Steering wheel play

jnunymc

Member
Original poster
Joined
Apr 22, 2021
Messages
40
Location
Texas
I recently replaced all the steering linkage and front end parts minus the ball joints on my 2002 TJ. It is driving fine down the road, but the shop we took it to wouldn't align it because of all the play on the steering wheel. I am new to working on Jeeps, this is the first one I've owned. Can anyone offer any suggestions that I can make to tighten up the steering wheel and adjust the play? Thank you all in advance.
 
First...
Dry steering test.
Get a partner.
Watch the following...
Is the steering shaft turning with the splines from the column?
If yes...
is the steering shaft at the box turning with no play.
If yes...
Is the shaft turning with the input splines of the box?
if yes...
Is the output splines of the box turning with the input splines of the box with no dead spots?
If yes...
Is the Pitman arm at the box turning with the output splines?(they go bad and a softer material than the box splines shaft)
If yes...
Then check each tie rod joints after.
At the pitman arm, drag link, each knuckle.

Don't forget the track bar!! Very important. If it's bad it can make the whole front end shift.

Don't forget the ball joints.

Lastly if all the above checks out
And all is tight...You've got bad u-joints in the axles.

If you answered no to any of the above stop and fix. Then proceed with rest of test.

If you find your box is sloppy don't try to adjust. 99 times out of 100 it doesn't work and or makes it worse. Get a new one.
 
First...
Dry steering test.
Get a partner.
Watch the following...
Is the steering shaft turning with the splines from the column?
If yes...
is the steering shaft at the box turning with no play.
If yes...
Is the shaft turning with the input splines of the box?
if yes...
Is the output splines of the box turning with the input splines of the box with no dead spots?
If yes...
Is the Pitman arm at the box turning with the output splines?(they go bad and a softer material than the box splines shaft)
If yes...
Then check each tie rod joints after.
At the pitman arm, drag link, each knuckle.

Don't forget the track bar!! Very important. If it's bad it can make the whole front end shift.

Don't forget the ball joints.

Lastly if all the above checks out
And all is tight...You've got bad u-joints in the axles.

If you answered no to any of the above stop and fix. Then proceed with rest of test.

If you find your box is sloppy don't try to adjust. 99 times out of 100 it doesn't work and or makes it worse. Get a new one.
Will do. My neighbor is a Jeep guy and is ASE certified. I will share the info here and we will get it checked out. Thank you.
 
Was the play there before the new parts? If it was and new parts did not fix then check your steering box. Like stated above. Have someone turn steering wheel back and forth. See if steering shaft turns a bit more before the pitman arm does. You can take up some bay adjusting your box. Be careful adjusting box as you can create some sticky steering/ return to center issues.
 
@jnunymc, following along as I'm experiencing similar symptoms. Please let us know what you find.
 
How would axle joints cause steering wheel free play?
They won't but at this point I'm not confident that he's confident in exactly what is wrong and causing play/wandering/whatever...

I just gave him the check list starting at ground zero to track the steering issue down.

What I don't quite understand unless I missed something is if he had it to a garage and they won't align it...my colleague's in this business will say here's why..here's how much to fix it.
Should we start or make appointment?

They wouldn't just say nope...not aligning your Jeep with that steering issue. Good luck with that then. Catch you on the fiipside. 🙄
 
They won't but at this point I'm not confident that he's confident in exactly what is wrong and causing play/wandering/whatever...

I just gave him the check list starting at ground zero to track the steering issue down.

What I don't quite understand unless I missed something is if he had it to a garage and they won't align it...my colleague's in this business will say here's why..here's how much to fix it.
Should we start or make appointment?

They wouldn't just say nope...not aligning your Jeep with that steering issue. Good luck with that then. Catch you on the fiipside. 🙄
Correct. They should have gave him options. I’m not sure if he changed out parts trying to fix the play or if the play can after swapping parts. Very hard to troubleshoot via text.
 
Correct. They should have gave him options. I’m not sure if he changed out parts trying to fix the play or if the play can after swapping parts. Very hard to troubleshoot via text.
Absolutely. All you can do is pass along things to cover...but even still.
The dry steering test. Telling a person is one thing. Watching what/how they're doing it and looking for is another. Which of course can't be done via text.

But we try...
 
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I recently replaced all the steering linkage and front end parts minus the ball joints on my 2002 TJ. It is driving fine down the road, but the shop we took it to wouldn't align it because of all the play on the steering wheel. I am new to working on Jeeps, this is the first one I've owned. Can anyone offer any suggestions that I can make to tighten up the steering wheel and adjust the play? Thank you all in advance.
Ok, so I was finally able to solve the loose steering issue and death wobble. 1. I tightened the sway bar bolt down by the passenger side tire. It had some play and knocked whenever I turned the wheel to the right. 2. I changed out the steering gear box and the pitman arm. The old one was worn and had huge gouges in the steering spline.

All I have left is to swap out the ball joints. The Jeep feels solid, the shop aligned it and all is good for now. Thank you everyone for your input, much appreciated!

1FB3D50A-C033-453A-B926-DAE09F42CEC0.jpeg


0FBB5F6A-D407-4C27-BAE5-060B44A1102A.jpeg
 
Ok, so I was finally able to solve the loose steering issue and death wobble. 1. I tightened the sway bar bolt down by the passenger side tire. It had some play and knocked whenever I turned the wheel to the right. 2. I changed out the steering gear box and the pitman arm. The old one was worn and had huge gouges in the steering spline.

All I have left is to swap out the ball joints. The Jeep feels solid, the shop aligned it and all is good for now. Thank you everyone for your input, much appreciated!

View attachment 249612

View attachment 249613
Where did you order the new box from? I think my play has to be coming from my gearbox and eventually I'll get around to replacing it
 
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I’m having the same problem, OReilly has two boxes, it looks like you got the bigger spline one, I’m trying to determine which one I need for my 2004 TJR.
 
Reman boxes are a crap shoot. Some are good, some are not. Some need adjusting right out of the package. Some get sloppy fairly quick. Mine is getting pretty loose with less than 3000 miles. My next one will be a new one from PSC.
 
Reman boxes are a crap shoot. Some are good, some are not. Some need adjusting right out of the package. Some get sloppy fairly quick. Mine is getting pretty loose with less than 3000 miles. My next one will be a new one from PSC.
I just swapped in mine from Napa yesterday and my dead zone is still there. Could it possibly be caused by my steering shaft, or should I try adjusting the box? I am worried about adjusting it too much, especially on a new box I don’t want to ruin
 
I just swapped in mine from Napa yesterday and my dead zone is still there. Could it possibly be caused by my steering shaft, or should I try adjusting the box? I am worried about adjusting it too much, especially on a new box I don’t want to ruin
You will have to inspect your steering to find where the free play is originating from.
 
You will have to inspect your steering to find where the free play is originating from.
My gearbox input moves but my pitman arm doesn’t so it was to be from in there, but I just swapped in a new gearbox and it didn’t help so I’m not sure if it could possibly be the end of my steering shaft instead or just the new box isn’t good