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Loose Steering

10881 Views 19 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  erickpl
I've got a problem with my TJ's steering. I can turn the wheel from 10:00 to the 2:00 position w/o the TJ changing direction. I'm used to it, but my daughter is driving my Jeep until we get her a car to replace her totalled Honda and it concerns her.

I've heard to check the TRE's (new ZJ tierod installed), trackbar tightness, joints for the wheels for play and to set the backlash on the steering box.

I thought I'd do the steer box adjustment as everything else has checked out (though I'll be checking again). I've also heard you can put in a Durango steering box, but I don't know the model specifics (year, options, etc) or a P/N.

I've also heard mention of replacing the steering stabilizer since I now have 33's and still running the stock stabilizer. What would replacing this do for me?

Any additional input?

Mr. Clifford, I sent a similar request to Dirk, so any input you guys have on this would be greatly appreciated. If I do a SS, it'll be OME to go with the rest of my setup.
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· Retired Admin/Mod
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Have you checked to make sure the pitman arm isin the correct spot to start off with?

· Retired Moderator
8,157 Posts
I had a similar problem like you're describing awhile back. My steering also felt "loose" and it took some turning before it would respond. I got underneath it and had my wife turn the steering wheel back and forth while I checked for anything loose. My problem turned out to be my track bar. I had a lot of play in the joint where it connects to the axle. I since replaced that track bar (Superlift) with a JKS and now the problem is solved and I no longer have any play or dead spot in my steering.

Just a random thought but I'd check your track bar as it could be the culprit.


· Registered
310 Posts
DONT MESS WITH THE SECTOR SHAFT PRELOAD!!!! There shouls be no reason to ever adjust this. Its one surefire way to destroy a good box. I would bet a few things are going on here. I would check all the tightness of the bolts on EVERYTHING. That means the pitman arm, the trac-bar, the upper and lower control arms. I would suggst having someone rotate the wheel in the dead spot and look for anything that moves. Pay attention tho the tie rod end @ the pitman arm. Also remove the cotter pin and make sure that the 19MM nut on the tierod end is tight. They have been known to loosen up, not because the nut loosens, but because the tapered hole will tend to wallow out. Just some things to check. Now for the second though..........How many Lifted Jeeps has your daughter driven?? Is she used to the somewhat "loose" feeling that is inherent in any lifted vehicle??? Jumping from a Honda to a Jeep, there is a big difference. Once again, just something to think of. Hope this helps, If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at the shop!!!:D


· Retired Moderator
6,829 Posts
my front end feels loose as well. i ordered a steering stabilizer for $50 this evening. hopefully that will cure it for me.
Man, don't waste your money on those expensive steering stabilizers. Just go to Napa or most other auto parts stores and get the Monroe stabilizer. They are made by the same company as Rancho.

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2019 Sting Grey JLUR and 2021 Granite 392
5,164 Posts
They are made by the same company as Rancho.

I will forget you said that. :p

While I do believe steering stabilizers are a waste of money I still put one on my wifes jeep cause the stocker looked like crap and it matched the shocks. I drove for a long time on my jeep with no SS with no problems at all.

I do agree, however, that the loose steering is somewhere in the steering components. I have seen loose steering be a result of a worn out box. The shaft will move quite a bit in the box and allow a little bit of slop. Add that to a track bar that is moving and you get more. Add that to some worn out hubs or ball joints and you have a jeep all over the road. I don't believe 10-2 is normal with no reaction. You need to get under your jeep and see what is going on just like suggested above. This isn't just "a jeep thing" I was under my 02 2500HD earlier having my wife go side to side enough to change directions. My problem? TRE was loose at the pitman. Tightened it up and she was good to go.

Apart from all the front end problems that can be I have also seen steering problems in the rear end. Do you have an adjustable track bar for the rear or the bracket? That bracket is horrible. It doesn't like to stay put and the bolts usually "can" back off torque so check it as well.

My wifes jeep is very solid in the steering department. There is a very small amount of play off dead center and just a very small amount. I'm thinking somewhere from 11:58-12:03 :)

· Registered
1,994 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Here's what I wrote up.

If your steering system has a lot of play in the steering wheel, there are some things you can check and do to make it a bit more responsive. While a steering wheel with play may not be a big deal to the regular driver of the Jeep, family members who drive it may find it a safety and reaction time issue.

With that in mind, I set forward to improve my steering response.

Tools you will/may need:

- 10mm socket/wrench to remove plastic Jeep cover over swaybar
- 16mm socket
- 5/8” open wrench
- allen wrenches
- sockets to remove bumper and/or fog lights as necessary
- PB Blaster or other penetrating lubricant
- brake cleaner (optional)
- a helper

Before you start adjusting the steering box backlash, check ALL linkages under the Jeep in the steering. This means check your trackbar ends, tie rod ends, drag link ends, etc. Even a little play in any of these joints can lead to play, or possibly unsafe disconnecting.

Once all links are tightened (or replaced if worn), you are ready to tackle the steering box backlash.

My TJ has an integrated winch plate on the Jeeperman bumper, so I had to get it out of the way. If you have a stock bumper, this may not be an issue, but if you have a winch plate, you will likely need to move it.

I used a 19 MM socket to remove 3 of the 4 bolts holding my bumper on. I also had to loosen/disconnect my steering box skid. Do this using the necessary sockets, as different makers use different size bolts (I had reused a Torx bolt from my old stock bumper for this).

With 3 of the 4 bolts holding the bumper on removed, I slid it out of the way. This gave me enough room to work on the steering box backlash and I didn’t have to remove the winch completely.

Removing the bumper is probably faster if you don’t have a winch, etc as you will either need to tighten it all back down on the test drives or have it off. Your call.

Now that the bumper is out of the way, you’ll see a bolt with a hole on the end. That is the screw you’ll be adjusting, but you need to loosen the lock nut underneath it. If it is too tight, you can use a 16 MM socket to loosen it. Once loose, use the 5/8” open ended wrench to loosen it. Be sure to use the appropriate sized allen wrench to keep the center adjusting screw from turning while loosening the lock nut.

Once the lock nut is loose, use the allen wrench to turn the adjusting screw ¼ (MAX) to the right (clockwise). Tighten everything back down and make the Jeep ready to drive (reattach bumper, etc) or move it out of the way. :)

Test drive it and see how it feels. If it is still loose, continue to adjust it at most ¼ turn at a time.

· Registered
1,994 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I'd go with OME, but I have OME shocks too and would want it to match. :) On my Jeep, yellow shocks almost look like bling! :D

In case you didn't catch it in the writeup, my steering looseness was a result of
A) Loose track bar at the frame mount. Tightened that up and put locktite on it.
B) Steering box was off. After turn 1/4 turn, driving, another 1/4 turn, driving, and a 1/8 turn of the adjustment screw, steering is LOT more responsive.

I'd say between 11:30 and 12:30, to use Mr. Clifford's time management :D. Not nearly as good as his wife's tightness, but my TJ is 10 years old.

If it does get loose again, I'll replace it.
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