Proper operation and stability of the steering system depends greatly on correct alignment. When the wheels shimmy or “wobble” this can be caused by various problems associated with the wheels, axle or steering system, sometimes it can be a combination of issues. A few people have called this the “Willys Death Wobble” but can happen to any vehicle with either 4 wheels or 2 wheels. Some common corrections for this problem are:
- Make sure all tires are inflated to the correct psi specified on the tire wall.
- Check wheel bearings for looseness. Make sure that the inner wheel bearing race is not too loose on the spindle.
- Take off both steering knuckles and inspect upper and lower king pin bearings. Inspect bearing cups for dents (brinelling), pitting, or excessive wear (fretting). Bearings that show any imperfections should be replaced. Reassemble and lubricate the front axle and steering linkage, install new steering knuckle oil seals if any wear is noticed.
- Check wheel run out. This includes radial run-out (an “out of round” situation where vibrations are produced as the wheel spindle moves up and down) and wheel looseness on the hub. Lateral run-out is a side to side or wobbling movement of the tire and wheel but is less common than radial run-out.
- Test for proper wheel balance. Check for flat spots, blowout patches, even tire tread, mud on inside of wheels, and tires creeping on the rims.
- Try rotating wheels front to rear and criss-crossing them.
- Check the front springs for any sagging. Check for broken spring leaves, broken center spring bolt, loose or tight spring clips, over lubrication of spring leaves, the spring shackle bracket loose on frame, and loose rear spring shackle. Test the shock absorbers for proper operation to eliminate bobbing of the front end.
- Check brakes to make sure one is not dragging.
- Check the steering assembly and steering connecting rod. Check the up and down play of the steering worm shaft, end play of the cross shaft, tightness of the steering gear in the frame, tightness of the steering gear arm, adjustment of the steering connecting rod and condition of the steering tie rod ball joint ends. Make sure the steering connecting rod or drag link is adjusted to maximum safe tightness at both ends. Check the steering bellcrank bearings, the shaft in the mounting bracket, and the mounting bracket on the frame cross member.
- Check front axle caster. The caster should be the same on both sides, otherwise a locking brake might be happening, causing a twisting action of the axle. Check manual for correct caster of your Willys Jeep Vehicle.
- Check front wheel toe-in. Check manual for correct toe-in specifications for your Willys Jeep Vehicle.
- Check wheel toe-out on turns. This can give an indication of the proper angularity of the steering knuckle arms and tells whether or not they have been bent and need to be replaced. Compare with new parts to see if an arm is bent, check for a bent tie rod.
- Check wheel camber. Both sides should have the same camber. Check manual for correct camber for your Willys Jeep Vehicle.
- Check the king pin inclination. Consult manual for the correct inclination.
- Check the tracking of the front axle and frame alignment, this may be incorrect due to a previous accident.
Call Mike @Kaiserwillys.com for details at TOLL FREE 1-888-648-4923 (Mon-Fri, 9AM-5PM EST).
How to remove steering components from your Willys Jeep – Part of an ongoing “Jeep” disassembly and restoration series sponsored by Kaiser Willys.
To watch other videos on the disassembly of your Willys Jeep Vehicle refer to The Build Your Willys series on YouTube. Order the Service Manual For The Universal Jeep Vehicles, includes complete vehicle disassembly, assembly, and blowup diagrams.
The best place to start when your steering is loose. Steering Gear Box Sector Shaft Repair Kit 7/8″ For 41-66 MB, GPW, CJ-2A, 3A, 3B, 5
Complete with new 7/8″ diameter sector shaft, bushings, gasket, and oil seal. Eliminates slop in your Ross steering gear.
Q: I own a 1949 CJ-3A Jeep. My steering has a lot of play in it. Can you tell me what I need to correct this?
*EMAIL or call Mike Toll Free (1-888-648-4923) Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm EST if you have any questions about this part or restoring your Willys.