Track Bar on 1996 Jeep XJ... upgrade needed after lift?

The previous owner of my truck put a 1.5" Teraflex lift under it. He didn’t make any other alterations to the suspension or steering system. I’ve read that adding a lift to a rig like this contributes to problems I definitely have (not yet the infamous “death wobble,” but certainly some “death wiggle.” Steering is loose, & it feels kind of floaty on the road.) Meanwhile, the ball joints are giving out, along with at least two tie rod ends.

One recommended solution to all this is to service everything that needs servicing (ball joints…), then upgrade to a stronger front track bar to give more stability to the front end. If you look under there, you can see it kind of makes sense, but it also seems likely that Teraflex just wants to sell me a $300 part, and maybe a bracket too.

Does upgrading the track bar seem like a good way to keep from chewing up bushings and other rubber parts? Or is this just another way to separate me from my money?

thanks for any and all advice.

Separating you from your money is the National Pastime…It’s usually called a “Sway Bar” but I guess “Track Bar” sounds cooler…I would take the lift kit out and return everything to stock. Maybe put a repair (bushing) kit on the sway-bar…

Your vehicle has both a sway bar and a track bar.

The sway bar prevents the vehicle from leaning too much while cornering. The track bars are what holds the differentials centered under the vehicle.

The track bars are connected to the vehicle frame and then to the differentials. If the suspension is raised the track bar has to be changed. Because the distance between where the track bar mounts to the frame and to the differential gets longer.


This vehicle came with a front Panhard rod, the correct term for a “Track Bar” but relied on the leaf springs to keep the rear axle centered under the vehicle… Both front and rear suspensions used a sway bar…


At first you called the sway bar and the track bar are the same thing. Then when someone proves these are actually two different components in the suspension system, you come back and say unless it’s called a panhard rod when everybody else calls it a track bar?


Track bar =/= sway bar, Caddyman. It’s one of the pieces that holds the front axle assembly in place.

OP: you can do better than $300, and you may just need a new bracket to relocate the original track bar. I recommend you go to a Jeep-specific forum for more detailed advice.

The “Track Bar” and the sway bar are indeed two separate components…I have always referred to the part the OP mentioned as being a Panhard rod and not a track bar…His description of the part led me to believe he was talking about a sway bar…

A panhard bar is not a sway bar, and neither is a track bar. They’re three very different components with three very different functions.

A panhard bar runs laterally across the axle with articulating joints on each end and controls relative lateral movements between the axle assembly and the chassis. It moves freely in the vertical axis (but not without a bit of arc that needs to be considered on installation). It does not control body roll or vertical or longitudinal movement of the axle in any manner whatsoever.

A sway bar, actually an antiswy bar, runs laterally across the vehicle and is also connected to the ends of the axle and to the chassis, but does not control lateral movement, only differences in lean between the body and the wheels by acting as a torsion bar. It moves freely in the lateral axis and the vertical axis by virtue of the end links. It’s sole function is to control roll.

A track bar runs longitudinally and is hard-connected to the axle and the chassis, with pivoting joints at the chassis end. It allows free vertical movement of the axle, performs little function in controlling lateral movement of the axle, and has no roll-controlling function. Its sole function is to control rotational movement of the axle during acceleration, keeping the universal joints, the total drivetrain assembly length, the perpendicularity of the axle to the chassis, and the angle of the pinion shaft relative to the driveshaft in control.

By the way, I’d suggest getting rid of those Teraflex Lift Kit parts and replacing them with aftermarket OEM replacements. Clearly when the previous owner lifted the vehicle, he screwed up all the angles. This often happens with suspension lifts. Angles of articulation of the U-joints become greater increasing the peak-to-peak of the U-joint torque ripple, panhard bars move to a different part of their travel arc, placing lateral loads on the suspension components, sway bars move to a point where they’re no longer moving the link joints in a coordinated manner with the axle’s vertical movement (the sway bar needs to operate in its own axis like a torsion bar, and moving the axle to a spot where that no longer happens, a spot where movement is accommodated by longitudinal movement of the end link joint can mess up the works), and so on. The result is premature wear and occasionally worse.

Thanks for the interesting discussion and the knowledge, everybody.

Here’s the cost/benefit question: is it cheaper to remove the lift, or to upgrade the trackbar and any other relevant suspension parts? I’d thought removing a lift was prohibitively expensive.

I’m reviewing old threads on the cherokee forum & jeep forums too.

Are you sure the “lift” installed on your Jeep is just 1.5" ? That hardly seems worth the effort to either install or remove…

That’s how the previous owner described it, and it looks about right to me (I didn’t think anything of it at the time). If I park next to another XJ from prior to 1997, I’m about higher by about two inches or a little less on a flat surface. Here’s a pic from shortly after I drove it home.

“A track bar runs longitudinally…”

Apparently not:

Never heard of this. A trac bar where I’m from is considered a traction bar, the function of which is to deal with twisting of the axle around both its rotating axis (due to torque) and the yaw axis (due to precession). I’ve never heard of a panhard bar being called a track bar.

Thanks for the link. I’ve learned something new today. It’s a good day.

And now you can become a NASCAR fan (always referring to track bar adjustments).

Only when Danica Patrick is racing…

I go more for the European roadracing style, where the manufacturers are competing as well as the drivers and there are right as well as left turns, blind areas, and all the other obstacles that road racing includes. In NASCAR the cars are all exactly the same and there are no surprises in the track, just the same “round & round the track” driving. I have nothing against NASCAR, it just isn’t my cup of tea.

Any thoughts of replacing bars no matter the nomenclature need to be put on the back burner until the ball joints and tie rod issues are resolved; especially the former.

Ball joints are the one suspension component that can leave someone dead or injured when and if one snaps. When they do break it occurs in a nano-second with no warning and if the occupants are lucky the vehicle will slide to a halt without a rollover.

Having spent some time around people from the UK, I find that what we label things can be quite interesting. A car has “wings”? Of course it does!