to center? Here’s a pic on shuteye with me and my pup, Piper.

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Since you have eliminated most the the usual culprits here is a couple of steering box issues you might check.

Steering boxes are designed to have dead spot when output shaft is centered i.e. going straight down the road. Check to see if output shaft is centered when your TJ is going straight. If not adjust the drag link to center the output shaft and then pull the steering and reinstall it in the correct position. Lots of shops when installing a drop pitman arm and new drag link miss this step.

Another thing you might check is the power steer pump pressure.