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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A recap: JKUR AEV 350 started wandering after new ball joints and replacement of all front end steering bars. I did the work and an alignment shop verified that the install looked good but... A new shop found that the previous alignment did not max out the castor but now is at 4.7/4.8 degrees. The new alignment helped but the Jeep still wanders more than it should and makes driving down the highway too much work and concern.

I also notice on the highway when I hit a rough spot the suspension acts loose both front and back and I even gets a hint of death wobble! In other words something is not right. Two shops say all is fine but it is not. I also tightened up the steering box but still need to play around with that adjustment.

The plan is to carefully inspect all the suspension and steering components again. I'm not a suspension guy so will do this after watching Utube video examples. I have watched a bunch already and will get on it today.

Several videos talk about beefing up the steering box and sector shaft. Now my question for the wisdom of the forum... Has anyone installed the Synergy Jeep JK Front Track Bar & Sector Shaft Brace Kit Part #: 8069? Synergy Track Bar & sectorShaft Kit

If so did it help with your steering?
Also any comment on what I should look for is appreciated.


Camp in a funky but comfortable RV park just west of Capital Reef Utah, spring 2021
 

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I have not done a jk shaft reinforcement but I have done several Ram reinforcement brackets. I think the results are a placebo effect. But it cannot hurt other than the cost.

I am running my caster at 6.5 degrees. In reality it is a little too much but I do not have driveshaft bind and it steers straight.

Did they give you a printout of your alignment? what was the toe in at?

Doesn't AEV use a flipped drag link? Did they replace it also? Why did you get the front end rebuilt?

Make sure everything is tight. A alignment shop will look at stuff but get a wrench on everything to make sure it is tight, including your ball joints.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thanks for responding rlenglish.

Here is the alignment stats:


Yes this is an official AEV Jeep and it has the AEV high steer kit with the flipped drag link and is newly replaced.

Front end was rebuilt due to several death wobble incidences and at the recommendation of a fellow with the same vehicle that is ahead of me in miles and experience. Important note: After I replaced all the steering bars and installed Teraflex adjustable ball joints I noticed the wandering.

Again this Jeep handled well until the death wobble incident but after rebuilding the front it wandered like crazy.

Now with the second alignment it wanders annoyingly but is better. Another thing is when the Jeep crosses a rough spot on the road at speed I notice a moment of suspension instability, like the front and back get disconnected from the frame. Also in the drive way when my wife is turning the wheel back and forth the differential and housing along with the control bars is moving back and forth and separate from the frame! Is this normal?

I'm going after this no matter the cost at this point, I have lots invested in this Jeep and we drive hundreds of miles to the start point for our trips so need good road behavior. I have read that after new ball joints and particularly the Teraflex ones wandering occurs and thinking I might have to replace the new ball joints. I have checked the ball joint torque specs and I'm not over tightened.

I have at least 3,000 miles on the ball joints.
 

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I had to look up the adjustable ball joint thing. It seems to me that if they can be easily adjusted in, they can easily be adjusted out. I also don’t trust set screws on weight, stress, and vibration moving parts. I have set screws on my ammo reloading dies that never move, but I still check. My steering shaft has a set screw that let go on a trail causing the shaft to separate in two. Teraflex says not to worry about the upper ball joint shaft slipping up and down, but movement creates wear. I guess they’ve been around for a while. When Teraflex says they made a good idea better, that’s saying they identified issues In a sugary way.

Back to my original points - built in movement, adjustable, and set screws.
 

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Get your wife to move the steering back and forth while you crawl under and see what is moving.
Most DW is a track bar related concern when dealing with solid front axles. Just like TJ's the ends get play. Was your track bar replaced also? The track bar is what keeps the axle from moving side to side.
 

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Get your wife to move the steering back and forth while you crawl under and see what is moving.
^^^This^^^
It's extremely helpful to have someone playing with the steering wheel while you check all of the normal places for play.
 

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How many miles are on the steering gear box? There is wear-in on the gears, in the middle of movement which can contribute to wandering. Adjustments to it can be a temporary thing. I'm sure you're aware of the badness that can happen if it's adjusted too tightly
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
OP here: Track bar and all bars are new. 65K on the steering box.

Still when the wife is turning the steering wheel back and forth with the engine running the entire suspension along with the differential/axil housing is moving together but obviously independent of the frame. Track bar joints are tight but the movement is very obvious in a side to side motion.

Can one of you go out and check to see if your Jeep suspension does this? It might be normal but sure looks weird that so much movement is possible. I will take a video of it and try and post.

The shop that did the alignment and also installed the new 4.5 inch heavy duty AEV springs shrugged off the wandering after the tech did the work and test drive saying, you got a heavy high brick and that's just how they drive, but I know different and it did not do this before the new ball joints and replacement of all steering components. Their alignment took out 50% of the wandering but still the wandering is unacceptable. Like driving a 1949 Chevy pickup with worn king pins.

Also have studied up on the steering box adjustment and how they work and I'm being very careful with that adjustment. In the end I need an expert to look this over. The shop that did the alignment claims to be the experts and will try to see if they can figure this out, if not I will be searching for a fix as this needs to be solved.

On a pre-run of the NVBDR north of Tonapah NV in June 2021with fellow club members
 

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Furthest thing from an expert, feel free to disregard and my feelers won't be effected. Additionally, I haven't owned a JK (I skipped them...) and have only driven or wrenched on them occasionally.

I'm not a fan of Tera anything. Any time anything like this crops up and there are Tera parts in the mix they rouse my suspicion. They are local to me and I count several guys as friends and wheeling buddies that have worked for them over the years in various capacities. A good friend and wheeling buddy is a Tera dealer. I can get Tera parts at a very healthy discount. I don't buy them. I've been exposed to Tera parts in action most of my wheeling life. I am not a fan...

First thing I, personally would do, is ditch the Tera balljoints for Spicer. That's just me, though...

Second thing, is - and again, I'm furthest thing from an expert - is I'm wondering why the alignment shop took out half your toe in.

Third thing is, that suspension movement you describe with your Wife turning the wheel sure sounds like track bar to me.

Fourth thing is, the few JK's I have wrenched on and paid much attention to, track bar "flex" was a thing. Mounting points rock solid, but the whole dang track bar would flex while watching as someone else turned the wheel.

Lastly - yeah, how about those unit bearings? I've gone through a surprising number of them on my TJ and what you describe is an early symptom.

- DAA
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Good points DAA and BBS for me to think about and inspect.

The track bar is new and the joints are tight but the entire front end sure does move around. It maybe due to flex of the components. On that issue I have read that adding a track bar that does not flex sends the stress somewhere elsewhere and can cause failure of other parts and that is why the original engineers designed things to flex. I don't know myself but it is something to consider. Examples given of this are frame and bracket separation of hard built crawlers. Of course before the front end rebuilt I had the same type of track bar so that should not be the issue unless I screwed up the install somehow.

The Jeep has about 65k miles and that I'm sure is the time on the unit bearings. I have check by the old school method of wheel bearing tightness by grabbing the wheel while jacked up and seeing if I can detect movement. Seems to be tight.

Since the Jeep steered very well on the road before my front end rebuild which included Teraflex ball joints, the main suspect is something done on that job.

So far I have had two alignments and requests for the mechanics to inspect the front end since the wandering. But both shops counter guys gave me excuses for the wandering as a Jeep thing. I know that means they didn't really drive and examine the Jeep for wandering and just did the alignment and never considered the issue and gave the customer the usual malarkey. I need to get the Jeep to an expert that will focus on the problem. I'm not sure who or what shop that would be in the Reno area:(
 

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I don't get side movement of my axle when turning. I have a jks track bar.
Jk's are known for breaking the pitman shaft, I have seen a few of these so I am a little skeptical when people go to one ton steering. As you said when thee is no flex something will give. As far as the track bar mount I think you would have to be pretty aggressive to rip that free.
You got new springs, do they lift more than previous?
The AEV kit flips the drag link but do they raise the track bar mount also?
Does it wander on a straight road when you are on then off the gas?
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
I don't get side movement of my axle when turning. I have a jks track bar.
Jk's are known for breaking the pitman shaft, I have seen a few of these so I am a little skeptical when people go to one ton steering. As you said when thee is no flex something will give. As far as the track bar mount I think you would have to be pretty aggressive to rip that free.
You got new springs, do they lift more than previous?
The AEV kit flips the drag link but do they raise the track bar mount also?
Does it wander on a straight road when you are on then off the gas?
Note that this AEV Jeep did not wander and was a solid highway driver. The wandering started `after I installed the Teraflex ball joints and changed out the front end components. I tried to change out the parts without changing any settings. I don't recall the wandering until after the first alignment but not sure. The first alignment stats are on the above sheet I posted as in the "before" column. The second alignment was a good improvement but still I wouldn't want my wife to drive this Jeep.

New springs are 4.5 inch lift compared to my original AEV 3.5 springs. AEV developed springs to handle the heavy weight of an outfitted overland rig called "High Capacity"

AEV HC Springs

and they are 4.5 inch lift springs. I didn't want to go higher but that's what they have and two other AEV 350 owners highly recommended them so here I am. But the wandering was bad with the 3.5 inch springs and the shop that installed the new springs did the second alignment and were suppose to address the wandering... but think the mechanic just installed the springs, handed off the Jeep to the alignment guy and no-one really addressed the wandering. Then the counter guy just gave me the "that's just a Jeep thing" to get me on my way.

So back to what AEV suspension is... it all worked fine with good highway manners and then I screwed it up with my front end work. I change out everything using the same components except for the ball joints so could it be the ball joints or did I accidentally mess something up and the local shops just haven't really looked?
 

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Even before I read about the springs in your link, I was wondering if weight had anything to do with your complaint. You don’t have to go into it, but would you say that your Jeep is weighted as AEV suggests?

Also, I wonder if your caster changes when the Jeep is loaded vs unloaded. Weight is a pretty significant subject of warning on their site.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Even before I read about the springs in your link, I was wondering if weight had anything to do with your complaint. You don’t have to go into it, but would you say that your Jeep is weighted as AEV suggests?

Also, I wonder if your caster changes when the Jeep is loaded vs unloaded. Weight is a pretty significant subject of warning on their site.
Important note to this wandering is that the Jeep did not wander and had good highway manners before the front end rebuild and that is with it loaded for long distance overlanding.

For example we weighed the Jeep loaded for a 8 day desert run along the border doing the Devils Highway between Phoenix and Yuma AZ. With us aboard the truck stop scale recorded close to 6400 pounds! That was with all our gear, lots of water and 10 gallons of extra gas. The Jeep still behaved exceptionally well on the highway.

So the real problem started when the new Teraflex Ball joints were installed and all the steering components were replaced. I am not a bad mechanic but this was my first ball joint install and it was more difficult than I thought. The tools were loaners from local parts shop and they were not for a Jeep and had to buy a set of ball joint tools to finish the job. Even with the new tools I had to improvise to get them pressed in. A Utube video of some guys Wrangler problems noted that his first attempt to install the Teraflex ball joints end up badly and they were not installed correctly.

Anyway the bad handling came after the new front end work and the ball joints are suspect. I plan on calling the last shop that did the alignment and try to determine if the mechanic really did understand the wandering issue. I suspect they just installed the new springs and did an alignment and called it done. Hopefully I can get them to understand the problem and look for problems and a solution. If they can't do it I will be looking for a competent shop to take this on.

Ready for the jack stands
 

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I guess I was looking for an excuse to not suggest going to a regular Spicer ball joint for starters and then if need be retrograde your front end. Your writing seems to say that’s what you want to do. I guess I’d bite the bullet and start wrenching.
 

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FWIW we've had the TF ball joints on my wife's 2018 2 door JK for 70k without issue. They came already installed on her TERA 44. She's running a 37/12.5/17. 3" springs, no DL flip, steersmarts track bar, DL & TR.
I also put them on my 4 door about 20k ago and have no issues running a 40/13.5/17, 3" springs, 1" spacer also with steersmarts stuff. I had to adjust the preload on my last maintenance.

The wife's jeep made it 60k before the unit bearings gave out. I'm lucky to get 20k out of a set.

Also worth talking about is tire rotation. On our MTs 5k rotation max or they start to get noisy and wander.
 

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I'm following this as my brother just picked up a JK and is having some wandering issues.
He had found suggestions of lowering his tire pressure, and said it helped some.
I wonder if it just helps mask some other problems.
Still not what he's used to. (his JK does have +100k miles with unknown maintenance)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
I would like to keep the TF ball joints just need a competent mechanic to inspect and determine that they are installed correctly. They might not be.

One issue with the TF BJ's is the tool to torque them will not hold on the nut, the tool slips off when torque is applied. Looks like the knuckle is in the way and can't get the tool horizontal against the nut, it is at an angle. With the torque wrench on it slips off and I have them tightened as tight as I can by hand. Called TF and the tech said that should be OK as the torque is light but come on that is not right.

I will be rechecking the unit bearings again but the problem occurred after my front end work and those parts are the suspects. Also have the tires rotated on time trying to keep them in good shape and they are wearing evenly and run smoothly... Micky Thompson Baja ATZ's. I have played with the tire pressure with a slight help at 32 psi.

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts, experiences and giving suggestions. I will be working on this and come on back and let you know what's up.
 
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