Jeep Liberty Suspension Issues Explained(+Top Issues and Tips)

In this brief article we are going to discuss the different Jeep Liberty Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

Top 8 most common suspension issues in the Dodge Durango? 

The most common suspension issues seen in the Jeep Liberty are:

  • Rear Lower Control Arm Rust
  • Clunking Noise in the Front End
  • Clunking Noise in the Rear End
  • Front Shock Absorber Strut Failure
  • Rear Shock Absorber Failure
  • Front Control Arm Failure
  • Front Wheel Bearing Failure
  • Rear Upper Control Arm Failure

What suspension does the Jeep Liberty have?

The Jeep Liberty, also called Jeep Cherokee, is categorized in the market as a mid-size SUV manufactured positioned in between the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. It was a successor to the outgoing Cherokee -XJ and produced between 2002 and 2012.

Front Suspension

The Jeep Liberty has a Front suspension consisting of a MacPherson Coil-over shock absorber struts with lower control arm and Anti roll bar. This arrangement is mounted onto the front subframe.

Rear Suspension

The Jeep Liberty has a 3-Link rear suspension Live-axle rear suspension with a Coil-spring, 2 Shock absorbers and an Rear anti-roll bar.

Rear Lower Control Arm Rust (Recall)

Symptom:

  • This is a known issue as per NHTSA recall number 12V-085
  • In extreme cases the corrosion might cause the arm to break
  • Complete rusting of the arm leads to handling problems and in case of arm breakage, possible loss of vehicle control
  • The affected vehicles were Jeep Liberty from the 2004-2005 model years

Troubleshooting Rear Lower Control Arm Rust

  • As per the recall, the rear lower control arm had a defect in that it would corrode quickly and break without warning especially in the ‘Rust Belt’ regions of North America
  • The factory-fitted rear lower control arm was to replaced with an updated part number that had a modified bushing
  • The Anti-roll bar mounting, shock absorber lower mounting and the lower control arm mounting bolts were all to be replaced.

Clunking Noise from Front End

  • ‘Clunking’ noise during normal driving especially on bad and rough road patches that cause the vehicle to “Roll” more.
  • The same ‘Clunk’ noise reduces on smoother roads

Troubleshooting Clunking Noise from Front End

  • For most car suspensions, a ‘Clunk’ Noise is more related to the Anti-roll Bar assembly of the suspension
  • The two most probable causes are:
    • Anti roll bar Subframe mounting bush failure
    • Anti roll Bar End-link Ball-joint failure

Anti roll bar Subframe mounting bush failure

  • The Anti-Roll bar (ARB) bushings are the isolators between the ARB and the vehicle’s chassis. The bushings also ‘secure’ the ARB in place and restrict excessive movement so that the ARB can properly function.
  • The ARB is under torsional loads while the car is undergoing “Roll” motion either during cornering or Rough Roads. 
  • In these situations, when the ARB undergoes torsion, the mounting bushes also share part of the road loads.
  • Bushings that have aged, hardened, or simply worn out and become loose tend to cause noise as they allow unnecessary movement of the ARB.
  • You can easily check for Anti roll bar bush failure using a pry bar. Wedge it between the ARB and the subframe and try to lift the ARB. If it moves without much resistance and also creates a knock sound, then it means that the ARB bush needs to be changed.

Pro-Tip

  • While refitting the Antiroll bar subframe bushing use a good anti-seize paste at the contact surface between the anti roll bar and the rubber bushing
  • Anti-Seize application could be repeated periodically in order to prevent excessive wear, say, every 50K miles or so.
  • For improving handling, you could search in the aftermarket for the same bushing with harder material. The harness is generally denoted by the Shore ‘A’ hardness number.

Anti-roll bar End link Ball-Joint Failure

  • The ARB-to-suspension connection is done using ARB end links. 
  • On the front axle, the end links use a sealed ball joint design that has a significant range of motion sufficient for the various movements of the front suspension. 
  • The rubber boot that protects the end link Ball-joints can tear, allowing the joint lubrication to seep out and exposing the ball joint to corrosion. The result is a clunking noise from the worn joint. 
  • If the end links’ mounting fasteners have loosened on either end, it could result in clunking noise.
  • On the rear suspension ARB is connected directly to the lower control arms and hence there is no end link. 
  • Use of Lubricants injected into the ball-joint by inserting a needle through the rubber boot could temporarily solve the squeaking sound problem. But it is always recommended that new end links be fitted.

Pro-Tip

  • When changing the Anti Roll Bar End Links (also called Drop Links), Jack up both sides of the car. 
  • If you jack only one side at a time, there will be a twist in the anti-roll bar because of which you would find it difficult to align the anti-roll bar and end link at the bolt hole.
  • Aftermarket End-Links with Greasable Ball-joints can be considered as an alternative. These would offer an extended life as compared to the OE sealed type of ball-joints, as they are serviceable.

Clunking Noise from Rear End

Symptoms:

  • Rear Clunking noise while normal driving
  • Noise increases when going over bad roads

Troubleshooting Clunking Noise from Rear End

  • As with front suspension clunking (explained in this section) Clunking noises, in a majority of cases originate in the Anti Roll bar joints
  • The Rear Anti-roll bar can be inspected by using a pry-bar and trying to lift the bar leveraged against the subframe
  • You could also examine the linkages by trying to shake the Anti roll bar drop links by hand.

Pro-Tip:

  • When inspecting for suspension noises and anti-roll bars, always jack the chassis/body and let the wheels hang
  • When jacking up only one side, the anti roll bar applies downward pressure on both side wheels and it becomes difficult to check joints because they become extra tight.

Front Shock Absorber Strut Failure

Symptoms:

  • Rattling Noise going over any rough patches
  • Front end bouncier than normal
  • Changes in handling behaviour; Vehicle not feeling stable at high speed cornering

Troubleshooting Front Shock Absorber Failure

  • The Bouncy Ride symptom points to the Shock Absorber as a probable cause.
  • If your vehicle has crossed 50K miles, then it could be due for a shock replacement. Due to long-term internal wear, the shock starts becoming ineffective over time.
  • If the front strut shock has started leaking oil due to a failed oil-seal, then it means that the shock will no longer be effective.
  • One good way to tell if your shock has failed or not is to do a “Bounce Test”. Put all your weight on one of the front corners of the vehicle pushing it downwards. Keep oscillating the corner till you feel that it has reached its maximum height. Once you take your hands off the corner, observe how it settles. If it takes more than 2 oscillations to settle, that means the damper has failed.
  • In the Jeep Liberty, the strut top mount is located underneath the battery.
  • The strut lower mount is a sheet metal clamp that mounts on the lower control arm
  • For a low mileage vehicle (40K-50K miles), if the springs are found to be OK, they could be reused in a new Shock Absorber Strut. For safety reasons, make sure that you use a good quality and safe spring compressor tool for separating the coil spring from the strut and also reassembling.
  • For high mileage vehicles (80K miles plus), it would be better to change the strut assembly as a whole.

Rear Shock Absorber Failure

Symptoms:

  • Knocking and Popping Noises from the Rear going over bumps
  • Rear end feels bouncier

Troubleshooting Rear Shock Failure

  • The Bouncy Ride symptom points to the Shock Absorber as a probable cause.
  • The noises coming from the rear are partly due to the failed shock absorber allowing the bump stops to contact more often. And also the noises partly come from the worn out shock mounting bushes that allow the shock to move and hit against the mounting brackets.
  • If your vehicle has crossed 40-50K miles, then it could be due for a shock absorber replacement. Due to long-term internal wear, the shock absorber starts losing its damping action over time.
  • If the rear shock has started leaking oil due to a failed oil-seal, then it means that the shock will no longer be effective.
  • One good way to tell if your shock has failed or not is to do a “Bounce Test”. Put all your weight on one of the front corners of the vehicle pushing it downwards. Keep oscillating the corner till you feel that it has reached its maximum height. Once you take your hands off the corner, observe how it settles. If it takes more than 2 oscillations to settle, that means the damper has failed.
  • Once the Strut Shock absorber has been dismantled, there is one more way to see the shock condition for yourself by way of a ‘Compression’ test. 
  • You can simply apply force on the top of the shock and compress it. If it can come back up on its own, then the shock is in fairly good condition. But if it takes too long or doesn’t expand on its own, it’s confirmed that the shock absorber has failed.
  • It is always recommended to either loosen or tighten the Lower mounting bolts of the rear shock absorber only when the rear axle has been supported either using a Hydraulic jack or a jack-stand.

Pro-Tip

  • As per the Shock absorber manufacturer, a new shock absorber must always be ‘Started’ before it is fitted. To ‘Start’ a shock absorber, you must oscillate it 3-5 times by hand.
  • The reason for doing this is that when the shock absorber was stored lying down, in the fully compressed or expanded condition, the hydraulic fluid may not have flowed completely to one side of the piston. When this happens, the shock absorber will jerk during operation. ‘Starting’ will help to avoid this sort of jerky operation.
  • While fitting a new shock absorber, always, Tighten the Top mounting bolts first and then the Lower mounting bolt.

Front Control Arm Failure

Symptoms:

  • Poor handling; the car seems to be drifting
  • Steering seems vague while Lane Changing
  • Uneven Tire Wear pattern
  • Knocking Noises while going over Rough Patches

Root Cause:

  • Due to a Tire wear issue, it can be inferred that the alignment of the front suspension is outside of the recommended settings. But this is still a symptom.
  • The cause for alignment change points to the Lower control arm Bushings and Ball-joints that may have got worn or damaged

Troubleshooting Front Control Arm Failure: Lower Control Arm Bushing

  • Lower and Upper Control Arm bushings wear out over time and cracks due to age
  • When inspecting the Lower control arm after removal, if there are tears and cracks in the rubber portion, it confirms that the bushes have failed.
  • A Worn out Upper and Lower Control arm bushing will allow the control arms to move around more
  • The control arm movement due to bush wear-out disturbs the wheel alignment settings and also creates noise.
  • Due to wheel alignment changes, the handling of the car feels poor.

Pro-Tips:

  • The Jeep Liberty Upper control arm mounting bolts need to be accessed from inside the engine bay
  • For Rusted Bolt connections that are hard to Break-open, do not try repeatedly using hand or pneumatic tools.
  • Always first soak it for 10-15 min after spraying a good Rust-penetrant.

Troubleshooting Front Control Arm Failure: Lower Control Arm Ball-Joint

  • In the Double-wishbone type of front suspension, the lower and upper control arm ball-joints are subject to wear and tear
  • The deterioration is usually initiated as a crack or rupture in the rubber boot around the ball-joint
  • This leads to loss of lubrication and finally to complete wear out or, in some cases, Rust.
  • The wear out causes play or movement accompanied by knocking noise. The play in the ball-joint is one of the reasons for the vehicle steering feeling vague
  • You can easily check for Ball-joint condition by this simple procedure:
    • Get the car on a Ramp
    • Lock the steering wheel
    • Hold the front tire with both your hands and try to steer the wheel
    • If you hear a ‘Knock’ or ‘Click’, then it is very much likely that the noise is due to a play in the Ball-joint

Pro-Tips:

  • For a low mileage (40-50K miles) vehicle it may not be necessary to replace the whole control arm in case of ball-joint damage.
  • For a high mileage (80-100K miles), it might be wiser to change the whole control arm since both the bushes as well as the ball-joint would have reached the end of their service life.

Front Wheel Bearing Failure

Symptoms:

  • Droning noise above 30 mph speeds
  • Sound is louder with increasing speed

Troubleshooting Front Wheel Bearing Failure

  • Droning noise is generally associated with one of the wheel bearings depending on where the noise is coming from the Front
  • Wheel bearings generally have a life of 70K miles, after which, on detecting noise issues, must be replaced
  • In the Dodge Durango, the wheel bearing is housed within the Knuckle and the Wheel Spindle. It is of a single-piece design.
  • The Wheel Hub comes as a unit along with the Wheel bearing press-fitted
  • Take extra caution in removing the reconnecting the ABS sensor wire connectors

Rear Upper control arm Ball joint failure

Symptoms:

  • Squeaks and rattles from the rear suspension
  • Handling poor

Troubleshooting Rear Upper control arm Ball joint failure

  • The squeaks coming from the rear originate from the rear control arms
  • The rear suspension has a Boomerang-shaped upper control arm that is connected to the differential housing on top through a Ball-joint
  • When this ball-joint wears out due to losing its rubber boot and lubrication, you will find squeaky noises from the rear

Conclusion

In this brief article we have discussed the different Jeep Liberty Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

For any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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