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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey Guys- I had a front end collision recently- thanks to steel bumper my JK looked without a scratch, but the steering wheel was a bit off. Went to the alignment shop to have it straightened out, and they did. A few days later though, after a couple bumps and 50 miles or so, the steering wheel is way off- further than when I brought it in- and I can feel that the wheel alignment isn't right.


Reading through this forum it sounds like it could be the tie rod, drag link, track bar? I also have a 2.5" AEV lift with geometry correction brackets (brackets bent?). The guy at the alignment shop is willing to redo the alignment for me for free, but I'm guessing it will slip right out of alignment again, so I want to fix it.


How do I figure out what the culprit is here? Do I need to just start aligning, and then replacing one item over and over until it seems fixed? Will drive me insane! Would really appreciate any suggestions!!
 

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Normally it is the draglink that centers steering wheel - it may just have reached end of useful life. But the front end collision throws a whole nother wrinkle into it. Did they give you an alignment printout that show your angles? Many things *could* be bent, or it could just be time for a new draglink.
 
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I would check your drag link and tie rod. If you bent the tie rod it will move your steering wheel out of line. I would also check all steering components to make sure nothing is loose or damage an is moving around. If your wheel was turned in the accident it could have damaged the ball joint at the steering knuckle or the pitman arm on the drag link.

My first inclination is the tie rod, as once you bend it, it will be weakened and continue to bend more as steering forces are applied to it and it is being forced to push or pull the drivers side wheel to follow the passenger wheel. The tie rod should be straight and flat on the front of the Jeep. Check your toe in also that will tell you if you have a tie rod issue. Post up what you find...Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks @93YJfan and @mommymallcrawler for the replies. That's all really helpful. I've gotten under there a few times to check out each of the components, but from the naked eye I can't seem to see anything bent, I will look again today. You mentioned checking my toe-in- if the toe-in is off, but the camber etc seems to be on, is that a good indication that it is the tie-rod? I will post a printout from the new alignment check tomorrow morning.



That tie rod tip is exactly the kind of info I need- just trying to see if I can eliminate possibilities without having to replace the ball joints/ knuckles, track bar, tie rod one at a time until it steers right.



Thank you!
 

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If your steering wheel is rotating out of position there are only two things that are attached to the pitman arm, the drag link and the tie rod through the knuckle. So, that pretty much leaves those two parts to check, but there are 4 joints between them and anyone of them could have gotten damaged by the force of the impact. You never know what the force of the impact can damage if something is hit wrong or turned just the right way at the time of impact.

On the outside chance it could be a loose pitman arm on the steering shaft but I doubt it. And, yes if you haven't changed anything yourself, a bent tie rod will change the toe in.

How does the vehicle drive and steer since the accident other than the steering wheel issue? Track good, turn good, return to center after a turn????
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@93YJfan thanks again. I just talked to the alignment guy- he knows cars but he doesn’t know Jeeps very well. He’s basically saying it could be anything. I’ve attached a few pics of the front end. Any chance something sticks out to you as looking not right?
 

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Thanks @93YJfan and @mommymallcrawler for the replies. That's all really helpful. I've gotten under there a few times to check out each of the components, but from the naked eye I can't seem to see anything bent, I will look again today. You mentioned checking my toe-in- if the toe-in is off, but the camber etc seems to be on, is that a good indication that it is the tie-rod? I will post a printout from the new alignment check tomorrow morning.



That tie rod tip is exactly the kind of info I need- just trying to see if I can eliminate possibilities without having to replace the ball joints/ knuckles, track bar, tie rod one at a time until it steers right.



Thank you!
Camber is not adjustable in stock form, only way to modify it is with special ball joints. Caster is set by your lower control arms, so unless you have adjustables, there is nothing you can do with the stock arms. Toe is with the tie rod and is really the only thing an alignment can change on a stock vehicle. along with drag link to straighten the wheel.

Did you check the drag link sleeve near the pitman arm? both bolts tight? can you rotate the sleeve by hand?
 

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Is your track bar adjustable. If it is, either the drag link or the track bar having the adjuster loose could / would cause the steering to shift from being straight. But, if either of those is why the steering wheel is loosing center the toe will still be correct, the toe won't really change. If the tie rod is where the issue is, that can cause the steering wheel to loose center but it will also cause the toe to change.
If the steering is loosing center but the toe isn't changing it can be be either the drag link or the track bar. If the toe is also changing it is likely the tie rod.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
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Guys-Thanks to you all, got this figured out. CANNOT thank you enough for all your help, I was seriously considering moving on to a new Jeep after hearing I was going to have to replace a massive amount of parts. @cummins - you nailed it. These guys just didn't tighten the bolts on the drag link sleeve enough- it was so simple I didn't even think to check until you mentioned it!



Also @93YJfan - you nailed it as well. Where the drag link attaches to the knuckle, it is super loose and the drag link wiggles easily by hand, as does the tie rod. Had it re-aligned over the weekend and it has not slipped out yet- but I still need to replace that- correct? Should I buy a new tie rod and drag link? Or can I simply replace the joints that connect them?



Any idea what the effects of driving with these loose joints will have? Looking to do some fishing this weekend which will require a bit of mild off-roading, but dont want to damage anything further.

@93YJfan @cummins @GuzziMoto - Sincerely appreciate your help- hope I will get the chance to return the favor sometime.
 

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Guys-Thanks to you all, got this figured out. CANNOT thank you enough for all your help, I was seriously considering moving on to a new Jeep after hearing I was going to have to replace a massive amount of parts. @cummins - you nailed it. These guys just didn't tighten the bolts on the drag link sleeve enough- it was so simple I didn't even think to check until you mentioned it!



Also @93YJfan - you nailed it as well. Where the drag link attaches to the knuckle, it is super loose and the drag link wiggles easily by hand, as does the tie rod. Had it re-aligned over the weekend and it has not slipped out yet- but I still need to replace that- correct? Should I buy a new tie rod and drag link? Or can I simply replace the joints that connect them?



Any idea what the effects of driving with these loose joints will have? Looking to do some fishing this weekend which will require a bit of mild off-roading, but dont want to damage anything further.

@93YJfan @cummins @GuzziMoto - Sincerely appreciate your help- hope I will get the chance to return the favor sometime.
The joints at each end of the drag link, along with the joints on each end of the tie rod, should be somewhat loose and able to flop back and forth. As long as their is no play in the direction force is being transmitted through them you should be fine. If you have play in the direction force is being transmitted, i.e. side to side play, you have a problem. But the joints should be able to move fore and aft. They are basically a ball joint and as such they should be able to rotate fairly freely. As long as their is no side to side play you should be fine. If there is side to side play you can either replace the ends or replace the entire linkage.
 

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As Guzzi mentioned they should have some movement front to back but if they move from left to right you have a problem. I believe the torque spec on that nut is 63 ft lbs.

Here are some common torque specs to check:

Pitman Arm Shaft 185 ft-lbs

Drag Link Ball Stud To Pitman Arm 77 ft-lbs

Drag Link Ball Stud To Knuckle 63 ft-lbs

Drag Link Clamp 26 ft-lbs

Tie Rod Ends Ball Studs 63 ft-lbs

Tie Rod Ends Clamp 45 ft-lbs

Steering Stabilizer To Frame 50 ft-lbs

Steering Stabilizer Tie Rod nut 50 ft-lbs

Track Bar Frame Bracket Nut 125 ft-lbs

Track Bar Axle Bracket Bolt 125 ft-lbs
 

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Glad you got it fixed.. BUT.. looking at your alignment sheet, the Camber is off, slightly. Either you have bent an axle housing or your ball joints are shot. OEM ball joints are garbage and will fail quickly with any amount of off-roading. As I have recently learned, they make "adjustable" ball joints. To get your Jeep "right" I'd spend my money there first. You'll know when they completely fail. It's known as death wobble.

Further, because the drag link was left loose and you have some miles on it, there is a chance it has damaged the bushing or joint. If you're planning a lift and have to get a new drag link, start researching drag link flip. You can buy those that will attach to the bottom (for stock height) or top (for lift) of the knuckle. I don't know that the drag link, track bar, or tie rod "flopping" is a sign of a good component. New drag or tie rod should push up and hold, vs "flopping" back down. A slow fall may be typical as the components wear and an indication you need to grease them (assuming greasable fittings which you can install.) A "flop" is typically a sign of worn joints.

Also- I’m going to have it re-aligned tomorrow, just in case the shop screwed something up. Here is the reading from the first alignment- before they fixed it. Will post the new reading tomorrow after he aligns again.
 

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FYI You will not have clearance to flip the draglink until you get bare minimum 3 or 3.5 inches or better lift.
 
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