Steering won't return to center (6.1 degree caster - 1/8" toe-in)

zachpeakee

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Only my third message ever in the forums, and I hate to be 'that guy', but here we go.

According to the alignment rack AND my digital angle gauge, I'm sitting at 6.1* positive caster & 1/8 Toe-In.

Despite that, the Steering will not "return to center".
Meaning, at any speed, If I point the wheel and let go it continues to go that direction, until I turn the wheel again.
While this seems as simple as "just point the wheel where you want to go", it's leading to some seriously twitchy mannerisms while driving.
It drives fairly "okay" on the street, but steering feels sloppy/wobbly.
It's extremely twitchy, and doesn't feel stable while at speed.

Aside from that, I do not suffer from Bump Steer, or any other "weird" steering issues. (death wobble, etc)
I can drive the TJ with one finger all day long, it just refuses to track straight without assistance.

4" Suspension Lift, 33"x12.50 Tires.
ZJ Steering Conversion with all new parts
Fully adjustable Control Arms (Front/Rear/Lower/Upper)
JKS Adjustable Track Bar (Front/Rear)
Factory Length Pitman Arm

Steering stabilizer is a Monroe Magnum SC2928

I've come to the opinion that I have either a Steering Box issue, or a funky Ball-Joint.
Although Ball-Joints seem to check out as being in good shape.
Nothing crazy is standing out to me as a blown Ball-Joint.

This is an issue that I've chased for the past 3 months, and cannot seem to pinpoint a solution.
There are a few threads about this in the forums, with most of them never updated on a solution.
Hoping some of you guys who are smarter than me can help point me in a good direction.

Attaching a picture of my front end, for any of you "geometry" guru's to dissect.

IMG_3702.jpg
 
You've done well at logically following the steps...you've got the right components and your alignment is right where it should be. My track bar is Currie and my ZJ steering doesn't look nearly as nice but otherwise we have about the same setup and my return to center is fine.

Did the issue show up at random or was there work done to it right before? I think ball joints and steering box are good places to look since there isn't anything else obvious at this point but when I've heard of them causing RtC issues, it was after being replaced or "adjusted".
 
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Are you measuring your toe in using the tires? or taking the wheels off and using flat bars on the brake rotors? When I was first trying to get on the road after installing a lift I started with a quick and dirty measurement of flat bars bungeed to the tires. After dialing things in and taking the wheels off to measure against the rotors I found the measurement against the tires was pointless and nowhere close to the measurement on the rotors.

Beyond that, maybe try driving at a slow speed with the steering stabilizer removed to see if that makes any difference.

And the steering wheel is centered? I don't think this could cause the degree of issue you're having, but my understanding is that if you're driving straight but the wheel is cockeyed then the pump is not centered and it's going to be providing some assist to center the steering pump.
 
You're right, your specs sound right on so this is pretty mysterious. As above how was the toe measured? My first thought is your steering box could be shot and the cause but it's hard to say

By the way I like your ramps, where did you get them? I had to leave my steel ramps, jack stands, and floor jack in California when I moved to florida last year and I could use a pair of ramps like yours. A link or where to find them would be appreciated.
 
To check if a bent or binding ball joint is the problem, pop the tie rod off the knuckle, then swing that wheel through the full range of steering. There should be no bind. It should basically flop from one stop to the other. Repeat for other wheel.
 
By the way I like your ramps, where did you get them? I had to leave my steel ramps, jack stands, and floor jack in California when I moved to florida last year and I could use a pair of ramps like yours. A link or where to find them would be appreciated.

His look a little nicer than mine, but I've got some rhino ramp style ones from Harbor Freight that I've had for several years. I've had the front and rear of my Ram 1500 on them with no issues. I might not put a 3/4 ton on them but up to a 1/2 ton they're great for about $50

Also, in response to the OP, have you checked the fluid level and for leaks or damaged hoses. It seems like a leak or hose that is swelling or collapsing could cause pressure issues that would lead to abnormal issues.
 
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His look a little nicer than mine, but I've got some rhino ramp style ones from Harbor Freight that I've had for several years. I've had the front and rear of my Ram 1500 on them with no issues. I might not put a 3/4 ton on them but up to a 1/2 ton they're great for about $50
Thanks for the suggestion, I found them at HFT and they look similar to the OP's. Thanks! https://www.harborfreight.com/automotive/ramps/6500-lb-capacity-portable-ramp-set-2-piece-63956.html

@zachpeakee
your ramps look to be two piece, are they? My "3 car garage" is not very big and two pieces would be easier for me to find a place for.
 
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Great suggestion, I found them at HFT and they look very similar to the OP's. Thanks! https://www.harborfreight.com/automotive/ramps/6500-lb-capacity-portable-ramp-set-2-piece-63956.html

Now that I say it, I do have one issue, they want to slide on the concrete as you pull onto them. I usually just throw it in 4wd to pull up or just give it a couple inches of "run up" to get started (as in don't just ease up but start with your tire 6" or so away and roll onto it). Some may have better traction than others. The ones you shared look like they would do better on the bottom with more footprint in contact with the ground.
 
Thanks for the suggestion, I found them at HFT and they look similar to the OP's. Thanks! https://www.harborfreight.com/automotive/ramps/6500-lb-capacity-portable-ramp-set-2-piece-63956.html

@zachpeakee
your ramps look to be two piece, are they? My "3 car garage" is not very big and two pieces would be easier for me to find a place for.

His ramps say "Schwaben" on them. That apparently equals $$$. Google "Schwaben car ramps." All the two-pieces versions I saw were in the $350 to $500 range.
 
Here are my suggestions:

Jack up the front axle and put a jackstand under each axle tube just inside the inner Cs. Then get in, start it, and turn the wheel, feeling for odd torque changes. Then have someone else turn the wheel and look for contact between any steering component (don't forget to look at the steering column in the engine bay, too) and something else. If the steering wheel torque has an odd feel to it, or there is contact, investigate and fix the issue. If not, then you have to start taking things apart and investigating things on a component level. For instance, remove the steering damper completely to confirm or eliminate it. As noted by Geepum, disconnect the tie rods from the knuckles to confirm or eliminate ball joints. Disconnect the drag link from the pitman arm to test the steering gear, etc.

Good luck - you'll figure this out, it just takes time (and then money to fix it, sometimes)!
 
His ramps say "Schwaben" on them. That apparently equals $$$. Google "Schwaben car ramps." All the two-pieces versions I saw were in the $350 to $500 range.

Yeah I learned about them when I owned a BMW and a Mini. All sorts of specialized tools for european vehicles. $$$ is right.
 
You're right, your specs sound right on so this is pretty mysterious. As above how was the toe measured? My first thought is your steering box could be shot and the cause but it's hard to say

By the way I like your ramps, where did you get them? I had to leave my steel ramps, jack stands, and floor jack in California when I moved to florida last year and I could use a pair of ramps like yours. A link or where to find them would be appreciated.

Jerry - Check out Race Ramps. I have a set that looks exactly like the OPs. They are a light weight foam, two piece, and have lasted for years. The two piece lets you get the ramp part out of the way making it easy to slide under the rig.
 
Now that I say it, I do have one issue, they want to slide on the concrete as you pull onto them. I usually just throw it in 4wd to pull up or just give it a couple inches of "run up" to get started (as in don't just ease up but start with your tire 6" or so away and roll onto it). Some may have better traction than others. The ones you shared look like they would do better on the bottom with more footprint in contact with the ground.
Yeah my previous steel ramps did that on my previous home's concrete garage floor, it took some work to get the Jeep on top of them. My current garage floor is even slicker with its epoxy coating, I'll have to think this over. I may just do without, I'm not at the point of doing any serious work on the TJ any more and the ramps I looked at were just for our two daily driver cars so I could change the oil. I think I'll pass on the thought of those plastic ramps, they just wouldn't work on my current floor with a little more thought.
 
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Did the issue show up at random or was there work done to it right before? I think ball joints and steering box are good places to look since there isn't anything else obvious at this point but when I've heard of them causing RtC issues, it was after being replaced or "adjusted".
That's what we need to know. Was any work done to the steering gear or support system? If not and this just showed up out of the blue, it would be very odd to have a RTC issue just suddenly appear without something being done.
 
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Yeah my previous steel ramps did that on my previous home's concrete garage floor, it took some work to get the Jeep on top of them. My current garage floor is even slicker with its epoxy coating, I'll have to think this over. I may just do without, I'm not at the point of doing any serious work on the TJ any more and the ramps I looked at were just for our two daily driver cars so I could change the oil. I think I'll pass on the thought of those plastic ramps, they just wouldn't work on my current floor with a little more thought.

My dad's ramps were just 2-3 layers of 2x6 straight cut to different lengths and screwed together. They usually didn't slide because the edge of the board seemed to bite into the tire a little bit instead of just getting pushed, but if they slid we put a new piece of duct tape on the bottom. 🤣 Had to be ready with the brake because there wasn't a lip at the end so you'd just drive right off.

I'm pretty sure he's still using them.
 
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My dad's ramps were just 2-3 layers of 2x6 straight cut to different lengths and screwed together. They usually didn't slide because the edge of the board seemed to bite into the tire a little bit instead of just getting pushed, but if they slid we put a new piece of duct tape on the bottom. 🤣 Had to be ready with the brake because there wasn't a lip at the end so you'd just drive right off.

I'm pretty sure he's still using them.

We have perfect supports for when we need to lift the rig just high enough to do a trans swap, want very high levels of retention so the rig doesn't roll away, higher than normal ramps, and cheap as all get out.

1704297731032.png
 
Yeah my previous steel ramps did that on my previous home's concrete garage floor, it took some work to get the Jeep on top of them. My current garage floor is even slicker with its epoxy coating, I'll have to think this over. I may just do without, I'm not at the point of doing any serious work on the TJ any more and the ramps I looked at were just for our two daily driver cars so I could change the oil. I think I'll pass on the thought of those plastic ramps, they just wouldn't work on my current floor with a little more thought.

I also have an epoxy coating on the floor - and it is impossible for me to use steel ramps as they slide. But the race ramps do not move at all.
 
Yeah my previous steel ramps did that on my previous home's concrete garage floor, it took some work to get the Jeep on top of them. My current garage floor is even slicker with its epoxy coating, I'll have to think this over. I may just do without, I'm not at the point of doing any serious work on the TJ any more and the ramps I looked at were just for our two daily driver cars so I could change the oil. I think I'll pass on the thought of those plastic ramps, they just wouldn't work on my current floor with a little more thought.

I put old rubber door mats under my steel ramps to keep them from sliding on the garage floor