After installing a lift on your Jeep, it is important to have your front end aligned before you drive anywhere. Failure to do so will result in severe tire wear and/or undesired handling characteristics. Although not perfect, these are a few helpful things you can do yourself to set your toe-in and re-center your steering wheel so that you can drive to get a professional alignment.
A diagram of the Jeep TJ front Steering and Suspension components.
What You Will Need
• Ratchet • 13mm, 15mm (deep) Socket & Wrench's • Tape measure • Vice Grips or Pipe Wrench • Floor Jack (optional)* • Jack Stands (optional)* • Wheel Chocks • Someone to help you measure things *NOTE: Some people like to do their toe-in end alignment with their front axle sitting on jack stands. This allows the wheels to move freely making it easer to adjust. This is not a necessary step and some people will argue that you actually need to set your toe-in with your wheels on the ground.
Setting Your Toe-In. You can't see it, but your front tires are in fact not parallel to each other.... or at least they shouldn't be when pointing straight ahead. This is called the "toe-in" and if it is set correctly, the fronts of your tires should actually be pointing inward just a hair. These simple steps will help you to adjust your toe-in and can all be done in minutes. 1. Park on level ground and then with the help of a friend, measure the width between the front of your front tires and then compare that to the back of your front tires. It is important to use the exact same measuring point front and back (such as the mold seam in the middle of your tires) in order to get an accurate reading.
2. Using a 13mm socket and wrench, loosen sleeves on both ends of the tie-rod.
3. Grab the tie-rod with a pair of vice-grips or pipe wrench and rotate it a little bit at a time taking measurements along the way. Continue this process until the width in the front is about 1/16" (but no more than 1/8") closer together than the back.
4. Once your toe-in has been set, re-tighten the tie-rod sleeves and then move on to re-centering your steering wheel.
Re-Centering Your Steering Wheel
1. With your tires pointing as straight as possible (leave your steering wheel rotated) and your tires on the ground, loosen the bolts on your drag link turnbuckle using a 15mm deep socket or wrench.
2. Grab the turnbuckle with your hand and rotate it a little bit at a time. Check your steering wheel periodically while doing this until it appears to be centered again.
3. Try to make sure that the bolts are pointing away from the track bar (rotate just the bolt sleeve and not the turnbuckle itself if necessary) and then tighten up the turnbuckle bolts.
4. Take your Jeep out for a test ride and determine if you need to make any other adjustments. It may take a few times to get it right but at least it is easy to do.
If you just installed a 2"-3" lift, that should be about all you need to do. However, if your lift is 4" or greater, you should seriously consider purchasing a set of adjustable control arms so that you can properly set your caster.
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