Have you noticed your Jeep steering wheel jerking, bucking, and sticking recently? Do you feel a jerking sensation through your steering, at slow speed through gentle, and sharp turns? Does the steering wheel jerk/buck while holding the wheel constant throughout the turn?
If your Jeep Wrangler is jerking/bucking when cornering at slow speeds it is usually caused by a bad Steering stabilizer or a worn out Front Axle Shaft U-Joint. Buckled rotors and damaged brake pads can also cause jerking and squeaking noises while turning.
When diagnosing this issue, always ensure your transmission is not stuck 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 rotates and stops 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 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.
Jeep Wrangler Steering Wheel Jerks When Turning
Most owner reported the steering to jerk and buck 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 on 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 and 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 works in conjunction with your steering box, pitman 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 absorb the shock and vibration caused by bumps and uneven surfaces in the road, to prevent It from being transferred all the way through the steering arm and felt on the steering wheel. Inspect the damper/stabilizer for oil leaks.
Driving on a 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.
Drivetrain binding occurs when a part-time 4WD is driven on dry pavements and high traction surfaces for extended periods, especially while cornering. Transmission windup occurs due to the front and rear drive-shafts not being capable of rotating at dissimilar speeds while the vehicle is cornering. Full-time 4WD’s and AWD’s that makes use of a viscous couplings are able to safely drive on dry pavements.
When windup occurs, you will experience wheel hop, steering jerking, stiffness in the steering and difficulty shifting gears.
You can read more about drivetrain binding and the negative effects here.
Other Known Steering Issues
Below are a few of the symptoms reported by JL customers.
Common Steering related Symptoms include, but not limited to the following:
- 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 required, causing fatigue
- Steering wheel does not return to center when turning and requires driver correction after turning
- Resistance of the steering wheel that hold 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. There are thousands of happy Jeep Wrangler owners who 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)
So there have been quite a few owners who have experienced the steering phenomenon and after implementing one or even all of the below fixes, managed to get the steering to behave in an acceptable manner. Others unfortunately not. 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.
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 improves 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 Systems 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:
|1||Steering Control (Orbital) Valve|
|2||SCV Mounting Bracket|
|3||High-Performance Power Steering Pump Kit with Remote Reservoir|
|4||Dual-Ended Steering Cylinder with Clamps|
|5||Complete Hose and Fitting Kit|
|7||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 disappear.
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 be 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 much more happy Jeep Wrangler owners than unhappy ones and 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 problems with the JLs dodgy electric power steering.