Back in October of 2018, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the parent company of the Jeep brand) announced a massive recall on about 18,000 new Jeep Wrangler to inspect and repair bad welds on a supercritical part of the steering system, that secures the track bar to the frame. For months prior Jeep JL owners had been complaining about the quality of the welds on the frame with some even experiencing weld separation and a loss of steering control with this frame mount. The recall included 2018 and 2019 Wranglers and would require an inspection of the welds by Chrysler and if they determined the welds were defective, the weld would be repaired (rewelded). To determine if your Wrangler is part of the recall, you can submit your VIN number. Lucky for me my Wrangler was not part of the recall. However, that didn’t ease my worry. I’ve done my share of amateur welding and being around the garage my whole life I know what a good weld is supposed to look like. To me and my untrained eye, this was not a good weld.
To me, this weld looks porous with insufficient penetration, especially on the left side. When I really looked closely, it even looked like it was one weld on top of another… maybe a factory fix? While it may be just fine, I didn’t trust it and with the added stresses that 37″ tires were going to put on this weld I needed zero worries.
Enter Rusty’s Off-road Products. I love the Jeep aftermarket. Jeep problems are just opportunities to come up with great ideas. Even before Jeep announced the recall, Rusty’s was selling a front track bar mount brace for the JL Wrangler to address this exact weld issue. This brace bolts to the side of the frame just above the track bar mount using the 4 existing steering box bolts and wraps around the frame track bar mount with gusseted 1/4″ steel that’s at least 2 times thicker than the frame mount itself. This brace doesn’t replace the frame mount but rather re-enforces the mount making it several times stronger than stock alone, even with good welds. Priced at $99.00 it was a no-brainer, this brace was going on my JL ASAP. Below is my installation of Rusty’s Front Track Bar Mount Brace on my Wrangler Rubicon. Installation was fairly easy and took about one hour, which included pausing to take pictures.
What’s included: The kit was pretty simple and included the JL Front Track Bar Frame Brace (RC‐TB7500‐JL), a 7/16″‐14 x 1‐1/4″ Grade 8 Hex Head Cap Screw with a couple of washers and a Grade 8 Lock Nut. Also included is an M14 x 2.00mm x 90mm Length Hex Head Cap Screw with two washers and an M14 x 2mm Hex Lock Nut. This new bolt is pretty important and I’ll explain why later.
Install Time: About an hour
# of people: Rusty’s recommends 2 in the instructions, 1 person can do the job just fine.
Installation is done with the vehicle parked on flat ground and the wheels pointed straight ahead. Set the emergency brake and choke the wheels to keep the vehicle from moving.
Disconnect the track bar from the frame using a 21mm socket and a wrench. If you don’t have a 21mm socket a 13/16″ SAE will work too (mine went missing, probably hanging out with my 10mm somewhere). This bolt will be replaced by the M14 in the kit.
The next step is to remove the four bolts that secure the steering box to the frame using an 18mm socket. Rusty’s recommends using an assistant to hold the steering box but not necessary to have two people for this. I removed the bolts and left the box to hang in place and it didn’t move much from its original location. But if you have a helping hand, have them hold the steering box as the hardware is reinstalled.
Next, install Rusty’s JL Front Track Bar Frame Brace right over top of the factory track bar mount. Line up the four mounting holes to the four steering box holes in the frame. The lower part of the Track Bar Brace will wrap around the factory Track Bar Mount that’s welded to the frame.
Apply Blue Loctite to the threads of the original hardware before reinstalling these bolts.
Re-install the factory steering box bolts. You or your assistant will need to move the steering box around a little, probably lift a little to line up the holes. Thread all four bolts in but do not tighten them yet. The lower half of the brace is going to have to move around a little to line up the track bar bolt holes. I tried putting the factory track bar bolt line up the holes as I installed the steering box bolts as you can see in the photo below but the bolt was difficult to remove later so you probably don’t to do that.
Rusty’s installation instructions put this next step after reinstalling the track bar and bolt but I thought this might be easier to do before installing the track bar bolt. I installed the 7/16″‐14 x 1‐1/4″ Grade 8 Hex Head Cap Screw next because I could get m hand into the cavity without the track bar in the way. The 7/16″ SAE flat washers go one on each side. Secure it with the 7/16″ grade 8 nut but don’t tighten it up yet.
Re-install the track bar to the re-enforced frame and use the new M14 x 2.00mm x 90mm bolt that is included with the kit along with the two M14 x 28mm washer one on each side and it with the M14 lock nut. Do not fully tighten the bolt and nut yet.
When you install this bolt you may notice something that I feel is pretty important that Jeep may be overlooking. The new M14 x 2.00mm x 90mm bolt is NOT fully threaded across while the stock bolt is fully threaded. Why is this important? Well, when you install this bolt, you’ll notice it goes in tight. The tolerance between the solid, non-threaded portion of the bolt and bolt hole in Rusty’s Track Bar Brace is very tight and the brace is very thick. The result overall is that this bolt is not going to move at all from the forces of the track bar even if the bolt loosens up over time (which it never should). Compare that bolt and tolerance to the stock track bar bolt and bolt hole. First, the bolt is fully threaded which means that is the bolt ever looses up, it will definitely move side to side more than it would if not fully threaded and it will wallow out the hole. Track bars have been known to do exactly that. Plus the factory frame steel is thin. Just look at the photo above and compare the factory steel to the brace. The brace is at least two times as thick as stock if not more. For such a critical part I would have liked to see a more substantial mounting point for the factory track bar.
With all of the Death Wobble and steering wheel shimmy issues occurring on new JL’s this one bolt may be a contributing factor in the shimmy/wobble scenario IF it is found to have loosened up. While I have no first-hand info to support this theory I could see this playing out as a factor with some cases.
The Next Step is to tighten everything. Here are the Torque Specifications for bolts
- Factory Steering Bolts: 99-lbs Torque
- 7/16″ Grade 8 Hardware: 50-lbs Torque
- M14 x 2.00mm x 90mm Track Bar Bolt: 125-lbs Torque
The new 7/16″ Grade 8 bolt that passes through the factory frame and the new brace may be tricky to tighten. I use a 3/8″ socket universal joint to access the nut.
After torquing all of the hardware, the steering wheel may be off a little. This is because the steering box was unbolted and re-bolted to the frame and the holes in the frame are not extremely tight tolerance leaving the steering box to move slightly off from its original location. This is not a problem and the steering wheel can be re-center quite easily.
Locate the drag link that connects the passenger knuckle to the pitman’s arm on the steering box. Loosen the bolt holding the collar. Grab the collar with a pair of adjustable channel locks and twist one way or the other while watching the steering wheel. You do not need to adjust much to move the steering wheel. When the steering wheel is centered, tighten the bolt and test drive it to see if it is centered. If it’s not exactly centered make an adjustment again until the wheel is centered.
That’s it! Now drive without worrying about your track bar mount welds. While I did use the stock track bar, I have a new cast steel track bar that will be installed soon.
I want to thank Rusty’s for coming up with a great design and fix for a concerning issue in the new Wrangler JL and not charging too much for the part. I was more than happy to pay the 99 bucks for this brace. It was easy to install, looks great and far exceeds the strength of the factory frame mount alone. Even if your welds look good, I highly recommend this brace especially if you are running or plan to run larger tires or plan to lift your Jeep, all of which will put greater stresses on your track bar frame mount.