A Guide to Your Jeep's Suspension Parts

One of the key selling points of a Jeep is the ability to go anywhere regardless of road or trail conditions. Beefy suspension components are one of the biggest reasons why Jeeps are so versatile. Knowing a fair amount about the following suspension parts will help you to get the most out of your Jeep.

Shocks

While a Jeep's shocks usually take more abuse than those of a Honda Civic, they perform the same basic function. They're typically found in the rear of the vehicle and act to retard upward and downward motion of the frame. Unlike struts with coils, they're not structural components that support the truck.

Lousy shocks are very easy to diagnose. You can tell if they're running on fumes if you can easily bounce the rear end of your Jeep by hand. If the rear of your Jeep won't quickly stop oscillating after a firm push, you should replace the rear shocks right away to ensure that your Jeep is safe to drive.

For the most part, replacing shocks is easy since they're not load-bearing components. Simply use a breaker bar or wrench to remove the bolts securing the shocks and slide in the new hardware. Shocks should always be replaced in pairs. For the average Jeep owner, shocks should last at least 50,000 miles under normal circumstances.

Struts

Unlike a shock, a strut actually supports the weight of the vehicle rather than simply damping oscillation. They're often found in front-wheel-drive vehicles as part of a MacPherson strut setup. Struts can do two things: cushion a vehicle's ride and act as an upper control arm by connecting the frame to the knuckle.

Over time, a strut's internal seals and valves break down and the unit can't provide adequate shock absorption. Classic signs that your struts should be replaced include loud knocks when negotiating rough terrain, loose handling and uneven tire wear. A pair of quality struts should last at least 80,000 miles depending on your driving habits.

Struts are a little tougher to replace than shocks since you'll need to support the weight of the vehicle during the procedure. You would begin by jacking up the vehicle and disconnecting the strut from the steering knuckle and the upper mount. The trickiest part is compressing the coil spring and attaching it to the strut member.

Leaf Springs

While they're not as common as they use to be, leaf springs are still found in a number of rear-wheel-drive 4x4s. They're essentially just a collection of steel slats that are bolted together and support the rear axle. Leaf springs are typically attached directly to the frame at both ends.

It's generally pretty easy to tell if your leaf springs should be replaced. If the rear end of your vehicle is sagging without any passengers or cargo in it, it's time to spring for new hardware. Likewise, excessive tail-end swaying or bouncing when driving over uneven surfaces is usually the result of lousy leaf springs.

The nice thing about Jeep leaf springs is that they're very affordable. A good pair of OEM springs for a Wrangler can cost less than $100. Replacing them is also incredibly easy. Simply jack up your Jeep, unbolt the springs at either end and slap in the new hardware using a 1/2-inch breaker bar.

Knuckles

In many ways, knuckles are the most important parts of the suspension system since they tie so many other components together. Knuckles are the chunks of metal that house the wheel hubs. The control arms and struts of your Jeep attach to the knuckles, thereby transferring the weight of the vehicle to the tire.

Due to their sturdy construction and simple design, knuckles tend to last the lifetime of a vehicle. However, they can become bent or warped over time. Signs that your knuckles are bad include lousy steering and premature brake caliper failure. If you suspect that your knuckle is causing those problems, visually inspect it for damage.

Replacing a knuckle is a fairly involved process that requires a few special tools and a decent amount of arm strength. You'll need to remove the brake hardware including the caliper, pads and rotors to start. You'll also have to disconnect the tie rod, the control arms and the axle to remove the old part.

Ball Joints

In a nutshell, ball joints are the ball-and-socket links that connect control arms to steering knuckles. As such, they're subjected to a lot of stress even if you're driving in perfect conditions. Ball joints allow steering knuckles to pivot when your tie rods push them in one direction or another.

Over time, a ball joint's socket warps and cracks to the point where it can no longer perform its designated function. Common signs that ball joints are bad include clunking noises coming from the wheels, alignment issues and uneven tire wear. Ball joints are fairly cheap and cost as little as $50 for a pair.

Replacing a ball joint is going to be more difficult than swapping out brake pads or rotors. While removing the old hardware doesn't require any special tools, you will need to apply quite a bit of pressure to loosen corroded bolts. If you have pressed-in joints, you'll need a hydraulic press to complete the procedure.

Control Arms

Like every other vehicle on the road, your Jeep uses control arms to connect the frame to the knuckle. Vehicles that employ MacPherson struts only feature one control arm per wheel. In a double wishbone suspension scheme, upper and lower control arms attach to the top and bottom of the knuckle.

Control arms are pretty resilient and you may never need to replace them. However, they often succumb to rust, cracks and warping over time. Some of the more obvious signs of failing control arms include rattling noises, wobbling wheels and noticeable shuddering at highway speeds. A set of front upper and lower control arms can cost as little as $100.

Control arm replacement is an easy job that can be accomplished by most Jeep owners. You'll need a hammer, a pry bar, a wrench and a ball joint separator to get started. Just jack up your Jeep, unbolt the old control arm from the frame, press out the ball joint and slap in the new hardware.

Sway Bars

Also known as anti-roll bars, sway bars enable a Jeep to reduce the odds of rolling when rounding a tight corner at high speeds. While anti-roll bars come in many different configurations, they all perform the vital task of preventing one side of the vehicle from rising far higher than the other.

Sway bars use ball joints to attach to a vehicle's suspension system. Like all ball joints, these links eventually fail and must be replaced. If you hear a clunking noise when driving over rough terrain, your links might be worn out. Excessive lean in hard turns is another surefire sign that your sway bar links are bad.

Replacing sway bars and their links is fairly straightforward. All you need is a replacement hardware kit, a socket wrench and an hour of spare time. Simply unbolt and remove the old links, slot in the new gear and tighten up the fasteners. While you're at it, inspect the rest of the suspension system for potential problems in the making.

Equipping Your Jeep with Quality Suspension Parts

Considering the importance of your Jeep's suspension system, it makes sense to purchase the best OEM suspension parts available. At JeepsAreUs.com, we take the guesswork out of tracking down the right suspension hardware for your Wrangler, Cherokee or Liberty. If amazing parts at rock-bottom prices matter to you, we're the online OEM vendor to rely on.