Project Built to Cruise

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Previous Update

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 made.

  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 upgraded version.

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 upgrades.

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 axles. 

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 point.

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.

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