Tj steering issues, maybe


So I just got an 02 Tj that has an R title, and the previous owner says it was in a front end collision on the passenger side.
the frame want bent (so I was told) but all the motor mounts needed to be replaced and they were.
The Jeep also has what I measured to be a 6inch lift, steering geometry is correct.

now to my issue: the Jeep seems to wander all over the road. It?s not death wobble, it just drifts side to side and I constantly have to keep adjusting back and forth to keep it in the lane.
now I did an alignment, and replaced the rusted tie rod and tie rod ends to properly do an alignment. It helped a little but not too much. And the Jeep still kinda pulls to the left if I let go the steering wheel.

I replaced the steering stabilizer, same deal, helped a little but not solving the problem.
the sway bar end link bushings look old and dry rotted so I imaging the sway bar bushings are in the same shape so I will be replacing them as well soon.

the other issue I noticed, if I reverse and hard break, there is a loud ?clunck? noise that comes from the driver side, near the back of the front wheel, like something is being pulled out of place by going backwards and breaking hard.
if I then drive forward and break hard, it ?cluncks? again, like what ever it was is being pushed back into place.
i Was thinking maybe the front control arm bushings maybe bad and so the control arm is just flopping loose inside where it is bolted on, but I can?t be under the vehicle while trying to drive backwards to find out.

anyone have any suggestions?
I figure I?ll eventually solve it if I replace ALL of the steering and suspension parts in the front end, but I don?t have that kinda cash so if any of y?all can point me in a direction to start I?d be thankful.

Do you have someone to turn the wheel back and forth while you lay in front of the jeep and watch? If so, that's the way to go. Look for where the slop is. Maybe the power steering pump, or perhaps the trackbar bolt, or others. If you don't have someone to turn the wheel for you, get a tripod or mount of some-sort, and record the jeep with your phone while you turn from full lock on one site to full lock on the other. It sounds like you have some worn parts in your steering system, and for a 21 year old vehicle, that's to be expected.

As to the thump on reverse, that will take some investigation. If you have drum breaks, check your pads. Also, check the ujoints on both driveshafts (just grab each driveshaft and twist, looking for slop).
If first check some geometry.
6 in of lift with stock control arms pull the tires ip under the jeep and may have a lot of stress on the spring trying to be straight. The camber snd caster will be off. That alone will cause you yo wander. The noise might be the bound spring moving in the mount.

Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up - Jesse Jackson
So the steering geometry looks good, all parallel and what not.

but the control arms look stock. I know it is common for people to slap a lift on a wrangler and call it done, making an undrivable mess. Maybe the stock control arms are too short ����*♂️
how would I be able to tell? Or measure?
is there a specific angle the control arms are supposed to be relative to the axle?

your caster is probably off horribly.

i don't know the numbers to tell you what the caster should be.

you can get adjustable upper and lower control arms for fairly cheap. they will come with new bushing and get you back in action. or, you can do a control arm drop kit, which is abracket that lowers the frame mounting point of the lower control arms and puts them back at almost parallel to the ground. (how they should be) i cannot remember but i think it also lowers the top control arm mounts to make them correct too.

i have done adjustable control arms and the drop kit. the drop kit made the jeep drive just like stock but it lowers your mounting points so they can rub while off roading. i don't off road so i was fine with them lowered.
The control arms were on my list of parts to chase around until I solve this.
can anyone tell me how to measure or where it’s supposed to be set?
when I get adjustables, how do I know where to adjust them too? I can’t go with the same length as the stock ones obviously
I don?t have numbers but your wheel should be centered in the wheel wells.
Every lift is different and relax differently.

You might consider long arms for 6? and tires that are 35 or larger.

Yes more costly but better geometry. Less rough ride on highways.

Or buy a normal 2.5 in lift with stock arms. After 2.5 adjustable arms are greatly suggested

Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up - Jesse Jackson

This is a 3 in lift with 1.5 body lift on 33s. See how the wheels look pulled to the center. Image1699577424.790229.jpg
Center with the bottom control arm and correct caster with mostly with the upper.

Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up - Jesse Jackson
If they went budget and put 6 in springs. Is there a SYE? Drop skid plate or engine mount lift? Heavier drag link or tie rod? Longer track bar?
Bigger brake with larger tires?
Longer brake lines???

The banging noise could be shocks mismatched with the lift. Or sway bar link.
Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up - Jesse Jackson
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I’ll post some pics when I get out of work today.
see I measured the front springs according to something I read on these forums and that’s how I came up with the 6 inch lift. But since I have read like 3-4 different ways you can measure to tell what lift you have and all of them disagree, I have no fu**ing idea ����
tires are 33s.
but it doesn’t look as high as the pic of the Jeep above.
I am NOT going to spend any money on a lift/smaller lift. If we’re up to me I would spend no money on a lift at all, but that’s what came on there when I bought it so I’m stuck with it.
How about images of the front end underside? Like this

Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up - Jesse JacksonImage1699847243.961997.jpgImage1699847250.797316.jpgImage1699847261.092459.jpg
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I tried getting pictures of the under side but I wasn’t able to get it up in the air and get the tires off yet…too busy flushing my rad and heater core…previous owner decided to make mud in the rad by mixing coolants.
he told me there was a thermostat issue, so he swapped it with a lower temp one, and when I went to put a stock one back on I discovered a lovely brown sludge…thermostat issue solved ���� ffs
Your tie rod is not parallel to the front axle, or ground. Thats something i remember reading that will cause issues. Is lie where it connects to the driver side is upside down?

Let the tj pros come look and see what they see, though. Dont go solely off my response as my tj has its own steering issues, still :(
Your springs look bound up from not having longer control arms. They are bending along the radius of the control arms. Also the Cs look straight up and down so caster is zero.
It looks like you have the original track bar. With this the front tires will stick out the drivers side more and not be centered under the vehicle. Cant tell from the pics.
Check your shocks the one doesn?t look right. It looks bent at the axel side. Could be the pic angle.

The drag link and track bar are parallel so that is good. But the track bar looks original and likely short.

Edit ok so the drag link should have a bend near the end. Had to look at myown.

Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up - Jesse Jackson
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Hmm that drag link bed or lack there of is curious…it could be something that was “fixed” as they were trying to get it on the road after it got totaled. Previous owner said it got hit on that side.

I ordered a new adjustment sleeve for the drag link to get my steering wheel centered but maybe I’ll just do the whole drag link while I’m under there.

im learning a lot about the previous owner as I chase gremlins they caused.
heater core is next on my list and it is a beast ����