Now that I have had a
few weeks with the Jeep I have some ideas for stuff I would like to
improve. Not entirely sure I am going to keep the Anti-Rock
sway bar as it is a little light for road use. I have a couple more
adjustment holes to go so I'll try making it stiffer and go from
there. Worst case the stocker goes back in along with some
disconnects that came with the rig.
Along the same lines I
am ditching the Rancho 5000's which in my mind are just horrible
shocks that didn't even work very well on my old Zuk. This
heavier rig is even worse and could use some stiffer dampening.
I have used Bilstein 5100's on several vehicles in the past and this
rig will be getting a set as well. The shocks give a firm but
plush ride, hard to describe but I have run them on my Zuk, F250 and
motor home and each time they impressed me with the improvement they
I installed a
steering box skid plate last week and have a gas tank skid plate I
need to modify and install. I like the front bumper as
well as the rear but would like to get some rear rocker panel
protection integrated into the back bumper without having to
re-powder coat the rear bumper. Still mulling this one over.
That brings us
to the #1 priority: get rid of the bump steer that
is present. Despite having a professionally installed and
complete Rubicon Express 4.5" lift kit and adjustable front trac bar
the steering is very jumpy when going down the highway and there is
a really big dead spot in the steering when the wheels are straight
which can take some getting used to. The
Y-link steering setup doesn't help matters but the big problem
appears to be the difference in angle between the drag link and trac
bar. You'd think whoever designs these lifts would account for that
but from what I can tell this is par for the course.
The stock steering
linkage is very similar to the old Samurai I used to have (even the
size is similar) so based on that experience I wanted to go with
some sort of crossover steering for the new Jeep. The
crossover steering I installed on my Zuk eliminated my bump steer,
got rid of the dead spot in steering feel when the wheel was
centered and allowed for full steering no matter what the position
of the front axle. As you can see in the picture above what I am
starting with looks pretty close but the drag link and trac bar are
not quite parallel.
I picked up a TeraFlex
High Steer Kit (HSK) and my hopes were high this would be a quick
and painless install that would fix my steering woes. After
installing the kit I am sad to say this thing is no where near a
bolt on kit. As you can see the trac bar angle is even worse
with the HSK than without and there is no adjustment for the trac
bar height (note, this is with a stock pitman arm I installed which
was not included in the HSK). I am also not impressed at how
half-assed the HSK feels. For example the instructions point
out the kit will interfere with your sway bar mounts and
mentions that they sell a suitable part to replace the old mounts.
Why aren't these mounts in the kit? I have also seen an "upgrade" to the
tune of $200 some dollars that puts the tie rod on top of the lower
knuckle mounting arm. The HSK should be that way from the get
go, unless I am missing something it looks like if I drilled out the
drivers side tapered hole and added a $20 tapered pin I'd have the
After much thought I
came to the conclusion that the only way this kit was going to work
was if I re-arranged the trac bar to be parallel with the drag link.
From what I could see the trac bar needed to be raised up a few
inches. Sounds simple but consider the trac bar is a very
critical part of the suspension that sees a lot of stress. I
doubt the average Jeep owner has the tools or know how to fabricate
a new trac bar mount that will be sturdy enough for hard usage.
I wonder if TeraFlex realizes most people have to pay to have people
do this kind of work for them? My Jeep is a case in point, it
spent a huge chunk of time down at 4 Wheeler Supply getting
I do have a plasma
cutter, welder and lots of scrap steel lying around so I started in
on the task of getting the trac bar parallel with et drag link.
I decided to raise the axle end for two reason, one it should raise
the roll axis and two the frame side mount for the trac bar was
already cantilevered off the frame pretty far as it was.
Dropping it another coupled of inches would have required some
extensive beefing up of the mount and frame. Since the stock
trac bar bolts up in front and below the passenger side coil spring
I would have to make a shorter trac bar to get it mounted
higher. The first step was making cardboard templates of all
the plates. The front plate would be welded to the stock trac bar
mount and spring perch.
The stock trac bar
mount is really unimpressive looking, I can see why I hear so many
stories of link mounts and such tearing off after a while on these
vehicles. The replacement plates were made from .187 thick
steel with misalignment washers welded over each trac bar bolt hole
to add some more material in that section.
The rear plate was
designed to nest in with the front upper control arm mount to also
brace that weak link. There are actually 2 bends in the rear
plate and one on the front plate to get the right shape.
A single plate ties
the front and rear plates together and a small gusset braces the
whole assembly front to rear. I added a few dimples to dress
up and stiffen the plates.
The last step was to
install some lower control arm tab braces, basically a plate my
friend gave me that keeps the tabs from getting spread apart if they
hit rocks. this is a pretty common failure point as well and
while I don't plan on doing any rock crawling with this vehicle I
have ridden around with enough TJ's in the past to know even the
easier trails have spots where you can impact components on the
Anyway, as you can see
this small project quickly ballooned into a weekend affair and I
still have to make/order a new sway bar mount for the axle.
Here's a shot from the
articulation test. With no sway bar hooked up my front tire
was getting into the fender flare pretty good and the track bar was
hitting the bolt on the top of the diff cover. The bump stop
was at least two inches away from engaging so I am going to order
some longer ones.
The solution to the
interference took care of two issues that bothered me, number one
was mounting the frame end of the track bar in single shear. I
just don't like putting that much faith in a single bolt especially
considering how many I have seen break on the trail. The other
problem the new mount takes care of is the rod end maxxing out and
binding on itself. I cut this mount out of some box steel tubing and
as you can see I bent a tab that wraps up and around the stock
mount. When welded on this mount moves the trac bar forward about
.375 of an inch providing plenty of clearance when that side is
fully compressed. Down the road I plan on adding a cross brace
that will run from just above the trac bar to the opposite frame
rail to reinforce the stock trac bar mount which is a common failure
Using an idea I read
about on the internet I also fabricated some spring capturing clips
using some .50 conduit clamps I picked up from Home Depot. Now
all for springs are captured at the axle end preventing them from
falling out of their perch.
The next project I am
eyeballing is moving the lower rear shock mounts outboard to the
back side of the lower control arm mount. This would clean up
the rear axle and eliminate a common hang-up point.
Now the moment of
truth, after getting the rig aligned properly I can say the steering
is 100% better than before. There is no more dead spot when
the wheel is centered, no more bump steer and the steering wheel
doesn't travel a half a turn when the suspension cycles. I
still need to fab up a bracket that clamps to the tie rod so I can
hook up the old steering stabilizer which will now just serve to
cushion any hard hits from transferring too much force back thru the
steering wheel and no longer needs to mask bump steer.