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Thread: Steering Stabilizers for TJ/JK

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    Senior Member SavageSun4x4's Avatar
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    Default Steering Stabilizers for TJ/JK

    Steering Stabilizer, Yes or No?
    There are clearly 2 schools of thought on SS. Those that believe they "mask" issues therefore not needed...and those that believe the SS is just another component in the steering group.

    Steering and suspension are quite complicated and some steering setups are prone to wheel shimmy and later on the dreaded death wobble. The TJ is one of them. As wear takes place thru the system shimmy will develop. Often this shimmy is undetected by the individual driving the rig until it gets worse. Here is where the effect of a steering stabilizer is pointed to as “masking.” Certainly in this context, it is true.

    The SS has as it prime purposes the damping of vibration and oscillation. Especially the traumatic impact of hitting a pothole or rock while off road. In fact, enough impact can ratchet the steering wheel fast enough to break a thumb or arm in some cases.

    Then the first approach is to balance/rotate the tires. Often this helps, but the die is set and things will only get worse as time goes by. One can ask the question, what causes DW? The answer is: It can be any one or more components attached to the axle assembly. Shocks, tires, control arms, track bars, caster, toe, ball joints etc, etc.

    Going backwards in thought, each of these wears and results in a different impact on the system itself or the "loaded" balance exerted on the system begins to change. As things get looser, the system loses its ability to keep itself in check. Here the SS rises to the occasion by absorbing these vibrations and smoothing out the impacts.

    Under normal circumstances, a light SS works fine on OEM Jeeps. Remember the DC engineers put it there for a purpose. As the Jeep ages you have to replace it from time to time...problem solved. DC-Jeep also assumes that as time goes by normal maintenance is being preformed.

    In the case of the TJ it is a normal that the steering system begins to oscillate in unison. The oscillation will generally appear in a range of 35 - 55 mph. In addition, it will change as new tires; shocks, bushings etc are changed and replaced with different units. Even DC alters this by using 3 different control arm-bushing resiliencies.

    From an engineering paradigm:
    * its normal for some degree of oscillation to take place in a TJ at varying speeds and this is where the SS does its job for you.
    * wear is normal as is accelerated wear from varying degrees of oscillation
    That being the case, DC Jeep and many other cars have included a SS to mitigate this.

    If it is "set up correctly”, will you not need a SS? Correctly is a vague term in this case. We often encounter a steering set up that is correct in all adjustments [toe, caster, wheel balance, etc] and is otherwise correct in that its not bent or excessively worn. Yet, Death Wobble lives and breathes under the front end. Why? Most likely somewhere in the system a component is worn beyond tolerances and when oscillation initiates from a suspension "traumatic" event it causes other components to also react. This is called the “multiplier effect: where one component affects one or more other components as the event travels thru the system.

    Several years ago I did a major axle upgrade and replaced not just axles but every other component/bushing etc under my rig. Due to some time constraints, we did not install a SS. No problem, it was "set up correctly" and drove perfect. I got lazy and lulled into thinking I did not need a SS. Over a year later with trips to Moab and Texas under the Jeeps wheels and nearly 20k miles, I picked up some shimmy after hitting a brick crossing on FLW Blvd. It continually got worse, finally I got my wheels rotated and balanced. It went away...for a while. 6 months later, I was battling DW on a regular basis.

    4 Track bars later, many wheel rotations and balances, adjusting shocks, caster, toe, etc I have finally won. Nevertheless, thru it my entire rig was "set up correctly". However, 20k+ miles had just taken its toll on "components". I won the battle by doing 2 things:
    * Installing a high quality SS [Rancho] to dampen the vibrations
    * Stabilize the track bar and eliminating the OEM frame mount.

    If I had it to do over again: I would have fitted the SS ASAP after getting my new axle setup installed and prevented my TB issue before I spent the money on 4 track bars.
    On TJ’s one of the most frequent culprits of DW is the track bar. That is because of the direct connection from the steering axle assembly to the frame of the Jeep in a lateral link. The “C” frame mount where the TB is attached is prone to wallowing out from the small and flexible in 360 degrees tie-rod-end. As this wears and after DW sets in which traumatically wears at the “C” mount things just go from bad to DW.

    Typically, after you get DW once, the Jeep is prone to getting it repeatedly, each time with less input from the road or whatever initiated DW to begin with. This is due to the trauma that DW causes to the system components individually and collectively.

    Dual SS for TJ/JK: I am seeing some kits for the JK and IIRC several years ago there was one for the TJ. Generally I don't think you need them and IMO they add complexity to what is a simple straightforward setup. I can see them on Full size trucks running > 40 and larger tires. But for Jeeps Just not needed.

    Bottom line: Can you get away without installing a SS? Yea, kinda, sorta, maybe. IMO eventually you will install it as just another component in the steering and suspension SYSTEM. Especially true if you Jeep is a DD and a high mileage one at that. All this points to staying on top of steering and tire maintenance.

    Recommendation:
    The common upgrade SS for the TJ/JK is the Rancho 5407. But for those who run big tires > 35's you might want to look at another SS that really helps and has the same stroke and body length as the OEM replacement 5407. The Rancho 5401

    See fotos for comparo's

    Foto 1 OEM Vs Rancho 5407, Foto 2 Rancho 5407 Vs 5401

    13082010890.jpg20042010571.jpg
    Don

    '15 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock...OLD SCHOOL 6 Spd Manual Trans
    17 Oaks Ranch Companies LLC

    www.savagesun4x4.com

  2. #2
    Senior Member SavageSun4x4's Avatar
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    bump
    Don

    '15 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock...OLD SCHOOL 6 Spd Manual Trans
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    U.S. Paratrooper GOVT1911's Avatar
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    Thanks for the writeup, Don. I'm looking for a replacement for my stock (ORIGINAL!!!) SS that's on my 97 TJ. guess I'll look at the Rancho 5401, is what I take it you're recommending? I'm running 35" tires.....

  4. #4
    Senior Member SavageSun4x4's Avatar
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    Either the 5401 or 5407 works and works well. The 5407 is a HD SS for most TJ/JK. The 5401 is really a brute and I use it on 37's for sure. No harm done on using it for a 35 in tire but you can also use the smaller one.

    I ran 37's on Bead locks and had just run the 5407, but noted it wore out quickly. When I went to BL's and their added weight I looked around for a stouter SS and found this in the Rancho catalog. You will not find it listed for Jeeps, but it fits and works great, I have run it for years. I think it for the big F 350/450 Superduty trucks if IIRC.

    You will be happy with either.
    Don

    '15 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock...OLD SCHOOL 6 Spd Manual Trans
    17 Oaks Ranch Companies LLC

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    Jeepless Jeeper brewcoltiii's Avatar
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    like 1911 said, nice write up!

    I run the procompo ES2000 (bought from 4WP before I found out that they don't know or listen a whole lot about what I want) for a SS. The white onion is running a 4" SL, 2" BL (I know, it is going to be reduced when funds are available), 35x12.50x15 15x10 steelies, DW is just starting, maybe 3 weeks now. I know for sure that I need to replace the joint on the pitman arm. The SS ins't but 8 months old, so I didn't think that it could be due to that.

    I'm not trying to take from your write up, but some suggestions would be helpful. I know you and HillBillie talk a lot about DW and give an aweful lot of useful advice. And maybe someone else has the same stuff going on with their Jeep, but just hasn't asked yet.

    Anyway, thanks for the great tech write ups!
    Jeepless Jeeper

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    Zombie Slayer... JoeySnow70's Avatar
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    So is safe to assume from the exelent write up that by replacing your SS you DW will be fix. DW is caused by worn components, and the TB is the usual suspect on TJ's with DW. So.... By replacing/fixing WO components alone and without the aid of a good SS, suitable for your level of modification, the DW will eventually come back....

    Am I in the ball park???

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    Senior Member SavageSun4x4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brewcoltiii View Post
    like 1911 said, nice write up!

    I'm not trying to take from your write up, but some suggestions would be helpful. I know you and HillBillie talk a lot about DW and give an aweful lot of useful advice. And maybe someone else has the same stuff going on with their Jeep, but just hasn't asked yet.

    Anyway, thanks for the great tech write ups!
    I am always happy to elaborate, but what I need are questions or even just a 'can you elaborate more on _____'.

    I address the SS separately as in all of the suspension components it has a singular job of keeping the lateral oscillations from getting out of control. Nothing else does that or has that job.
    Don

    '15 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock...OLD SCHOOL 6 Spd Manual Trans
    17 Oaks Ranch Companies LLC

    www.savagesun4x4.com

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    Senior Member SavageSun4x4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeySnow70 View Post
    So is safe to assume from the exelent write up that by replacing your SS you DW will be fix. DW is caused by worn components, and the TB is the usual suspect on TJ's with DW. So.... By replacing/fixing WO components alone and without the aid of a good SS, suitable for your level of modification, the DW will eventually come back....

    Am I in the ball park???
    The only time replacing the SS with a new one will fix DW is when the root cause was the SS itself, generally from just being worn out.

    DW has its root cause in worn components excluding alignment and wheel balancing. Now where you run into a problem is when DW occurs. This FURTHER exacerbates the problem as it accelerates the wear of already worn components. Generally the lateral oscillation that is the result of a tire hitting a pothole railroad track, heat strip in the road etc is absorbed by the bushings in the suspension components. ESPECIALLY the track bar mounts (note: all the bushings from CA to ball joints are a part of the process). The SS has the job of keeping the lateral oscillation in check or below the point the DW starts to occur. Thus a worn SS will just let it run and then bingo, DW is there.

    Get DW once and it just damages more and more the bushings.

    So yes: "By replacing/fixing WO components alone and without the aid of a good SS, suitable for your level of modification, the DW will eventually come back...."

    Its inevitable, worn components sooner or later will allow excessive lateral oscillation and resulting DW. Could you run a suspension and not incur the wrath of DW. Certainly, but it will raise its ugly head and then you just replace all bushings and key suspension components and continue on. But I suggest the co$t to do so repeatedly will weigh heavy on the wallet. Why not just include all the components that were engineered to do the job to begin with.

    DW is a serious incident on any auto and certainly on a Jeep. It can lead to catastrophic damage, wrecks and the involvement of other cars in the fray. Its not worth it to run sans SS if your rig is a DD. That said I know lots of guys who run sans SS. Most of them have neither insurance or license plates on their rigs, they are trail use only. Rarely attaining speeds needed to initiate DW. For them they don't need it, why spend the money and they change suspension components more often than many of us change underwear.
    Don

    '15 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock...OLD SCHOOL 6 Spd Manual Trans
    17 Oaks Ranch Companies LLC

    www.savagesun4x4.com

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    A stabilizer/dampener can't correct alignment.

    A stabilizer/dampener can't correct improper tire balance.

    A stabilizer/dampener can't straighten bent wheels.

    A stabilizer/dampener can't straighten bent control arms.

    A stabilizer/dampener can't heal torn/dry-rotten worn out bushings.

    A steering stabilizer can't straighten bent steering linkage.

    A stabilizer/dampener can't tighten loose/worn out ball joints.

    A stabilizer/dampener can't straighten bent control arms.

    A steering stabilizer can't tighten all hardware.

    Bottom line:
    A stabilizer/dampener can't replace proper maintenace and replacement of worn parts.

    Head down to your local Jeep dealership, buy a new rig and drive it around with and without a stabilzer/dampener. Doubtfull that you'll notice a difference. If you do...your a girly soccer-mom.
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    Senior Member SavageSun4x4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrankZ View Post
    Bottom line:
    A stabilizer/dampener can't replace proper maintenace and replacement of worn parts.
    Frank, you GET IT!
    Don

    '15 Jeep Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock...OLD SCHOOL 6 Spd Manual Trans
    17 Oaks Ranch Companies LLC

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