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.