Have you noticed your Jeep Wrangler steering wheel jerks when turning? Do you feel a jerking sensation through your steering, at slow speed through gentle, and sharp turns?
When diagnosing this issue, always ensure your transmission is not stuck in 4-wheel drive mode. This can result in drivetrain binding if driven in 4WD on a high traction surface. A quick exercise would be to put the truck up on a lift and put it in drive while in 2WD.
- The front wheels should not rotate at the same speed as the rear wheels and you should be able to stop it by hand. Then engage 4WD and make sure the front wheels rotate and stop in sync with the rear.
- If you’ve recently done a brake pad change, and since noticed the Wrangler steering jerking while cornering, you should inspect the brake pads first and adjust or replace them accordingly.
- If, however, you are 100% sure you’re not in 4WD mode, and your brake pads are not binding slightly, then we need to inspect the U-Joints and steering dampener.
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Jeep Wrangler Steering Wheel Jerks When Turning
Many have reported that their Jeep jerks when turning in 4 wheel drive. Most owners reported the steering as jerking and bucking when cornering slowly. Squeaking and knocking sounds can also be heard in severe cases. Let’s look at the common symptoms.
- Jerking when turning
- Bucking/sticking when turning
- Stiff sensation in the steering wheel
- Bad Front U-joints
- Worn Steering Stabilizer
- Drivetrain Binding
Take the load of the front wheels by jacking it up and inspecting both front axle U-joints for either excessive play or stiffness. Remove the wheel to gain access to the U-joint. Do a visual inspection of all the rubbers and make sure everything is intact.
- Look for signs of rust water and leaking grease from the u-joints
- Check for shaking and wobbles
- Make sure all the spring-clamp fittings are still in place
- Make sure the grease hasn’t started draining out
A steering stabilizer can also be referred to as a shock absorber or a dampener. Your steering arm and stabilizer work in conjunction with your steering box, pitman’s arm, and drag link.
- When you turn the steering wheel it manipulates all of the above components to allow you to turn smoothly.
- The job of the steering stabilizer is to absorb the shock and vibration caused by bumps and uneven surfaces in the road, to prevent It from being transferred through the steering arm and felt on the steering wheel.
- Inspect the damper/stabilizer for oil leaks.
Driving on dry pavement with a part-time 4-wheel drive while the center diff-lock is engaged (4H) should be avoided at all costs. This is because, the drivetrain design of a part-time 4-wheel drive is not intended for high-traction surfaces such as dry pavements, highways, and tarmac. 4H is only designed to be engaged on slippery, low-traction off-road terrain where slippage is possible.
When windup occurs, you will experience wheel hop, steering jerking, stiffness in the steering, and difficulty shifting gears.
Other Known Steering Issues
Below are a few of the symptoms reported by JL customers:
- Loose steering
- Excessive play
- Difficulty maintaining a straight line
- Erratic lunging when cornering
- Hesitation between steering response and wheels
- Drifting all over the road
- Dead spots
- Darting to the left into oncoming traffic without warning
- Constant driver input is required, causing fatigue
- The steering wheel does not return to center when turning and requires driver correction after turning
- Resistance of the steering wheel that holds in a straight position
- 2-inch dead spot when traveling over 40mph
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, your Jeep Wrangler most likely is part of the affected batch of vehicles produced with defective steering components.
Thousands of happy Jeep Wrangler owners don’t seem to experience any of these symptoms, even after installing bigger tires or any suspension upgrades. Yes, there is an alarming amount of those who have reported these symptoms to dealerships as well as the NHTSA in an attempt to get a factory fix.
How to Improve Jeep Wrangler Steering (DIY FIXES)
There does not, unfortunately, appear to be any definitive way of determining which fix works. The sensible approach here would be to start with the cheapest fix and work your way down the list. More about those steering issues here
Recommended Steering fixes include:
- Fit adjustable aftermarket Front Track Bar
- Fit an Aftermarket Sector Shift Brace
- PSC Hydraulic Steering Upgrade
- Apply the recommended Steering Box Modification
- Fit an adjustable LCA
- Fit an Aftermarket Steering Stabilizer
Front Track Bar and Sector Shaft Brace
If you opt for a fully adjustable track bar, along with aftermarket adjustable suspension components, you essentially give yourself more adjustment options to eliminate the problem. A steering brace will take up the slack in the steering quite a bit.
- The factory track bar is weak and slightly under-engineered.
- A beefier adjustable aftermarket bar, and a centered steering wheel, drastically improve the ride quality making the ride more stable.
- This is a fix that can be pulled off at home, without any special tools.
PSC Hydraulic Steering
There are claims that a PSC hydraulic steering system may be the ultimate solution to the sloppy Jeep steering problem. The aftermarket kit is a reliable, powerful Full Hydraulic Steering System that feels very much like the factory OE steering feel and greatly assists your steering by a claimed 50% when off-roading.
The kit is complete with everything needed for a successful installation including:
|Steering Control (Orbital) Valve
|SCV Mounting Bracket
|High-Performance Power Steering Pump Kit with Remote Reservoir
|Dual-Ended Steering Cylinder with Clamps
|Complete Hose and Fitting Kit
|Tie Rod Link Kit.
The PSC Steering Kits deliver improved handling characteristics without over-steer and a familiar level of road feel without increased driver effort, making it perfect for daily driven, on-the-road use
A beefier aftermarket steering pump, with heavy-duty components, promises to resolve this issue once and for all. Sure, it’s not exactly the cheapest fix, but all the evidence points to the steering box as the source of this issue. Those brave enough to fork out the cash to do a power steering upgrade to a mechanical one have all had the issues resolved.
Aftermarket Steering Stabilizers
If you have a wobble when driving over a bump and experience a wobble or shimmy then you might want to consider an aftermarket stabilizer. It won’t eliminate the side-to-side tracking, however, it will soften the impact considerably.
Upgrading to beefier Adjustable Lower Control Arms has been widely reported to make the biggest and best difference. In terms of bang-for-buck, probably the best thing you can do for your Jeep!
So, we’ve identified a few possible solutions to your Jeep Wrangler steering woes. I refuse to believe this is a “Jeep thing” since there are many more happy Jeep Wrangler owners than unhappy ones who have never experienced any of the above symptoms.
For those that have/are, you can implement any of the above-recommended fixes and experience a greatly improved driving experience. Some of the suggested solutions might not truly “fix” it, but will probably disguise the problem.
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