58 Jeep Willy steering issue

58 jeep willys cj5

Knuckle Buster
May 31, 2020
4
San Diego
First Name
Walter
Willys Model
  1. CJ
Willys Year:
  1. 1958
Hello,
I’m a new 1958 Jeep willys cj5 owner and I’m in need of some help. I getting “death wobbles” in my front end and would like some advice on how to fix this.
The previous owner put a 1974 Ford 302 in and had to add power steering. I’m also running Dana 44’s (I believe they are1975) front and rear. It seems to me that the previous owner custom made the drag linkage because all the not so good welds all over it and different angles they are welded.
My question is can I put any ‘58 cj5 bushings in ,because they are bad, or is there an easy replacement Drag bar for this that I can put in?
So here I what I have
‘74 Ford 302
‘75 Dana 44
‘75 GM power steering pump (mounted on the back of the front number)
And a very questionable drag link made by someone.

Any help is appreciated!! And thank you in advance!!B3BE91FA-92EA-4062-9802-A4501B906EE0.jpeg010FC8E1-3EAA-4742-BD7D-F9A836CB37A5.jpeg
 

scoutingranch

Bigger Hammer
Sep 10, 2019
132
Encinitas Ca
First Name
Mike
Willys Model
  1. Other
Willys Year:
  1. 1950
Where to start...
The problem with people and their ideas, is the problem. Unless teams of engineers calculated all of these modifications there will always be issues. Having written that, I would start with a new steering dampener. Your engine appears to be sitting on an angle (high side driver), the welds don't look bad, giant rims/tires on a tiny vehicle, looks to be lifted.
And that is just what I can see. I like my vehicles stock and my women straight.
 

58 jeep willys cj5

Knuckle Buster
May 31, 2020
4
San Diego
First Name
Walter
Willys Model
  1. CJ
Willys Year:
  1. 1958
Yeah those welds broke yesterday while I was driving! Death wobble real bad then no steering!! I shot off the road and ended up on the sidewalk barely missing a light pole..... needless to say I’m redoing the front end
 

Stakebed

Well Oiled
All-Star
Mar 4, 2020
4,573
Northern California
First Name
Joe
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1957
The Heim joint on the driver's side is bad. Supposed to have a tapered tie rod end in there. Also, an OE solution to the height difference between the steering box and drag link would be a dropped pitman arm.
 

scoutingranch

Bigger Hammer
Sep 10, 2019
132
Encinitas Ca
First Name
Mike
Willys Model
  1. Other
Willys Year:
  1. 1950
Did the welds break or was the metal around the welds fatigued due to heating/bending/cutting?
 
Last edited:

diggerG

Well Oiled
Oct 2, 2011
5,019
Wrentham Ma.
First Name
Greg
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1963
Everything about your steering effects the handling and "death wobble" from wearing out parts and design modifications. This includes (in my humble opinion) vehicle and component design. This is the big unmentionable.
My point:
1. WHY is it only 4wd vehicles that wobble all over the highway? Back in the day guys drove shitbox 4 wd jeeps and trucks with mis matched tires, loose front ends, no power steering no steering dampeners etc. and on high speed highways with no to little "death wobble"? I did it and most others did as well. WHY? What changed?
2. Are the engineers designing looser front axles and steering parts? I don't think so. And the wobble seems to happen at a particular speed as well. WHY? I've experienced the 'death wobble" in Jeeps, Dodge and Chevy pickups and 1 tonners. Because that is what I have driven. I've seen posts where people say their new Dodge pickups have done that, WHY?
3. It's not a Jeep thing, or a Dodge thing, or a Chevy thing, it's a 4wd thing. WHY?
4. I've done lots of things on my 4wds to eliminate the "death wobble" with moderate success after a lot of work, and found different problems every time.
WHY?
5. I believe a common denominator is tire technology. Today's tires put different stresses on the handling of 4wd front axles. Automotive engineers big secret! They are part of the problem.
6. That is WHY in 1971 my piece of junk 46 CJ2A with mismatched and unbalanced tires, tired front axle parts and a fearless fool of a driver (me) didn't wobble all over the road but 10 years later my V6 CJ5 with power steering tight front axle parts a steering dampener 11' tires (same driver) did wobble at 32 mph? And every 4wd I drove after that wobbled .
7. A big factor of course is vehicle modifications. That's pretty obvious.
That's my rant. Tire technology is a big hidden factor (not the only one of course) in this issue.
THOUGHTS?
diggerG
 

rocket

Well Oiled
Sep 3, 2015
2,039
Sierra Mtns
First Name
Rodney
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1963
When I was 15 with a learners permit, I had a 56 2wd Ford Pick Up with the worst Death Wobble I had ever felt. Turned out to be a bent tie rod causing too much toe in, and loose tie rod ends. At the time, that truck was only 11 years old. My Daily driver truck now is a 1996 Ram 3500 4x4 Diesel and it's 24 years old, my WIllys is 53, and my 55 Olds is 65 years old. Ben Franklin said "All things mechanical will fail. the main variable it TIME".

Wood workers say "Measure twice, cut once" When doing any modifications on a Jeep, WIllys or any 4x4. I would say "Research, research, research." With the advent of the internet, even us old farts can find out how to do things correctly.

Most 4x4 trucks and Willys, and Jeep used a forward to rear swinging drag link from the Pittman arm to the front knuckle, which was fine with 3" of travel and stock lift. With the gear box back by the fire wall like early Jeeps and Willys, you could get away with a spring over conversion and still use the stock gearbox and drag link. Some of the 70's to 80's 4x4 trucks used a forward mounted power steering gearbox with a short drag link swinging forwards and back that did not lend well to any lift. The angle of the drag link became so steep that massive Bump Steer was the result..

Some people tried to mount the drag link across to the passenger side of the tie rod like on Walters rig. which causes even more issues. As the drag link moves, it caused the tie rod to rotate within it joints causing excessive play in the steering wheel and if the tire rod is not straight it will cause a death wobble.

Crossover steering was the answer. Some passenger side front knuckles had a flat top which allowed the use of a High Steer Arm, moving the Drag Link from the Driver side, across the top of the springs to the Passenger side. Now as the suspension moves the geometry doesn't change as radically and Bump Steer is eliminated. There are kits available to just change the Passenger side knuckle to a High Steer position and leave the tie rod below. And also kits to change both knuckles to Mount both the drag link and tie rod above the springs.

I agree with Greg that any number of problems can cause a Death Wobble, But it is not strictly a 4x4 problem older 2wd trucks especially with straight front axles were prone to wobble. Loose tie rod ends, ball joints, king pins, too much toe in or toe out, and one or more tires with low air pressure can cause a wobble. My wife's 2006 Chrysler Pacifica AWD developed a wobble when an aftermarket front rotor warped. (China Junk).

There is nothing wrong with spring over conversions and suspension lifts, IF they are well engineered and properly carried out.
Rodney . Here is one of many kits on the market.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/GM-CHEVY-JEEP-DANA-44-COMPLETE-1-TON-CROSSOVER-HIGH-STEER-KIT-W-KNUCKLE-WARRANTY/263476526978?_trkparms=ispr=1&hash=item3d586cbf82:g:2RAAAOSwE7Jad0Cd&enc=AQAEAAACcIQvEcHUrT7nmUC3yY5qbPyaBN1nJEDYW8MyypsJPgXK3f3BUpXm98HE2ivWR1udtQd5RstGXme69Iv/4ThR7VBG9C2mel0WIryJYA25kVZgg43yqkNGj5dQc2AVbRYW+GWbS5GProdeGN7P/caaiMPL2IF2rIRcfcVMQLdw+s7j/3wovGStgQvYUYYgovffutK1ytVnIXVH2QbHZhW0gb1hxX32GwqsbgoBn/z10mU/O9wDadIPlXigu6VaHTovUWATT7qRbc172IPX/Bm9T5/3XSamDz3T2aFzGOgfRvF8n28nqqs8cLj/qY43kekuyjNdd1vs99BxJwkJOnNsfzuHIxExyUS/f7EP8yC8lBLLPbrkMBXV+m4YSZFhlOLT7DQmOlxAi22WB0IBB2zBCvMLGtBR5P7rg51BQk1Y51bOEwigFiL3+rGgVw09nNp9VUG1yT0mGz++JaBL2oDe/pJdClmSepDnk2neJGDM/mcIoQWLO4TteHPnAjIo1/cH6tmcHZiIj7Q3tiHLyOFZpzqnfBuxJIz/U6WpFX1ZfqxIcq+642YM5+Y0v+hrKj635y1MjOXRljPB18Inxt/142m9AR76Oobiv2HqS1nvzDnuAVkR74oH7vomI9AijPKprHMaEVcXtCc9TJgacuHYO1BkBFCUKfgXOOYGcNPChJKMjYkgugoUwW7vhbRUizhGU/qn2WK0eE5vadt8o5zkZyPFnZo3Kq43T9aQxqGIDyo3UNJBYcwq0OwxCPj8NsDUtzEevrp8mcQl7Spcpn5S/wVj32yIOW5p0j+MOxBQYW+DxAVaNacRysvBTJs7Ae2F4A==&checksum=263476526978bbc976bb473a4f5daaaef32406e67ea2 Picture of crossover steering and high steer link.1591214557822.png
 
Last edited:

Greaser007

Sharpest Tool
Mar 1, 2019
484
Anderson, California
First Name
Leonard
Willys Model
  1. CJ
Willys Year:
  1. 1946
Walter, other than that home-made drag-link, I really don't see anything abnormal.
You are lucky you were able to get stopped without injury. good news !!
Whoever did this designed the drag link with the bends because his Pitman arm did not have an angled end to match the angle of the drag link. If the drag-link was straight, the ends would surely Bind. A 4"-dropped Pitman arm could be your friend.

I should probably not admit to this, but Pitman arms are forged steel, and can be cut, rotated or shortened or lengthened for sweep angle if properly V-grooved and rewelded with peening often and short welds to alleviate weld stresses.
Ever been in a fab shop for a Mint 400 desert racer ? Me neither, but I've inspected many off road trucks year's ago (early '80's) on Fremont Street in Las Vegas while at the Concession Row the day prior to race day, and those guy's custom made many of their own parts by modifying something existing as a base.
All rod-ends have an angular limit of movement, so you may need to phone DynaTrack for rod-end choices or a pitman arm with an angled end, and 4" of drop.
I just go to Pick-n-Pull and source parts that I can modify to work, _ _ _ or purchase directly from DynaTrac.

When I modify drag-links, I always incorporate lengthwise plug welds for tension and compression to be in-line with a weld.
Modified drag-links, tie-rods and pan-hard rods should be sleeved if solid and the plug weld slot to allow 4-inches of weld length minimum @ 1000 lbs per lin inch (ha, might be stretching it). If tubing, then insert solid rod and grind lengthwise slots through the tubing for plug welding again, at least 4-lineal inches of purchase for safety. I guess we each have our methods.
I just don't trust butt-welded tubes and rods without plugging or sleeving, then plug welded.

Rodney,
I followed that link and those are Great components !! Like those Reid Racing flat top knuckles.
And, that is a nicely done front end in the photo you attached.
I have been sourcing from DynaTrac for decades with very satisfactory results on 3/4 ton vans and pickup crossover steering conversions from 2wd to 4wd. When doing the crossover steering, sweep angles combined with axle assembly droop can cause binding in some drag-link rod ends.
This needs to be studied closely so something doesn't bind and snap on the trail in a mega-twist.
And too, like mentioned above some slop may be attained through unexpected rotation due to a drag link pushing on the side of a tie rod, like some Ford pickups.
Also, the ends of the early Willys drag-links were Spring-Loaded and adjustable. That to me, was like having Steering-Suspension. Omg

Looking closely at leaf sprung Ford Super-duty front axle assemblies, suspension and steering, many of them came from the factory with a Pan-Hard Rod to prevent sideways jossle and flex. So, I have sourced them from full-sized Broncos and modified bracketry and such in my Full Sized conversions. And the pan-hard rod must be as close to parallel as possible with the Drag-Link and similar length spring pack to spring pack. Hahaha, my earlier mentor built custom adjustable round-de-round race car suspensions back in the late '60's. That guy was a guru. Well, he had me 'sold' anyway, and his customers.

I also Did install cross-over steering in my '46 2a in 1984 when installing power steering for the Rubicon.
I simply cut down a pitman arm with correct tapered hole for my rod end of choice, and welded it to the top-front of the '46 knuckle with boxing between it and the original below it. Simple simon, and yes, I did carefully consult my favorite pro-welder for mentoring first, and mucho v-grooving for purchase-strength.
I could sprint down the expressway flat ground at 65 mph easy peasy with two fingers on the wheel, running my rebuilt L134 and 32" balloon tires aired up, and loaded for 4-days Rubicon camping. All good fun stuff and gratifying. No death wobbles.
In my opinion, a guy can save his stock parts and go cross-over just for ease of mind and safety if wishing to use the freeway.

I have seen a pitman arm failure on the Dusy Ershim jeep Trail above Fresno, and it had been cut and butt-welded only around the perimeter and ground smooth for "looks." It had not been v-grooved to the center, and no grooving at all. omg.
The guy may not have known his pitman arm had been modified, and he didn't fess to anything either.
Keep us posted on results of a "Fix" !!
 

diggerG

Well Oiled
Oct 2, 2011
5,019
Wrentham Ma.
First Name
Greg
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1963
Hello,
I’m a new 1958 Jeep willys cj5 owner and I’m in need of some help. I getting “death wobbles” in my front end and would like some advice on how to fix this.
The previous owner put a 1974 Ford 302 in and had to add power steering. I’m also running Dana 44’s (I believe they are1975) front and rear. It seems to me that the previous owner custom made the drag linkage because all the not so good welds all over it and different angles they are welded.
My question is can I put any ‘58 cj5 bushings in ,because they are bad, or is there an easy replacement Drag bar for this that I can put in?
So here I what I have
‘74 Ford 302
‘75 Dana 44
‘75 GM power steering pump (mounted on the back of the front number)
And a very questionable drag link made by someone.

Any help is appreciated!! And thank you in advance!!View attachment 75668View attachment 75669

Walter
Your front axle is not a Spicer Dana 44 axle. It looks like a Dana 30 probably out of a 1970's Cl Jeep. The 44 diff cover is different than a 30.
diggerG
 

52 M38 Kurt

Bigger Hammer
Jan 21, 2020
51
Renton Wa.
First Name
Kurt
Willys Model
  1. CJ
Willys Year:
  1. 1952
Have someone move the wheel back and forth while you look to see what has slop in it. There are a lot of joints that can have a little slop. Start replacing rod ends and the ujoint or joints in the linkage. Check the coupler from the column to the steering box. Tighten up the box. There is an allen head screw on top with a nut. Snug it up. Not tight. You might get a drop pit-man arm and pit in a straight tie rod.
 

dad's wagon

Bigger Hammer
Nov 16, 2018
108
port henry
First Name
dale
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1953
Death wobble, make sure ALL your bearings are tight; wheel, knuckle, steering ends. Check your caster, camber and toe-in.

I made my own dropped pitman arm, V notched, slow weld and after, welded a 1/2" round rod all the way around the new arm, today I would buy one...(the days before custom arms!) I don't like those bent drag links, to much chance to bend!

I had death wobble and as it turned out the frame boxing I did rusted out from the inside (un-seen) and finally showed me that issue, the box flexed on the frame! I had done a Saginaw manual box up-grade...much better than the ross set-up! My tie rod/drag link was from a Jeepster and used that pass. side tie rod end with a tapered hole for the draglink.

Worked well for years, tires were 7.50 16 or 235 85 16. This was my '57 CJ5- '46 CJ2A - 289 mix that served me well for 33 years. I've rebuilt it and it still with me 52 years later! Bought in 1968.

Dale
 

Rastus

Bigger Hammer
May 17, 2015
61
Queensland AU
First Name
John
Willys Model
  1. CJ
Willys Year:
  1. 1946
Forgetting all the modifications that have no real affect on a steering system except to try & cover up the following possible issues, on a standard vehicle ~

With all wheels on the ground have someone turn the steering wheel to establish if there is any movement in any of the following ~
1. free steering wheel travel before anything else happens [worm adjustment] before
2. steering sector shaft possibly moving in & out [sector adjustment or worn bushes]
3. any drag link connections
4. any other linkage connection or bushes moving &
5. all tie rod ends.

Jack both sides & place axle on stands. Grip wheel top & bottom rock in & out checking for movement.
If there is, it can come from 2 possible sources
1. wheel bearing adjustment & this can be eliminated as a source by having someone apply the service foot brake while rocking in & out.
2. swivel pin bearings top & bottom.

If applying the brakes did not remove any & all movement you have found the problem most associated with what's called 'death wobble'.

Service & most likely replace both sides top & bottom bearing cups & cones.

Hope this helps the OP & others. JG.
 

Stakebed

Well Oiled
All-Star
Mar 4, 2020
4,573
Northern California
First Name
Joe
Willys Model
  1. Pickup
Willys Year:
  1. 1957
Forgetting all the modifications that have no real affect on a steering system except to try & cover up the following possible issues, on a standard vehicle ~

With all wheels on the ground have someone turn the steering wheel to establish if there is any movement in any of the following ~
1. free steering wheel travel before anything else happens [worm adjustment] before
2. steering sector shaft possibly moving in & out [sector adjustment or worn bushes]
3. any drag link connections
4. any other linkage connection or bushes moving &
5. all tie rod ends.

Jack both sides & place axle on stands. Grip wheel top & bottom rock in & out checking for movement.
If there is, it can come from 2 possible sources
1. wheel bearing adjustment & this can be eliminated as a source by having someone apply the service foot brake while rocking in & out.
2. swivel pin bearings top & bottom.

If applying the brakes did not remove any & all movement you have found the problem most associated with what's called 'death wobble'.

Service & most likely replace both sides top & bottom bearing cups & cones.

Hope this helps the OP & others. JG.

Building upon what Rastus wrote. My Dad parked the Willys truck because he said the steering was so loose it was unsafe. I figured worn steering box, linkage, maybe king pins, etc. In the end, the steering box was like new inside, the tie rods are fine, king pins seem fine, all the play was in the drag link.
So what might seem huge, may only be one component.
 

rocket

Well Oiled
Sep 3, 2015
2,039
Sierra Mtns
First Name
Rodney
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1963
Building upon what Rastus wrote. My Dad parked the Willys truck because he said the steering was so loose it was unsafe. I figured worn steering box, linkage, maybe king pins, etc. In the end, the steering box was like new inside, the tie rods are fine, king pins seem fine, all the play was in the drag link.
So what might seem huge, may only be one component.
That's always a nice thing to find.
 

Willys Overland

Sharpest Tool
Jun 5, 2019
236
Jeep Central
First Name
Keith
Willys Model
  1. Other
Willys Year:
  1. 1954
Digger - If you want to learn about all the aspects of vehicle shimmy, although the author is dead, his teachings still exist. The world expert was Hans Bastiaan Pacejka. He was an expert in vehicle system dynamics and particularly in tire dynamics, fields in which his works are now standard references. He was Professor emeritus at Delft University of Technology in Delft, Netherlands. He died in 2017. He was the professor that taught the Automotive Engineers and Tire Designers. I studied his materials in the late 1980's.
 

dad's wagon

Bigger Hammer
Nov 16, 2018
108
port henry
First Name
dale
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
Willys Year:
  1. 1953
Oh, and don't forget bent wheels and tire balance! I had one so bad I had to un-mount and turn 180 d. and re-mount...cured the issue but still needed weights! Had a rim I had to reject too, bent.
Dale
 
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