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The track bar centers the axle at all times, keeping you and your rig going down the road and over obstacles. Upgrade or replace your Wrangler's track bar today!Shop Track Bars
Having a pair of live axles in your Wrangler means you can tackle trails and get ruff without the fear of breaking much, but having a live axle means having a track bar. The track bar centers the axle at all times, keeping you and your rig going down the road and over obstacles. In this article we cover the tracking angle, stock and upgraded bars, the death wobble, and the JK track bar bolt issue.
Ever notice a pick-up or any vehicle going down the road and the body is not in line with their momentum of travel, or maybe they're experiencing the death wobble which looks like the wheels and axle are about to shimmy their way from the vehicle? This typically means that something is up with the track bar; worn bushings, poor installation, damage, age, wrong length, etc. The Wrangler's track bar is what maintains the axle’s perpendicular alignment with your Wrangler when viewed from the front or rear. Without it, your axle will not be tame and may drift off to one side or the other, causing steering issues.
If you feel like your Wrangler is “drifting” while going down the road “straight” it’s a good idea to check out the track bar. Get under your rig and inspect the bar which is attached to your axle and is parallel to your axle shafts. Check for cracked bushings, physical damage, looseness, etc. Maybe you installed a lift and you now realize your Jeep looks laterally offset when looking at it from the front or rear. A longer track bar is necessary to fix this.
Track bars come from a variety of manufactures, but most track bars are adjustable. Adjustability is almost a necessity, especially on lifted Wranglers, to finely tune in the track bar length to perfection and get your axle centered. Lifted Jeeps require longer track bars while normal Wranglers can stick to the shorter regular bars. Make sure you get the right track bar length/adjuster that is compatible for your lift size.
After removing the old track bar and before installing the new one, you need to center the axle. It helps installation a ton. Shove your rig to the side that you need it to move, again usually push towards the driver side from the passenger side. If necessary rachet strap it, disconnect the sway bar links, and lift the axle or carefully have a buddy steer the wheel for you in order to temporarily get everything lined up. If you choose to use the steering wheel trick, your wheel might be off center when final assembly is done. Don't forget the torque specs and grease everything up when you’re done.
The brackets are what the track bar connects to on the axle and tub. Different brackets can move the track bar positioning to accommodate for different lifts. By relocating the bar the angle changes which can provide better handling and flex. Loose brackets can even cause a terrible death wobble which we cover more later on.
The bushings, usually polyurethane, are made to preserve the track bar, allowing some flex between the collar and the track bar. If your bushings are old and dry rotted, they will not be doing any good. The bushings may provide excessive flexing of the track bar and cause the dreaded death wobble.
The collars separate the bolt from the bushing. Poor collars will make short work of the bolt and bushing, destroying them pretty rapidly. If the collar is torn up, check to make sure you have the right sized bolt and the installation was correct with proper torquing. We know that JK’s have a problem with incorrect bolt sizing, as they came with a slightly smaller bolt then the inside diameter of the collar that was used. This incredibly small difference in size, over time, has destroyed JK track bar bolts and collars. Upgrading to new, improved, and correct sized bolts and collars is essential to keep your JK on the road.
The Jeep Wrangler death wobble refers to a vibration that can be caused by your track bar bushings, collars, or brackets which makes the axle want to free itself from your Wrangler. Check out the track bar bushings. If they are in poor condition, replace them. If your bracket is loose, tighten it to the suggested specs. Now if both are in perfect condition, check out your lug nuts and studs. It’s a possibility that the lugs have come loose and have given you a similar concern.
Always follow installation instructions that come with your track bar, but as a summary, adjusting and installing a track bar is pretty easy. First, look to see if you even need one. Does one tire stick out of the wheel well/fender more than the other (usually driver’s side)? If you're unsure, measure the distance from the tub or suspension, something solid and equal on both sides, to the outside edge of the tire. If one side is longer than the other, split the difference. This number is the approximate amount you need to add to the track bar. When measuring the track bar, front or rear, measure the distance between the eyes or holes of the track bar while ignoring the curves and bends. record this number and set your new track bar to this amount plus the amount that you measured before. This should be almost, if not, perfect.