A Jeep track bar is an important part of your Jeep’s steering system. It effectively holds the front axle in place. If you experience Jeep Death Wobble, your track bar is more than likely behind it. The problem can be fixed. It is an easy to intermediate DIY repair job that should take about an hour.
Changing your Jeep’s track bar is a simple fix. However, if your Jeep track bar has been loose for a while, it may have created another problem that can cause Jeep Death Wobble. If the track bar has been loose, it can enlarge or “horse” out the hole that the track bar’s bolt goes through. There are two ways to fix an enlarged track bar bolt hole: 1) Drilling out the hole a little and then using a larger bolt and nut or 2) Welding a new metal plate into place and redrilling a smaller bolt hole to match the original bolt hole for your Jeep’s track bar.
Why Might I Change My Jeep’s Track Bar?
The reasons you might change your track bar are:
- Worn mounting bushing
- Worn or broken tie rod end
- Changing to an adjustable track bar due to your desire to lift your Jeep
Why Does the Bolt Hole Get Enlarged or Misshaped?
Your Jeep’s track bar mounting hole can become enlarged through use and wear. If the track bar mounting nut and bolt become loose, there will be more excessive wear and tear that will enlarge the hole. If the wear and tear enlarges the track bar mounting hole large enough, Jeep Death Wobble may rear its ugly head.
What are the Ways to Fix the Track Bar Bolt Hole?
There are several ways to deal with a loose track bar mounting bolt. The easiest way, if you get lucky and catch this early, is to tighten the nut and bolt.
Unfortunately, if the mounting bolt hole has become enlarged, more comprehensive methods are necessary. Here are two common approaches to this problem:
- Method One:
- Drill out the hole a little to make sure it is perfectly round
- Next install a larger diameter nut and bolt
- Be sure to use a hardened grade 8 nut and bolt.
- Method Two:
- Weld a 1/8 to 1/4 inch steel plate over the mounting point
- Next, drill a new mounting bolt hole the same size as the original mounting nut and bolt.
What Do I Have to Do to Change the Track Bar?
Changing a Jeep track bar is a relatively simple job. It can be accomplished with simple tools and should take about 30 minutes. Beyond getting the tie rod end out, it is a wrenching job. The steps are:
- Liberally apply penetrating oil
- Open the mounting nut and bolt
- Remove the cotter pin with needle nose pliers
- Open the castle nut
- Use the pitman arm pull or a pickle fork and hammer to pop the tie rod end
- Remove the track bar
- Replace the track bar in reverse
- Use anti-seize dressing on tie rod end post and mounting nut and bolt
- Use a torque wrench to tighten both ends to the recommended specifications
- Install new cotter pin
This description assumes that one end has a tie rod end on one end common on many Jeeps.
Also, an added step would include measuring and setting the proper recommended length if installing an adjustable track bar on your lifted Jeep.
What if it is Just the Track Bar Bushing That is Bad?
If you conclude that your track bar is still usable, and just the bushing is bad—you can change out just the bushing. Your will need to remove the bushing. This is done by one of the following methods:
- Hammer and chisel it out
- Press it out with sockets and a vise, a ball joint press, or a shop press
- Burn it out with your Mapp gas torch (My preferred method—fun too!)
You can replace the bushing with rubber or polyurtehene bushings just be sure to use some silicone spray or white lithium grease for lubrication on install.
What Do I Need to Do These Jobs?
The tools you will need to change a Jeep track bar or fix an enlarged track bar mounting hole will depend on the amount of wear and tear. Here is a list based on escalating need:
- Changing a track bar (Actual tools needed will depend on how stuck the fasteners are):
- Wrench and socket sets – Must have is a basic tool set with at least 12mm-19mm sockets and wrenches
- Impact wrench and socket sets – Not required, but extremely helpful on these tough components. Power wrench, along with 13mm-19mm impact sockets
- Torque wrench – When replacing tie rod ends, most have specific torque specs that need to be used
- Breaker bar – A must for leverage on these tough stuck on nuts and bolts
- Cheater pipe – A 2-3 foot long black steel plumbing pipe for even more leverage. Must fit over breaker bars and ratcheting wrench handles
- Small 3-pound sledge hammer – Critical in applying impact to jar corroded and rusty components loose
- Needle nose pliers – Many of these parts use castle nuts with cotter pins that needle nose pliers can pull out
- Pitman arm puller – Not just for pitman arms, these pullers can help with tie rod ends. Very helpful if not replacing a tie rod end as it doesn’t usually cause damage
- Pickle fork – If you definitely plan on changing out a tie rod end, and don’t care if you damage the old part, a pickle fork and small sledge hammer, can work wonders freeing stuck parts
- PB Blaster penetrating oil spray – I use a full can when replacing a front-end steering and suspension removal and replacement job. This stuff works and will make your life easier
- Mapp gas torch – Sometimes pressure isn’t enough, a Mapp Gas torch can heat and expand the metal around a part make it possible to free the part
- Grease gun and grease – For proper installation and ongoing maintenance of these components if they are serviceable with Zerk grease fittings
- Anti-seize dressing – Not for removal this time around, but it will make any future removal and replacement much easier for you. I suggest globbing this stuff on thick—after you fight to remove this part, you will agree and know exactly where to apply it
- Shop towels and rags – Clean and wipe things down as you go
- Disposable gloves – These are messy jobs– keep your hands clean
- Impact gloves – Avoid knuckle busting with a better grip and protection
- Eye protection – Safety is a must. Rust, dirt, and grim will fall on you as you do these jobs. Also, things could go flying—don’t take chances
- Ear Protection – Between impact wrenches and mini sledge hammers, it will get noisy
- Measuring tape – If you are installing an adjustable track bar you will need to measure and adjust the track bar’s length according to your lift height and overall application
- Installing larger nut and bolt (Adding to the above list):
- Welding new plate (Adding to the above list):
- Welder – A welding machine and associate tolls and equipment that is capable of welding 1/8 to 1/4 inch metal. A flux core or MIG (gas shielded) welder can do the job.
- Angle grinder – An angle grinder with a cut off wheel to shape the new metal plate
- Steel plate – Weldable steel plate about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
When changing front-end steering and suspension components on a Jeep, or any other vehicle for that matter, remember that you will need to get an front-end alignment immediately.
The approach you take will depend on the damage to the mounting hole, your skills, and the tools available to you to do the job. The track bar replacement on your Jeep is an easy repair. If the track bar mounting hole is enlarged, the good news is that it can be fixed relatively easily as compared to other issues you may encounter with older Jeeps.