When you wheel a non lifted Jeep, every thing that hangs down from the frame is going to take a beating and the lower control arm mounts are no exception. The stock mounts (left) are not the strongest metal to begin with and it only takes a few rocks to cause enough damage to make changing out a control arm a challenging task. So, before you go, armor those LCA mounts up! I’ve selected a set from Synergy Manufacturing. This weld on skid comes as a pair of angled steel plates that protect and strengthen the LCA mounts. I touched them up with a little rattle can black after the welds cooled off and was ready to hit the trails!
Normally, you would think too much of this:
And maybe this:
Would lead to this:
And finally this:
And, you’d be partially right. On a recent trip, my (what I once thought to be) indestructible Dana 44 front axle developed a crack big enough to fit one of your fingers in. The axle has actually been cracked for (I’m guessing here) about a month. I’m guessing a month because that’s long enough to have developed a nice coating of rust and I made a point to inspect my axle very closely in the past two months. The reason for the break in that particular section is that the Synergy track bar bracket (adjusting the track bar angle) was mounted to the axle and acted as a truss on the front axle, but only in one small section. While the rest of the axle was allowed to flex and move (a little), this section was isolated & rigid. Rigid things tend to break when everything around them flexes too much, so the axle developed a crack. We’ll call this metal fatigue. However, once the damage occurred, the Synergy bracket continued to act as a truss lending its strength to the broken axle, keeping the damage contained, and the axle in one piece until it took one too many hits (Windrock Park trail 21 perhaps?) and the crack widened enough to finally split apart.
To fix this unfortunate break, I went with the Tera44 axle housing and TenFactory axles installed by my local dealership. Yeah, I know the labor isn’t cheap at a dealership, but without a Jeep trailer/truck, I would have burned up any labor cost savings by paying for a tow to any other shop. I briefly considered a Dynatrac ProRock 44 or a Currie Rock Jock 44, but since this is 90% repair and only 10% exciting new toy, the Tera44 axle housing won the comparison due to price point and ease of install. Don’t get me wrong, there was no loser on that list as all three axle housings are incredibly solid. But the ease of dropping all of my stock components while beefing up the housing (+0.5″ axle tubes!) sealed the deal on the Tera44 and wouldn’t you know it, 4wd.com had a killer deal on it just as I needed it! Yes, I know this would have been the ideal time to swap out gears & knuckles…. but with the cost of this unexpected repair, I simply didn’t have any more in the Jeep fund.
Eeeek! It’s so naked!
Coming together nicely!
Aaaaaand we’re back!
After exactly two weeks of sitting on trailers, waiting on parts, and being up on a lift, everything has finally been installed and the Jeep is back on the road. My Jeeples have been asking me how I like it, and I’ll tell you…
It looks nice and it’s good to have an axle with out a hole in it. But so far I don’t really like how it drives. I’m blaming a lot of that on the single Fox steering stabilizer. In a dual set up, those stabilizers are excellent at keeping the steering nice and tidy. As a single shock, it’s all over the place. Bottom line, this was a huge repair bill that I wish I hadn’t incurred. Sure the replacement is much stronger, and looks all sorts of shiny. But in my long term Jeep plans, I never intended to replace my axles or my axle housing. I always thought the OEM goodies (axle shafts, axle housings, t-case, elockers, etc) that came on the Rubi would be strong enough for me. That’s a big part of why I sprang for the Rubicon to being with. Maybe I’ll like this set up more in time, but right now I’m really upset that the stock axle broke and hate eating Ramen for every meal while I pay off this huge expense.
As I wrote in an earlier post, there’s a lot of back and forth discussion on the value of the Grade 8 bolt upgrade for JK suspension components. Some folks swear by it, others are convinced it’s snake oil. Me? I haven’t decided yet but my thinking is if my components can fit a little more snug, why shouldn’t I drop a minimal amount of coin to tighten everything up? I went with the Synergy f911 hardware kit that comes with bolts for all your lower control arms, track bars, & front frame side track bar bracket. I don’t have a ton of swapping out steps other than the usual ‘make sure it’s on a level surface, set the brake, & chock the tires.’ One thing that helped me was having my jack under each bolt before I removed it. Both as a safety precaution and to help align the arms back in place. But honestly, some of the bolts holes didn’t need any help lining up.
For me the hardest step was to tighten the bolts to spec while working by myself. I need two hands for the torque wrench and one or two on the nut to keep it from spinning. To solve this problem I called on my friend the ratchet strap to give me a little counter leverage.
And now how about what you’ve really come here for… Pretty picture of Synergy’s F911 Bolt kit!
I’ve found a pot hole to run over at high speed and am sad to report that tightening up the front suspension bolts did not fix the problem. My death wobble remains and it’s just as scary as ever. After many discussions and a little research, I’ve decided to throw more parts at the problem. A visual inspection revealed that my stock steering stabilizer has taken a bit of a beating, so I’ve decided to upgrade it with a Fox Racing 2.0 Evolution Steering Stabilizer. And while I was swapping the steering stabilizer, I picked up TeraFlex‘s Steering Stabilizer Relocation Bracket to rotate the new shock up about 90 degrees to help keep it out of harms way.
But why stop there? To continue my shopping spree, I ordered the f911 hardware kit from Synergy Suspension. There’s quite a bit of back and forth online and amongst my Jeep group as to whether there’s any value to the grade 8 bolt upgrade, but if there’s even a little play in the steering components that I can tighten up, then I’ll call this kit worth the cost.
Replacing a steering stabilizer is a whopping two bolts and install of the shock relocation bracket is pretty straight forward as well. You want to start by removing the old steering stabilizer bolts, there’s one on each end. At that point you should have the steering stabilizer off and a loose bracket on your tie rod that you can’t quite pull off. It looks something like this guy below…
The Teraflex instructions tell you to use a larger pry bar and pray it apart. I spent quite a few minutes prying and swearing at that damn bracket with little to no progress. In the end, I grabbed two adjustable wrenches and clamped them on to the ends. The small wrench (attached to one end) pressed against the frame while I was able to easily pry open the other end using the larger wrench applying more force using leverage. Trust me on this one, just use the wrenches and skip the pry bar for this step.
Just in case you can’t figure out what to do with the long bolt that came with the kit, it replaces your stock track bar bolt using the OEM nut. If you are on level ground and the axle is in jack stands, you can probably pull your old bolt and squeeze in the new one with out the need to realign anything. Make sure to tighten that bolt down pretty snug since it’s holding both your steering stabilizer and the track bar in place.
All that’s left to do is measure the distance of the shock extended and compressed. There’s a 7.125″ travel to the shock, so you’ll want to mount the clamp on the tie rod at the midpoint when the wheels are straight which is 3.5625″. Just like the instructions say, don’t fully attach the shock to the track bar bolt until the very end as you need to compress the shock a bit to get it to attach. It’s much easier to do with the clamp already attached on the tie rod. Tighten down both ends and stand back to admire your handy work!
The shock looks very nice and it’s really eating up a ton of bumps to smooth out my steering wheel. That’s good since that’s what I bought it to do. The bad… this Fox shock is pressurized which means it’s natural state is that it wants to stay extended. That’s a fantastic trait for a shock that you’d use for your suspension because the weight of the vehicle will center it. That same trait is terrible for a steering stabilizer since the shock is constantly trying to extend itself. This over correction manifests as a steady pull on the steering wheel to the left no matter how dead on your alignment is. This shock would be great in a dual steering stabilizer set up so that they can push against each other, but as a single shock… I’m afraid this guy is coming off the rig and back to the store. The folks at Teraflex actually confirmed that they used to have this issue with Fox shocks but it has since been cleared up if I use Fox’s 980-986 steering stabilizer. While tempting, if I’m gonna pull parts off of a fresh install and to redo it, I think I’m gonna pony up the extra coin and go for a dual steering stabilizer kit. Stay tuned sports fans!