This is my first post here but I've been lurking for a while, so hello to everyone. This might be a long one as I have several things that are acting a little weird with my steering. The problems are liveable but I just know something is wrong and I really dont like that. Cliffs at the end.
I guess I will start out with what I have done so far, I have a Rough Country 4" X-Series lift which came with both front and rear track bar relocation brackets, drop pitman arm, and an adjustable front trackbar. It also have adjustable upper and lower control arms all around. I also have 33x10.5x15 MT/Rs on it as well. I installed this lift back in september and had what I was told a "full 4 wheel alignment". Later I found out they didnt charge me anything and just did the standard toe in and tie bar adjustment for the steering wheel. Upon driving it drove very weird, huge dead zone at the 12 O'clock which I thought was a bad gearbox so I swapped in the durango box and it helped but was still bad. I went to another shop I trust mostly where the owner apparently has a lifted Toyota do a true 4 wheel alignment and he did a pretty good job. It now drives straight down the road and the rear axle is centered and no more deadzone.
Now for the problems I still have. The front axle is off center by about a half an inch to the right and he says there is no more adjustment on the trackbar. I can live with this because it drives straight and the axles are parallel. Another thing weird is he said he cant get the steering wheel straight because there is no more adjustment on my drag link, which I checked and he is right. Due to these two problems he thinks my frame might be bent into a little bit of a diamond and thats why he cant get them right. I checked gaps on the frame relative to the body front and rear and they seem to be the same. There is also another problem that he never noticed or let me know about and it is that the wheels wont center on their own anymore coming out of a turn. I have been reading and think that maybe my caster is off, but I dont know for sure. To fix the steering wheel and get my turn signals back I thought about pulling the steering wheel and adjusting it that way, making sure not to mess with the clockspring or the airbag at all. I dont know if this will work and it still is just covering up underlying issues.
I'm not really sure where to start on any of this because it seems if I fix one problem it will mess with the other problems. I dont have any pictures but can take some if need be. Sorry this is such a long post but I wanted to try and explain everything. Thanks in advance for any and all help.
4" RC X-Series lift
Front axle is off center
No more adjustment in trackbar or tie rod
Steering Wheel not centered on steering shaft
Steering wheel wont center coming out of turns
Since you suspect the frame may be bent - no longer square, start with that.
Measure along each side of the frame to make sure they are equal lengths - it's probably fine there but make sure.
Then measure front to rear on the frame in an "X" fashion - like left front to right rear, then right front to right rear. Both measurements have to be the same or very close. Anything over 1/4" is considered too far off.
Doing the "X" insures the frame is a square rather than a skewed into a parallelogram.
And - measure between the control arm mounting points - front to rear - in the X fashion too. Sometimes one of the mounts gets welded in the wrong position.
Now for the axles:
Do the same thing from axle to axle - right front to right rear etc.
That insures the axles are parallel. If off, use the control arm adjustments to get it right.
Then do the "X" on the axles. That insures the axles are not offset one way or the other. Adjust the track bars to get them right.
That's the trickiest and hardest measurement, but you'll probably find the problem.
After making those corrections you should be able to get the steering wheel straight.
All it takes is a long tape measure and a helper to hold the end.
Or, make a pointer on a long stick and use it like a long caliper - get creative.
Doing it like that is really the same thing the sophisticated alignment equipment does except it doesn't check for squareness of the frame - unless the tech also did frame measurements. A 4 wheel alignment just measures all 4 wheels in relationship to each other and reads out in things like Offset, Thrust Angle etc..
Then after it's right the body should be sitting correctly atop the frame mounts. If it's not, sometimes you can just loosen the mounts and the body will pull back into proper position.
Let us know how it comes out.
It's no wonder the country is falling apart - stupidity abounds!
Do you have the stock tie rod and drag link?
BTW excellent and detailed advice from rrich.
I took mine in for some welding on the rear axle bracket and when I got it back it drove like a dog and I had similar weird problems that I fought for six months. Finally got under it and checked the length of the lower arms and found them to be off from each a bit. Then checked the uppers and found the same. Seems the shop took the arms off for the repair and adjusted them so they would fit to the mounts easier. My whole suspension was fighting itself. To make matters worse the rear track bar was put back almost 1/2 inch off. Replaced all bushings when I took them off and when it went back together correctly, fixed 90% of the problems.
Ok I'm tracking on that. After I check my frame for being square I was going to try and center the front axle. Ive heard the best way to do this is to disconnect the trackbar and bounce the front end around to get it to "settle over the springs" then adjust and reattach trackbar. Would this be correct to do before checking my control arms. I think once I get the axle centered then I will have to readjust my front control arms for sure. Is this the right thinking to tackle this?
All my control arms seemed to be in order up front, however I only measured them using a tape measure from what seemed like symmetrical reference points. The problem still persisted though. I then replaced my tie rod ends, these needed to be done. There were holes in the boots that I didn't notice the last time I was under there. That seemed to help out with the sloppy steering but the suspension still didnt seem right so I took it to a place where I could have the alignment checked for free and I got some really screwy numbers. I am going to post the numbers and hope I can get some help making sense of how to correct the problems. The numbers are as follows:
Front (first number is left and second is right )
Total Front Toe(Degrees): 0.30
Total Steer Ahead(Degrees): -0.18
Total Rear Toe(Degrees): 0.36
Thrust Angle(Degrees): -0.42
I know what some of these numbers mean but not necessarily how to correct them. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
It's hard to say but that DPA looks like it has too much drop for the amount of trackbar drop.
If you tied a string from the driver's side track bar mount to the passenger side track bar mount, and tied a second string from the driver's side drag link mount at the Pitman arm to the passenger-side track bar attach point, the two strings should be parallel to each other, like the red and yellow lines below.
__________________ When you have a choice, buy American.
I had friends help install a 4" lift kit on my 03 Rubicon (well, I did most of the watching, they did all the work) and the kit came with the drop pitman arm. Well, steering was BAD afterwards-a lot of what you described. Dead spot, wandering, way off...so I checked with a rubicon yahoo group I'm in...and EVERYONE of them that had done a lift had run into the same problems-so they went BACK to the STOCK pitman arm. Had to adjust the currie track bar (same one I already had before lift) and new alignment, but problem solved-it drives perfect now. Don't know anything about strings and measurements...I'm not a mechanic or tech head...just know that everyone else with the same problems went back to STOCK pitman arm. And if you can't put your hands on one, same one is in cherokees...just check local salvage yard or buy a new one...they are NOT expensive. Don't buy the most expensive one in the catalog...go with the basic OEM replacement-all just a steel casting.
I tied the strings like you recommended to the correct positions and they look to be parallel. Do you think this is ok or should I look into getting a slightly smaller drop pitman arm, like maybe one from a xj?
Could my sloppy steering be caused by my steering box. I installed the during box but did not make any adjustments when I put it in. Could adjustments to this help eliminate the sloppy / dead zone steering problems?
One is 5.1 and the other is 5.3. With a 4" lift and 33" tires.
Well it's probably not the caster angle that is causing your problem, those angles are a shade light but should be fine for 33" tires. The bigger the tire, the less caster angle that is needed from the factory original 6-7 degrees with stock size tires. If you have adjustable length arms, you might give them a half turn to increase the caster angle just a tad which might help. Or if you have an early enough TJ, you can just tweak the front cam bolts on the lower control arm to give that "tad" more caster angle.
The lash adjustment on the steering box is not something I'd mess with as it needs a rather exacting procedure be done to set it correctly.
__________________ When you have a choice, buy American.