Jeep Wobbles At High Speeds

Earl Hamilton
• Monday, 17 January, 2022
• 8 min read

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It has earned this name because it feels like your Wrangler is shaking itself apart and that letting go of the steering wheel can lead to a bad day. With death wobble, it becomes extremely difficult to control your Wrangler and the only way to get it to stop is by slowing down.

Death wobble typically occurs at speeds above 45 mph and in most cases requires a trigger like hitting a bump or a pothole. One of the common death wobble myths is it can't happen to stock Jeeps, only ones that have been lifted.

Any solid front axle vehicle runs the risk of experiencing death wobble. However, it is true that if you have done any suspension upgrades (Ex: Lift kits) you are more likely to experience death wobble.

Every Jeep, even the older Willy's, can find themselves plagued with this issue. If you’re faced with this unfortunate situation, here are some suggestions and tips to help solve the problem.

Front Track Bar Ball Joints Drag Link/Tie Rod Ends Upper Control Arms Lower Control Arms Suspension Bushings Steering Stabilizer Steering Knuckles Your front track bar, drag link, steering knuckles, ball joints, steering stabilizer, upper and lower control arms, and even bushings should be checked for damage or excessive wear.

In addition to ensuring that all hardware is properly tightened to the correct torque specifications, check your wheels, tires, and alignment. While unbalanced tires and wheels being out of alignment won’t usually cause death wobble, it can help trigger or even amplify it.

Major JK Wrangler Front End Suspension Components The sudden, harsh steering wheel movements can damage your fingers if you have a tight, misplaced grip.

Try to slow down evenly and safely without aggressive braking or forceful/quick movements of the steering wheel. If you carry a set of tools with you, your next move should be to check for any loose suspension bolts.

Even if they weren't the cause, a case of the shakes can easily upset things. Fixing it requires finding which part of the Jeep suspension puzzle is the catalyst.

Something as simple as a tire's misaligned camber or toe could cause enough vibration to trigger the wobble again. Jeep steering stabilizers can temporarily get rid of death wobble, therefore masking a more serious problem.

During your diagnosis, it sometimes helps to disconnect the stabilizer to properly pinpoint the problem. The front track bar is designed to absorb a tremendous amount of force.

As a result, the two anchoring points are extremely critical and should be the first stop in your track bar investigation. 2018 JR honorable mention: If you have one of these Jeeps, be mindful of the track bar to body weld.

If your JR falls under the recall conditions, see your dealership immediately. Should the track bar weld fail, you'll lose steering control and be worse off than in any death wobble situation.

Similarly, if your track bar was moving around, but your bolt was staying in place, then your bushing is worn out and should be replaced. If this bracket isn't braced properly, it could act as a lever on your suspension, gradually pushing against mounting bolts and breaking things loose.

Should the relocation bracket be bent from abuse or simply wear, replace it immediately. They're covered with a soft rubber boot filled with lubricating grease.

If the protective boot has ruptured or the grease has leaked out, the joint could be compromised, causing dangerously excessive movement vertically or horizontally. In the case of the boot being intact and if you have a dial indicator handy, you can check vertical and horizontal movement that way.

Another test you can do with a jack is to lift one of your wheels off the ground while your friend watches a ball joint. If your friend sees any slight movement between the ball joint and the steering knuckle then it is worn out and should be replaced.

Next, have your friend (who may have been helping you check your track bar) watch the tie rod end for the lifted wheel. If your friend sees the tie-rod wiggle back and forth, but the tie-rod bar itself (sometimes referred to as a drag link as well) is not moving, then the tie-rod end is worn out.

After any of your steering components are replaced it is a good idea to bring your Wrangler in for a front wheel alignment. Granted, an unbalanced wheel or an improperly worn tire being the cause of your Wrangler's death wobble is less probable, but it's certainly not impossible.

Hop onto any of the offloading forums, and you'll find a case of someone noticing missing wheel weights, getting their tires re-balanced, and their Jeep's shakes disappearing. By far your cheapest option when diagnosing the source of your misfortune is double-checking the condition of your wheels and tires.

After every offloading venture, be sure to clean off any caked mud, and make sure your air pressure is back up to where it should be. Uneven tire wear can also cause unnecessary vibrations, triggering the wobble.

The worst case scenario as far as wheels and tires are concerned is having a bent rim. Depending on how badly damaged the rim is, no amount of wheel balancing will help.

The constant, improper rotation can rattle things loose, setting the stage for a catastrophic evening. More rolling resistance leads to a harder working suspension, more vibration, and a recipe for disaster.

Toe-in is when the front tires are angled towards the vehicle's center (from a bird's eye view). Similar to an improper caster setting, excessive toe-in can increase rolling resistance leading to heavier wear on your tires and suspension components.

Some Keepers have even reported toeing out their front wheels helped stave off death wobble, but doing so won't eliminate the root cause if there are more gremlins at work. An inexpensive and easy preventive solution is replacing the factory bolts with a higher grade alternative.

Bolt kits from Synergy, for example, provide high -grade alternatives to the factory hardware and allow you to tighten the components at a higher torque. This allows important suspension components to settle properly and prevent mounting points from binding.

It’s also recommended having your Jeep properly aligned by a professional after any steering/suspension modification as well as part of your routine maintenance. Finally, its good practice to inspect all these mounting points as well as all joints/rubber protective boots for excessive wear or damage.

Immediately replacing or addressing issues early on will help prevent future problems. Some are upset that instead of issuing a recall, FCA suggested upgrading the steering stabilizer.

Time will tell if lawsuits determine the FCA should be held accountable, but something to keep in mind is all front solid axle vehicles can experience death wobble. Shop prices will vary by area as will stock versus aftermarket replacement parts.

Drag Links & Tie Rods: Cost here will vary depending on how high you have your Jeep. Don't fret though because you can replace the tie rod portions with stock units for $20-$50 per side.

A key Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive says the company has a solution for what's known as the Jeep “Death Wobble.” The issue, which FCA says is not a safety problem but which many owners insist must be, is the subject of a lawsuit in federal court in Detroit.

The lawsuit, filed in June, said the wobble will return and “can only be remedied by substantial revisions and repair to the suspension.” Mark Chernobyl, chief technical compliance officer for the Italian-American automaker, said the vibration is not unique to Wranglers and can happen with any solid front axle vehicle.

Many described the experience as disturbing, and one even offered that “there are bull riders down here in Arizona wearing rodeo champion buckles that have not been shaken that badly.” He experienced the “wobble” multiple times but found that attempts to fix the issue with a steering damper did not work.

“Unfortunately (or fortunately), FCA ended up buying back our Jeep after the fourth time that the steering damper broke and we'd had enough. By the time we turned it in, the part was so gone that if I hit any kind of bump on the highway I ended up having to put my hazard lights on and slow down to 40 mph or less to get the shaking to stop,” Person told the Free Press.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesperson had previously indicated the agency was looking into complaints about the issue, and NHTSA said Friday it would update the media when it completes its review.

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