Fixing Jeep Death Wobble
Scott Willenborg's picture

Jeep Death Wobble or How a Steering Damper Doesn't Fix a Thing

In this story you will find 8 steps of fixing death wobble in a Jeep. It's important to know that the steering damper does not cause, and consequently, fix death wobble in a Jeep.

Assuming you actually have death wobble means something is loose, broke, worn or bent in your Jeep. Jeep death wobble is the harmonic imbalance of the front tires causing the front end to shake so bad that the only way to stop it is to almost come to a complete stop (usually requiring a change of shorts the first time you experience it).

Reasons and Causes of Death Wobble in a Jeep

Why death wobbles are problematic in Jeeps, is because according to JeepProblems many Jeeps are coil-sprung with a track bar setup and secondly, a lot of Jeep owners get their Jeeps lifted or modified or have after-market track bars installed. Jeep models affected by this design are: the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.

I don't mean loose so that you climb under there and can move things. Something is not at torque specs, that's your first check as noted, most of the time it's the lower track bar bolt - either it came loose (it's had to tighten that retained nut, which we have a fix for), it's wallowed out the hole either because someone drove it loose, used a too small bolt for it or someone re-drilled that hole as a bad track bar relocation.

Jeep Death Wobble Experiment - Extreme Shaking!

Having someone turn the wheel, slowly back and forth while you are under there with a flashlight checking every bolt, ball joint and knuckle for play, is the best thing to do. Use that checklist picture at the top as a guide. Look for bent tie rod ends and drag link ends. Make sure you haven't crunched a control arm mount. If that doesn't do it, get your tires re-balanced. If the tires of our Jeep have been out of toe for some time, rotate them to the rear (and fix your toe as well).

Mechanical Reason

It could also be that something mechanical is not right with your Jeep. No one can tell you what it is. You are going to have to find your issue.

Here are 8 Steps of Fixing Death Wobble in a Jeep

1. Check trackbar bolts.
2. Check drag link ends.
3. Check tie rod ends.
4. Check ball joints.
5. Check steering box.
6. Check unit bearing.
7. Check tire weight balance.
8. Steering stabilizers do not fix death wobble.

If your Jeep has Death Wobble and you fix it here are 4 cool mods that are great for first time Jeep Wrangler owners.

Steering damper

Let's get back to my main point, the damper is there solely to dampen the effects of the road from transferring into the wheel while you drive. You don't get the wheel jerked around whenever you hit a bump or striations in the pavement. An added side effect (and the reason people think it's a "fix") is that in turn dampen effects from steering components.

Let's say for example that your lower track bar bolt is loose. It's wobbling away in there, but the nice new damper you have is dampening the effect of it. But it's taking a beating and eventually it starts weeping and wears out. Now it's no longer dampening that loose track bar bolt and you drive over a small bump on the interstate while on a curve and your steering jumps into full blown death wobble. You grab a substantial amount of padding from the seat, your wife screams about dying and you slam on the brakes and dive to the shoulder of the road.

You take it to the Dealer where the mechanic that has to know 40 different vehicles to work on and doesn't know specific things about Jeeps, finds a weeping steering damper and since there's a nice little mark-up on those, that's what they recommend you replace to get it back on the road. Guess what, no more death wobble! All of the sudden you are one of the misinformed that think a steering damper "fixed" your death wobble. Meanwhile that loose bolt is getting worse and worse, wallowing out the hole more and ruining your new steering damper. So you replace it with a fancy Fox or Rancho or a dual shock set-up.

That's waste of money. For the most part, a stock damper is fine. Get one from a parts store for 1/3 what the dealer wants. But find your loose/broken/unbalanced part first.

In conclusion, the steering damper does not cause, and consequently, fix death wobble in a Jeep. Also see my other tip published at Torque News, about adjusting your Jeep Wrangler headlights.

If you have had a Jeep Wrangler death wobble experience, please share with us below how you fixed it. You can use the comments section below. If you liked this article and think it may help your friends, consider sharing or tweeting it to your followers.

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Track bar (panhard bar) If there's any movement on a rod end (heim joint) or bushing side to side on track bar you will get death wobble
Steering damp fixed my death wobble in my Jeep.
We have a JK 2008 with GQ axils, spider fenders , and love King of the Hammer and rock tripsips for camping. Just found your site and love the info, thanks Steve.
Ok so I developed death wobble in my stock 98 Cherokee and after eliminating all other problems and a few hundred dollars in repairs later I replaced the steering damper which fixed my issue and the correct term is caster wobble folks