TJ Steering Shafts and Bearings: What I Know


AndyG

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Now 13-19 years out of production , the steering shaft threads seem to be getting more common .

I bought an 03 Rubicon with 20,500 miles to avoid weird wear and tear and hear is all I have learned -

First , this part can affect the vehicles handling far more than you may realize..if it's worn, you can replace everything component and get the best alignment that any shop can offer but you're not going to get near new driving characteristics if this part is worn... It allows the wheels to wander ever so slightly and creates a need to constantly countersteer more than a track bar/coil spring vehicle should need against road crown .

If you can grab it and feel movement....it's worn.

1. Mileage doesn't matter ..I've seen that with 100,000 miles be near perfect,and mine was loose at 20,000 plus

2. Big tires work these parts harder. Sorry,it's a fact of life.

3. The big needle bearing is
the first to go. It can't be bought alone . You have to get the entire lower assembly ..and you should .the shaft wears in the bearing collar and the u joints tire.

4. Borgersen makes a heavier duty replacement shafts, upper and lower -DONT WASTE THE MONEY ..you can nearly buy 3 for what these cost ..3 that work.

I have had the u joint loosen in less than 5000 on two lowers, , the bigger part of the lower shaft that goes in the bearing mics smaller than my stock ..not cool.

5. A Jeep liberty bearing will fit in the stock housing , and bearing suppliers can also source a bearing .

6. The OEM replacement is not greased well . Pack it .

7. Keep degreaser and pressure washers away from this part and the u joints .

8. Prepare to center the wheel if you work on this and lock the wheel with the seat belt straight or you will kill a clock spring.

Will add anything I think of.

AndyG

This part can be cleaned and greased. A grease fitting would be excellent if possible, but don't drill into the rollers .
 
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Chris

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Helpful information, thanks for sharing this! Definitely didn't know that about the Borgeson unit.
 
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Titus99

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I have had a borgeson lower for about a year and considering switching back to OEM. I did already with the upper just after a month or two of using it.
 
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AndyG

AndyG

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I have had a borgeson lower for about a year and considering switching back to OEM. I did already with the upper just after a month or two of using it.
I was beyond disappointed....you cannot underestimate how important that shaft working smoothly is.
 

Titus99

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The upper shaft I had somehow slipped off of the lower when I was in the mountains. It doesn't mount the same as the OEM. I wasn't going to trust it again after that. 2 little allen screws to hold it in place.
 

LieutenantJohnson

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Good write up.
You should take some pictures for reference for those who may not understand WHAT part you are speaking of.

I realize on my 06 LJR they use Ujoints on the shafts. I am guessing this "pillow" block is the bearing you are referring to.

Did you swap yours out for a liberty one? How was the fitment?

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 7.35.36 PM.jpg
 
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Steel City 06

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I'm pretty sure they are the same item. I just swapped a 97-02 shaft into an 03-06 and the shaft appears to be the same diameter. It bolts to the bracket exactly the same way.

(Note that the 97-02 shaft will only fit in an 03-06 if you swap to a Saginaw or PSC box.)
 
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Chasitek

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I'm pretty sure they are the same item. I just swapped a 97-02 shaft into an 03-06 and the shaft appears to be the same diameter. It bolts to the bracket exactly the same way.

(Note that the 97-02 shaft will only fit in an 03-06 if you swap to a Saginaw or PSC box.)
So the bearing/bushing from the 97-02 did fit the 03-06 shaft? I just need to replace the bearing, not the shaft. I can't even find an entire replacement shaft for the 03-06.
 

Steel City 06

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The 97-02 shaft came with a bearing, so I didn't bother to check if the bearing fit the original shaft. The bearing does appear to be the same part, but unfortunately I can't verify it will slide in now that it is installed.
 
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Chasitek

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I'm pretty sure they are the same item. I just swapped a 97-02 shaft into an 03-06 and the shaft appears to be the same diameter. It bolts to the bracket exactly the same way.

(Note that the 97-02 shaft will only fit in an 03-06 if you swap to a Saginaw or PSC box.)
Not sure if I missed the note part before when I read this but you’re saying the 97-02 lower shaft will NOT work with the 03-06 OEM gearbox?
 

Steel City 06

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Not sure if I missed the not part before but you’re saying the 97-02 lower shaft will NOT work with the 03-06 OEM gearbox?
Correct. An 03-06 shaft will only work with an OEM or OEM style 03-06 gearbox. A 97-02 shaft will only work with a 97-02 OEM or OEM style gearbox (or any PSC Saginaw box).

An 03-06 shaft can be shortened to the 97-02 length by drilling out the plastic and collapsing it, but the 97-02 shaft cannot be extended to the length of the 03-06 shaft.

As for gearboxes, the 97-02 and 03-06 boxes are not interchangeable unless the frame holes are relocated and re-welded. The 97-02 box is significantly longer than the 03-06 style, hence the difference in steering shaft lengths.

The only way to install a 97-02 steering shaft into an 03-06 is to install an aftermarket Saginaw box like the PSC or to modify the frame and install a factory 97-02 Saginaw box.
 

Kmck2003TJ

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Correct. An 03-06 shaft will only work with an OEM or OEM style 03-06 gearbox. A 97-02 shaft will only work with a 97-02 OEM or OEM style gearbox (or any PSC Saginaw box).

An 03-06 shaft can be shortened to the 97-02 length by drilling out the plastic and collapsing it, but the 97-02 shaft cannot be extended to the length of the 03-06 shaft.

As for gearboxes, the 97-02 and 03-06 boxes are not interchangeable unless the frame holes are relocated and re-welded. The 97-02 box is significantly longer than the 03-06 style, hence the difference in steering shaft lengths.

The only way to install a 97-02 steering shaft into an 03-06 is to install an aftermarket Saginaw box like the PSC or to modify the frame and install a factory 97-02 Saginaw box.
I accidently bought a lower shaft for a 97-02 TJ to replace my lower shaft on my 03, but I was able to make it work. As you said, the lower end section is about 2 inches too short where it meets the gearbox.
The end that goes into the gearbox is held in the shaft by a metal pin with a rubber bushing. I hammered out the pin and worked out the end piece of my old shaft. Did the same with my new shaft and swapped the longer piece into the new shaft. Replaced the pin and bushing as well and worked beautifully. If you have the time and patience, you can use the cheaper 97-02 lower shaft with this modification.
 

Rubicon John

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@AndyG what is the best option for buying the shafts? The u joints seem to have some play in mine. I’m going to investigate a bit more closely tomorrow.

I can’t find anything reasonably priced.
 
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AndyG

AndyG

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@AndyG what is the best option for buying the shafts? The u joints seem to have some play in mine. I’m going to investigate a bit more closely tomorrow.

I can’t find anything reasonably priced.
Get the Mopar complete assembly , grease the needle bearing well and be careful with how you reassemble as far as the slip fit joint ..keep the old one as a reference.

It really made mine steer quieter.
 

Rubicon John

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Get the Mopar complete assembly , grease the needle bearing well and be careful with how you reassemble as far as the slip fit joint ..keep the old one as a reference.

It really made mine steer quieter.
Do you have a part number? The only Mopar one I could find was almost $500