• Welcome to the new NAXJA Forum! If your password does not work, please use "Forgot your password?" link on the log-in page. Please feel free to reach out to [email protected] if we can provide any assistance.

Tight steering woes..continue


NAXJA Forum User
So my 1991 XJ 5 speed is having endless steering nightmares. My steering was super sloppy (300k on original box.) I had a shop tighten the adjustment screw on the box. It was immediately tootight and super weird so I put it back into the original position. I probably drove 5 miles on it like that, in total. The problem is, the steering got a bit better, but it didn't go back to normal. Assuming the box got cooked. This is where the problems really start.

So I went ahead and installed a new BlueTop steering gear: no change. Got an alignment: no change. Replaced the steering pump: no change. Figured I got a bad reman, replaced it with a new PSC power steering pump: no change. I just took it to a shop, and they think I may have gotten a bad BlueTop gear. I really don't to go through the hassle of replacing the gear again. Can anyone please give me some ideas of what it could be that is causing this?? Ball joints are newish. Steering components all look tight and clean. Is there a way to check if my steering gear is working properly without pulling it out to replace? Could there be shaving floating around in my fluid? I'm super stuck. Jeep is barely driveable. Used to be able to drive it with 1 finger. Now it's a chore. Any ideas greatly appreciated. I've scoured the forums, not much help.

Basically, steering is very tight between the 9-3 positions, like across the center position. Its a bit better on the edges, like doing u turns. But still tight. Wheel doesn't return to center. Returns about 1/2 way, but not all the way.

Help me save this Jeep

1991 XJ Sport 4.0 4x4 5 speed - stock
Back it off a half turn at a time until it loosens up. Ideally this adjustment is best done on the bench but if you go back though the threads, you can find how to do a reasonable job in the vehicle, while on jack stands.
Thx Old_Man. I definitely found several of your posts in my search. So, I backed it off 1/2 turn, and it felt a bit better, but still definitely not right. Can I back it off even more? Is it safe to do so? Safe for the box, and safe for the drivability. Also, will the effect be immediate, or does it take time to work itself into place?

Thanks for your expertise. I've watched a few videos and read some write-ups, but Still don't totally understand how the steering box works.
The effect will be immediate. As far as being safe, loosening the adjustment will only cause more slop in your steering and degraded steering control/accuracy. Getting it too tight can cause binding, especially with temp changes and can lead to loss of steering control.
Last edited:
Gotcha. Well I loosened it another 1/2 turn. And the steering is def too loose. It's weird and hard to control/keep going straight. Not OK. But oddly, it's still tight-ish across center and still doesn't return to center. I'm really thinking my problem may not be the box itself. Is there a way to test if the steering box is damaged or not. Like can I unhook some stuff and move it by hand to check anything. I think I saw a post about that somewhere.

This thing is just not steering right. I also saw a post about unhooking things section by section to isolate the point of resistance. I need to find that post. Any tips? Most shops seem to have lost the art of actually diagnosing problems. They just want to throw parts at problems.

Still trying to save this Jeep. The engine runs like a top. It has great power and zip. I can't believe this damn steering issue could be the end it. It's nuts...
Not returning to center when driving is a clue that you may have rotated the pumpkin too far up and have no steering caster. There is no return to center in the steering box, it comes from caster.
When I adjust one in the vehicle, I drop the pitman arm. I then rotate the wheel lock to lock and find the center. I rock the wheel back and forth about 45 degrees and feel how much force it takes. I have someone slowly tighten the screw back in, while I rock the wheel, until I just feel the force start to increase, then back off 1/8 turn and lock it down.

Oh by the way, don't forget to hook the pitman arm back up.:laugh3:

That is pretty much how you do it on the bench in a vise.
One thing: Since I have loosened my box adjustment screw and been driving a bit, my steering wheel now seems to be off center. Is this indicative of anything. Also, would the caster being off also make the steering wheel stiff/sticky around the center position? Or just make it not return to center. Finally, is there a way to check if the box is good? I guess just pull it out and move it manually to see if its binding?

Sry for all the Qs and thx for the help. Trying to learn all this. Shop want to replace box and I just don't think thats the problem.
Caster does not cause binding at center. It causes the Jeep to not want to go in a straight line and follow every rut in the road, and not tend to return to center.

Following the ruts in the road is somewhat normal with a Jeep and larger tires, can also be caused by not enough toe in. It can be aggravated by bad steering joints and ball joints.

The wheel being centered is only controlled by adjusting the tie rod.
Ok, thx. It's def still between the 9 and 3 position, being the most still at zero. Almost like there is resistance, like something is too tight. If I turn it to say 3 oclock, it will just stay there, like making a turn it just keep to turning, no return to C. In a U turn, it will start to return, but stop a the 3 oclock pos. It's hard to explain.

So there is resistance at the centered position, and no return to center farther out. Having alignment checked this week. Ball joints are spicer less than 5 years old, joints up front feel normally snug, bushings good, etc. But having a shop re-check everything. I don't see anything amiss and I'm stuck.

I'm the original owner of this heep so I know how it used to drive, and this ain't it. I'm on my 2nd set of DuraTrac 235/75r15's so they're not oversized really. I'm pretty familiar with the feel of the ride and it's definitely off. It's hard to describe.

Thanks thanks and thanks for the ideas. Will check tie rod, castor/alignment, all front end steering components. It really feels like 1 simple thing, like ah-ha that's it, but can't seem to track it down.

I will report back -

I will report back.
Ok, so still no solution. Got alignment. Caster was in the "green" before and after. 5.7 left, 5.6 right. Stayed the same. Toe was off, had that fixed. Zero change with steering problem.

Had the power steering lines replaced, since that was the only thing in the system that hadn't been. Gates parts. No change. Also ANOTHER steering pump installed (#4) as my PSC 1205C started leaking from the resevoir after this change. It's only 3 months old. Summit is accepting the return.

Had the power steering fluid flushed and bleed as well. Again. MS-5931.

Tie rods are good, ball joints, input shaft, everything looks snug and in their proper place. (several shops have verified this.)

So I'm back to square one. Steering - no return to center between 9 and 3 positions. And feels like almost a "resistance" when I initiate turning from zero/straight position. Hard to drive.

So I'm really stuck. Could it be something in the steering column? Most shops are suggesting it is the new Bluetop Box. But the BlueTop ppl say that the power steering plus leverage would overpower any such tightness in the box. And they've never had one with this problem before. But always a chance I guess..

Really stumped. Shops seem stumped. At this point I just want this solved for the pure mystery of it. And dying to get the Heep back, as it's starting to snow....

Thx for any ideas!

Caster is on the low end of the oem spec. 7-degrees +/- 1.75 as I recall. Do you get the resistance at 1 full-turn as well? I'm wondering if you've got bad u-joint or slip joint in the steering column
I think I'd jack the front tires off the ground and unhook the pitman arm. Then see what the steering wheel feels like, and see how hard it is to move the wheels by hand.
Thx for the ideas- is the caster adjustable? The thing is, this happened all of a sudden, it didn't happen over a slow period of time. So It's not like something slowly went out of wack. So that why I lean on it not being the caster. But it could be I guess. How do I check the steering column u-joint/slip joint? The last shop I went to (jeep only shop) said the column was fine. And this is the shop that replaced it about 10 years ago.

I will try to lift it and do that. Need to isolate the issue. It's a weird feeling. When I initiate turning from zero/center position, there's a resistance, like the steering wheel doesn't want to turn. I doing a u-turn, it will be a bit easier closer to lock on the side. Then returns to center (not reallly smoothly, but like in short moves) then stops at around 3 or 9 o'clock. And the jeep keeps turning. It's pretty much undriveable because of most of driving is btwn the 3 and 9 positions, and so I'm weaving down the road since there is no natural centering on it. Plus it takes effort to turn the wheel. It's maddening.
It's not your caster, did you try isolating the steering box yet?
It's not your caster, did you try isolating the steering box yet?

Scroll up a few posts.

Castor is adjustable. Should be adjusting bolts or shims depending on the year at the back of the lower control arms. I don't think you have a castor problem though. Disconnect the pitman arm and see what happens. That will help narrow the problem to either the column or the box and suspension.
Shoot a video of your steering gear while you turn wheel from lock to lock. Tires on the ground.

I had a ton of movement where the gear bolts to unibody rail. Added SFR inner brace and hydro assist.

Sent from my SM-G996U using Tapatalk