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Old 07-02-2010, 09:34 PM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2010
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Front End Clunking in 2001 Wrangler Sport

Our '01 Wrangler Sport 6-cylinder has been developing a clunk in the front end. 75,000 miles.

Started with a symptom where I could here a mild "thunk" when turned left. Now the "thunk" is a much larger "clunk," and there are clunks when we go over bumps, as well. Steering still seems tight.

I've read that the common parts that could be the problem are the track bar and/or the sway bar links. I'm fairly comfortable with car work and have complete tools. How hard is it to replace these parts? How long will it take? And does anyone have a good writeup of the procedure for replacing these parts?

I crawled under the Jeep and poked around. When I grabbed the Drag Link, I could twist/rotate it back and forth along its axis. The result was that the ball joints on either end moved around, and the clunking noise appears to be coming from where it meets up to the Stabilizer/Steering Damper -- I could make the clunk noise by rotating the Drag Link. I could also rotate the Tie Rod in a similar fashion and observed that its ball joints moved without much resistance. The Track Bar, on the other hand, seemed tight. Should the ball joints on ANY of the components here be able to swivel around? I'm assuming so.

I tried tightening the nuts on the Drag Link, but they're tight -- and were originally secured with cotter pins.

So, what should I do from here? What are the problem parts -- the ball joints on the Drag Link?

In the morning, I'm going to have my wife saw the steering wheel back and forth while I watch from below. Perhaps I'll diagnose other problems, but I suspect I'll simply confirm that the clunking is coming from the Drag Link as described above.

Also, we don't intend to do ANY mods to this vehicle, so I'll replace everything with OEM. Is it better/simpler/around the same cost to simply replace the bars with their attached links as total new units, or should I replace the bushings in the original bars? Can I find these parts easily at NAPA, Auto Zone, etc.?

Thanks for any help you can provide.


--Peter Ingram

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Old 07-03-2010, 01:55 AM   #2
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I'd check control arm bushings and ball joints in steering.

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Old 07-03-2010, 02:20 AM   #3
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any kind of vibrations in the steering wheel or pedals?
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Old 07-03-2010, 08:24 AM   #4
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It might be the struts. I know that happened to mine a long time ago. The front would sort of rattle when I drive over potholes or dirt roads...
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Old 07-03-2010, 11:16 AM   #5
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Thanks for your replies! And apologies -- I just joined this forum, and I've ended up posting this issue twice on this board. Sorry about that!

Joe Dirt, no vibrations in the steering wheel or pedals. Also don't feel any sort of "Death Wobble" symptoms.

This Wrangler has essentially never been off-roaded and has been gingerly driven by my wife since she bought it new in '01, primarily on smooth pavement. I imagine that has preserved some of the bushings a bit?
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Old 07-03-2010, 04:59 PM   #6
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Eventually things will rust out. Quicker if you live in a place with common rain, and road salt...Just one of those things ya know?
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Old 05-06-2011, 05:45 PM   #7
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i have this problem with my 97 TJ. theres is a horrible clunking sound coming from underneath and I checked it out. there is a lot of play in my drag link and tie rod. i can grab either of them and twist sort of recreating the sound when im driving. The clunk happens more at any speed under around 40 (probly cause i cant hear it otherwise). It happens driving straight or turning. dont know much about suspension and would like some help as well.
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Old 05-08-2011, 08:26 PM   #8
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The way to check tie rods, drag links, etc is to squeeze them with large pliers to check for play. No, don't squeeze sideways on the joint. Any play means a replacement is in order.
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Old 05-08-2011, 08:55 PM   #9
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To check front end parts(tie rods, pitman arms, drag link and such) have some one shake the steering wheel bake and forth hard with the engine off, you may have to have the key on so the steering wheel does not lock whil you lay under it and look for any movement in any of the joints. just because you can twist a tie rod does not mean its bad. play within the socket is what makes it bad. also check your front u joints

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