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Discussion Starter #1
So, I'm thinking it's the steering gear box, but I'd like to get some opinions before I throw parts at a problem.

What happens is, when I'm driving on a road with some curves, the 1/4 rotation or less of the steering wheel it takes to navigate the corner intermittently is unresponsive, requiring me to turn more towards 1/2 of a turn. To compound the problem, once I've overcorrected to achieve the correct turn, it sometimes snaps to response, and the wheels turn to the expected angle for 1/2 a turn.

I put a GoPro on the transfer case skid plate and drove around, and it doesn't seem like the wheels are out of sync. Both "jump" in sync when it does happen. There's no noticeable road noise when the jump happens, it reacts the same as it would if I were to slam the wheel quickly to 1/2 turn.'

I'm running 37s with auburn ected front e-lockers. I've tried disconnected the elockers by the differential so that it would eliminate any potential electrical problem, but it still seems to be happening.

There was play in the steering a few months back when I bought the jeep, and the owner said his mechanic told him that he should get hydroassist steering, because the stock steering gear box is not meant to handle such large tires. I was able to resolve the play by getting an alignment and tightening the bolt on the top of the gear box.

Here's a video of turning the pitman arm when turning wheel left/right without the engine on, key on acc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4rhcCvaECE
 

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Don't listen to that suggestion that the stock steering box can't handle big tires. Unless you are on over 35" tires you are fine. Is there any play in the steering ujoints between the box and steering wheel or any of the ball joints on the drag link or tie rod? Just have someone move the wheel back a forth a little bit while you check all the joints for play. If there is no play in any joints and the input shaft is able to turn in the steering box without the output shaft moving it sounds like your box is on its way out.
 

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In addition to the above, I'd check for a loose front track bar. If it has play in it it could allow your axle to move around as you initiate a steering input and could result in the symptom you have described.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Don't listen to that suggestion that the stock steering box can't handle big tires. Unless you are on over 35" tires you are fine.
So, I am running 37s, with front lockers. Not sure if that changes your opinion at all.

Is there any play in the steering ujoints between the box and steering wheel or any of the ball joints on the drag link or tie rod? Just have someone move the wheel back a forth a little bit while you check all the joints for play. If there is no play in any joints and the input shaft is able to turn in the steering box without the output shaft moving it sounds like your box is on its way out.
Not sure what you wanted me to do to check for play, but I tried yanking on the tie rod, drag link, pitman arm and track bar in side to side motions; nothing budges with just my seated one-armed pulling. I also recorded two videos of my wife turning the wheel with the engine running (counting the degrees on a clock) so I could see the relation of the pitman arm.

The track bar bushings were recently replaced.

Here's an front on view

Here's an underside view

Here's a few pictures.







With picture two... Not sure if that's something leaking, but I don't recall spraying anything there.
 

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If there was play in the steering and adjusting the sector shaft fixed it, but now the play is back, it's the steering box. You should consider hydro assist for those 37s and while your at it get rid of the drop pitman arm.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
If there was play in the steering and adjusting the sector shaft fixed it, but now the play is back, it's the steering box. You should consider hydro assist for those 37s and while your at it get rid of the drop pitman arm.
I'd say it's a different kind of play now. Before it was consistently requiring a great degree of turning to bring about any changes to direction of the vehicle. Now it's randomly requiring a great degree of turning to bring the vehicle anywhere but straight, and then it randomly snaps to the appropriate amount.

Also curious what's wrong with a drop pitman arm? I'm no pro, but I've heard it helps eliminate bump steer by keeping the drag link and track bar closer in parallel.
 

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Your dropped Pitman arm is actually contributing to bump steer, not helping it. Because your driver's side track bar mount is stock and not dropped, you should not be running that dropped Pitman arm. I'd replace it right away with the OE non-dropped Pitman arm. The passenger-side track bar mount and Pitman arm must match so far as being dropped goes. They both must be either dropped or they both must be undropped.

Next, those 37's are too big for your Dana 30 and its ball joints. The biggest size tire a Dana 30 or the TJ Rubicon's front Dana 44 which is more Dana 30 than Dana 44 is 35".

Is there slop between the steering wheel and how the Pitman arm is moving? If so your steering box is probably shot, in part from trying to run 37's.

My TJ is running a beefed up front D44 with hardened alloy Superior Axle 30 spline inner/outer axle shafts, Warn Big Hub kit, CTM u-joints, etc. and I am limiting my tire size to 35" max. Going bigger than 35" just causes problems.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I don't suffer from bump steering currently though, just the strange accuracy problem. I believe my track bar is adjustable. Isn't the design meant to be for the two to be angled near each other? Don't you want the drag link/track bar to be as close to horizontal as possible?

The location of the passenger side track bar from quadratec looks different than mine.



Here's my passenger side mount location



And the drivers side mount location. (Adjustable?)




Also, I've had people tell me I should use this setup, hydro assist. AGR 325351K12 - AGR Rock Ram System for 97-02 Jeep® Wrangler TJ with 6 Cylinder - Quadratec
 
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