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Old 05-11-2014, 01:34 AM   #1
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Death Wobble from U Joints

New member here with a unique question that requires a little back story.

My dad bought a brand new Jeep Wrangler in 2005 with the intent of using it to haul brush on his property, plow snow on his driveway in the winter and other utilitarian stuff. Since then he had a stroke and has since retired down to SC for half the year, and he left the jeep in NY. He's put a grand total of 20,500 miles on it.

I live in OH and asked if I could borrow it for the winter, so the local mechanic shop prepped it and mounted the plow, new hydraulic fluid yada yada yada, I drive it slowly back to OH.

Had a heavy winter of snow but only plowed about 20 times total. So, it's not seen real heavy use at all in 9 years. I drop the plow off and go to drive it back to NY and get two DW's on it in under 30 miles.

Get in to work and have Monroe take a look at it during the day. They finally get to it at 3 and very quickly isolate the u joints as the source of the problem. Well, now I am wondering if that's right.

I'd googled around on the death wobble and it sounds like it's most often attributed to loose play in the track bar, tires out of balance or alignment, but nothing out there about U joints. Can seized U joints cause the DW? He said the track bar looked good and tires appear fine. This will be $600 in repairs because he recommends replacing all 6 at once.

I'm average intelligence but have never gotten past changing an occasional tire or doing an oil change and wiper blades so not the most savvy mechanic out there, so need some help navigating this from an unbiased source that I can trust...

Enter the Wrangler Forums! :-)

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Old 05-11-2014, 01:46 AM   #2
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If the u joints are bad replace them, but don't pay $600. Take the front driveshaft off and take it to a drive line shop maybe $200 for three joints and centering ball with balancing. Then do the axles yourself its 4 bolts to undo and a few sockets to remove and replace the joints $50 bucks then maybe do the rear shaft but I doubt those are bad I am close to 200k miles and mine are almost to the point where they need replaced. For the dw just tighten the track bar the control arms, check the tie rods and stabilizer, and make sure the tire pressure is the same in all the tires. If it doesn't help I don't have much more for you.

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Old 05-11-2014, 05:28 AM   #3
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Welcome to the Forum!

Death wobble is caused by unbalanced or out of round tires and loose or worn out suspension or steering joints. The DS can create strong vibrations and shaking but not DW.
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Old 05-11-2014, 07:22 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by 2JeepsThatRun View Post
If the u joints are bad replace them, but don't pay $600. Take the front driveshaft off and take it to a drive line shop maybe $200 for three joints and centering ball with balancing. Then do the axles yourself its 4 bolts to undo and a few sockets to remove and replace the joints $50 bucks then maybe do the rear shaft but I doubt those are bad I am close to 200k miles and mine are almost to the point where they need replaced. For the dw just tighten the track bar the control arms, check the tie rods and stabilizer, and make sure the tire pressure is the same in all the tires. If it doesn't help I don't have much more for you.
Yeah, I'm not that skilled and don't know a driveshaft from an axle. No offense meant, but I don't care to either. Got enough going on in my life that being a DIY guy in a jeep is outside my realm of both skills and interests.

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Welcome to the Forum!

Death wobble is caused by unbalanced or out of round tires and loose or worn out suspension or steering joints. The DS can create strong vibrations and shaking but not DW.
Are steering joint the same as U joints?
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Old 05-11-2014, 08:32 AM   #5
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Welcome to the Forum!

Death wobble is caused by unbalanced or out of round tires and loose or worn out suspension or steering joints. The DS can create strong vibrations and shaking but not DW.
I guess my concern given the above is that with only 20k miles on it, how could anything be worn out, whether it be suspension, steering joints, u joints or any fundamental component like that? I could understand the tire balancing but the death wobble was really intense...is it possible for something as simple as the tires being out of balance capable of causing that much wobble?

I've been in some pretty hair raising experiences, and the first death wobble kinda shook me up a little. When the second happened I was more prepared for it, and after reading about it a lot am totally comfortable should it ever happen again. But I'll be damned if I let my dad get back in that jeep post stroke at 77yo...that sorta thing could kill him!
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Old 05-11-2014, 08:49 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by OhioLab View Post

I guess my concern given the above is that with only 20k miles on it, how could anything be worn out, whether it be suspension, steering joints, u joints or any fundamental component like that? I could understand the tire balancing but the death wobble was really intense...is it possible for something as simple as the tires being out of balance capable of causing that much wobble?

I've been in some pretty hair raising experiences, and the first death wobble kinda shook me up a little. When the second happened I was more prepared for it, and after reading about it a lot am totally comfortable should it ever happen again. But I'll be damned if I let my dad get back in that jeep post stroke at 77yo...that sorta thing could kill him!
If you still have the original tires, IMO, they need to be replaced anyway. They are over 9 years old. Tires are not meant to last that long. And yes, out of balance tires will cause the dw.
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Old 05-11-2014, 10:31 AM   #7
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Even though its 20k mi, I think plowing is hard on a vehicle. I had 45k on mine and needed tie rods, front axle u-joints, track bar and ball joints. DW gone. Best bet is to find a shop that deals with 4WD vehicles as a specialty.
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Old 05-11-2014, 12:09 PM   #8
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Even though its 20k mi, I think plowing is hard on a vehicle. I had 45k on mine and needed tie rods, front axle u-joints, track bar and ball joints. DW gone. Best bet is to find a shop that deals with 4WD vehicles as a specialty.
You think pushing 2" of snow maybe 20 times over 2 months would cause that much wear and tear?
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Old 05-12-2014, 06:04 AM   #9
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yes on steering components, check all tie rod ends and track bar for tightness. tires too, replace and test drive
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Old 05-12-2014, 07:59 AM   #10
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Ok, thanks...will start with the tires and escalate in price from there I guess...
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Old 09-27-2014, 08:54 PM   #11
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Well, back again, and sorry for the long delay in giving some closure to the thread. I replaced the 9yr old tires and DW gone.

Thanks!
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Old 09-27-2014, 10:05 PM   #12
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I had the dreaded death wobble on my 2007 Rubicon with 35" tires on it. Took it to a place here that specializes in getting rid of it. The folks I bought the Jeep from put all of the weights on the tires on the inside of the rim (ie, backside) so they weren't visible (cooler looking I guess) and they said that wasn't a good way to balance the tires. Had them re-balanced, put a heavy duty dampening/stabilizer bar on it and death wobble gone. Trust me, it was a death wobble too, thought it would tear the jeep apart, pretty scary.

I need to replace my ball joints next as they have some play. I haven't had DW since those two things were fixed, hope you get it solved. Start with the two I had done, cheap and often is the problem.

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