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2003 jeep liberty, tight steering normal?

Hello to everyone, I don’t post very often but am looking for some jeep advice. Thinking about buying a 2003 jeep liberty, 3.7L V6, 102,000 miles. I know that this year had a recall on the ball joints and the ones on this vehicle have not been replaced and they need to be. The steering is tight, when driving it does not return to center. It does not pull or wobble, just doesn’t return to center. After turning a corner you have to turn it back to center. Is this a jeep liberty thing, or related to the ball joints needing replacing, or maybe a whole other problem?
Thanks for any replies!

This is not normal for any vehicle. It may be explained if the previous owner has mounted much larger tires than normal or modified the suspension, but still not good.

If you’re serious about this vehicle, I’d get it inspected, which is probably good advice for any vehicle you’re going to purchase.

Jack BOTH front wheels off the ground and turn the steering wheel lock to lock. It should turn smoothly and freely with the engine off. If that is not the case, isolate the frozen part by disconnecting the tie-rod ends from the steering knuckles…

Also, the tendency to “return to center” is an alignment function so have that checked…

Thanks oblivion and Caddyman. It has normal size tires on it and the suspension is stock, I’ll jack it up tonight and have a look.

Could it be the worn ball joints creating this?

A dry ball joint could cause binding just like a dry tie rod end and could possibly cause a non-return to center but it would have to be as dry as the Mojave for this to occur.
It would also be very unusual on an '03 with only a 100k miles on it.

More than likely the non-return is due to alignment and that brings up a big question: is the alignment off a mile and half because the vehicle has been whacked hard in a collision?

The year and total mileage for that year is fine but I’d sure have it looked over closely before buying it; especially in regards to any collision damage.

Thanks ok4450. The vehicle has never been wrecked or whacked. It’s in the shop right now having the ball joints replaced. We’ll see what that does.

“I know that this year had a recall on the ball joints and the ones on this vehicle have not been replaced and they need to be.”

Get this work performed before looking elsewhere for a problem cause. I have no doubt that this is related to and is perhaps the entire cause of your complaints.

Two Ball Joint Recalls

Upper ball joints on late 2002s (from May 1, 2002) and early 2003s (through Sept. 30, 2002), covers only about 7,400 Liberty vehicles.

Lower ball joints on 2002 - 2006 (partial 06 model-year), covers about 820,000 Liberty vehicles.

Water may enter into the front suspension ball joints. They can lose lubrication and the ball joint can corrode and separate.


Thanks the same mountainbike and common sense answer. Thanks to all for the replies. I had then lower ball joints replaced under the recall and it fixed the problem. Here we go Jeep Liberty!