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Old 11-13-2015, 05:55 PM
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Attention all jeep gurus! need help with never ending Death wobble

Good evening everyone,

I've been fighting death wobble for over a year since I bought my HEEP and I'm ready to torch the sumbitch!

Had death wobble when I first bought it, 4WheelParts said it was because of a missing cam bolt and busted steering stabilizer.

few months later it rears its ugly head back. I buy a stock trackbar from NAPA as well as the "ZJ" tie rod upgrades and it basically had it under control for a while.

about 2-3 months ago it started coming back at about 85-89kmh when I'd hit a bump. I retorqued the rie rod ends, track bar, stabilizer, etc to make sure nothing came loose.

3 weeks ago I did a tire rotation and alignment and its worse than ever. I thought maybe a beefier trackbar would help so I ordered Metalcloaks TJ trackbar. Admittedly I didn't rotate my tires nearly as often as I should, worse stretch going about 15k km before a rotation.

I received the metalcloak trackbar today, installed it as per instructions, put in a new steering stabilizer for good measure because the previous one started leaking fluid, and retorqued all my bolts again and still death wobble like clockwork!

Like I said, when I hit a bump in the road between 84-89 it rears its ugly head and develops a full blown death wobble, not a shimmy. As of late its developed a pull to the left and when fighting it to the right if I maintain speed between those speeds at an angle it will start with a shimmy and turn into DW.

When driving in town, if I hit a good pot hole, I feel a back and forth movement in the wheel, like something is loose and shaking up somewhere.

My tires are 31in bfg AT KOs running 45psi, I was thinking dropping the pressure down to 35, maybe rethink new tie rods and control arms? I beyond fed up with this vehicle!

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Old 11-13-2015, 06:31 PM   #2
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A steering stabilizer is never the cause of DW. You should be able to drive your Jeep with no stabilizer and not notice the difference. 45 psi is way to much air for your 31's. You should be running them around 30psi, but that is not the cause of your dw either. You have something in your steering/suspension joints that has movement that's not supposed to be there. You also need to make sure yor tires are in decent shape and balanced correctly.

Do a dry steering test to determine which joints are loose.
Dry Steering Test

Do a dry steering test by having someone sit in your Jeep (with the tires on the ground) and continuously turn the steering wheel back and forth from about the 11 to 1 position while you lay under the front end and watch and feel for any lateral play in any steering or suspension joints. Check both track bar ends, the tie rod and drag link ends.
Although rotational movement in the tie rod and drag link is normal and necessary, there should be no end movement at all in the joints. There also should be no movement in the track bar ends.
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Old 11-13-2015, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Water Dog View Post
A steering stabilizer is never the cause of DW. You should be able to drive your Jeep with no stabilizer and not notice the difference. 45 psi is way to much air for your 31's. You should be running them around 30psi, but that is not the cause of your dw either. You have something in your steering/suspension joints that has movement that's not supposed to be there. You also need to make sure yor tires are in decent shape and balanced correctly.

Do a dry steering test to determine which joints are loose.
Dry Steering Test

Do a dry steering test by having someone sit in your Jeep (with the tires on the ground) and continuously turn the steering wheel back and forth from about the 11 to 1 position while you lay under the front end and watch and feel for any lateral play in any steering or suspension joints. Check both track bar ends, the tie rod and drag link ends.
Although rotational movement in the tie rod and drag link is normal and necessary, there should be no end movement at all in the joints. There also should be no movement in the track bar ends.
Thank you for your brief reply. I will be sure to do a steering test tomorrow and see whats what, as well as book an appointment to have the tires balanced. Is it possible that out of round and poorly balanced tires can cause DW despite everything else being in good shape?

I know that a steering stabilizer does not cause or stop death wobble, I bought one a while back when it was on sale for 30$ and was waiting to upgrade my trackbar
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Old 11-13-2015, 08:03 PM   #4
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[QUOTE=Water Dog;22483921]A steering stabilizer is never the cause of DW. You should be able to drive your Jeep with no stabilizer and not notice the difference.

Thank you for the information. I have the same problem as the OP and I've been reading up on it. If I could take the stabilizer out and notice no difference, then what is it for? The reason I ask is that when I did the test you mentioned, I noticed a crack in the outer shell of the stabilizer.
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Old 11-13-2015, 08:20 PM
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[QUOTE=2004CSOTP;22484897]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Water Dog View Post
A steering stabilizer is never the cause of DW. You should be able to drive your Jeep with no stabilizer and not notice the difference.

Thank you for the information. I have the same problem as the OP and I've been reading up on it. If I could take the stabilizer out and notice no difference, then what is it for? The reason I ask is that when I did the test you mentioned, I noticed a crack in the outer shell of the stabilizer.
I am by no means an expert, but am in trade school for auto mechanics(just started out) so don't hit me over the head if this isnt 100% accurate.

A stabilizer (or alternatively called a steering dampener) is there to dampen, as the name implies unwanted movement and oscillation in a vehicles steering system. In laymans terms it smooths out the roughness transmitted to the wheel. While this gives the feeling of a better ride, all it does is mask whats going on in your steering system. For me the steering stabilizer worked fine as a bandage until one day I hit a pothole beyond its capability to dampen and all hell broke loose.
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Old 11-13-2015, 08:53 PM   #6
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[QUOTE=2004CSOTP;22484897]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Water Dog View Post
A steering stabilizer is never the cause of DW. You should be able to drive your Jeep with no stabilizer and not notice the difference.

Thank you for the information. I have the same problem as the OP and I've been reading up on it. If I could take the stabilizer out and notice no difference, then what is it for? The reason I ask is that when I did the test you mentioned, I noticed a crack in the outer shell of the stabilizer.
It is actually there to cushion jars to the other steering components/joints. It softens the blow, so to speak, when your tires encounter pot holes, uneven pavement etc. It really has nothing to do with what you feel in the steering wheel if your suspension is functioning as it should. After bending a drag link wheeling last year, I replaced the drag link with a spare, but couldn't remove the stabilizer from the old drag link on the trail and drove the Jeep almost 100 miles home at freeway speeds with absolutely no difference in the feel.

As sharpyona mentioned, a steering stabilizer is more accurately called a steering dampener.
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Old 11-13-2015, 09:00 PM   #7
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Are you positive your tires are correctly balanced?
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Old 11-13-2015, 09:04 PM
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Are you positive your tires are correctly balanced?
Absolutely not! it's been a while since I had them balanced, but for unbalanced tires to result in death wobble would have me assume there is a bigger issue at hand somewhere.. I will be taking the Jeep in this week to have them balanced and see if it makes a difference.
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Old 11-14-2015, 08:12 AM   #9
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Absolutely not! it's been a while since I had them balanced, but for unbalanced tires to result in death wobble would have me assume there is a bigger issue at hand somewhere.. I will be taking the Jeep in this week to have them balanced and see if it makes a difference.

In my case, balancing the tires helped, but didn't clear it up completely.
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Old 11-14-2015, 10:29 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skarpyona View Post
Absolutely not! it's been a while since I had them balanced, but for unbalanced tires to result in death wobble would have me assume there is a bigger issue at hand somewhere.. I will be taking the Jeep in this week to have them balanced and see if it makes a difference.
You mentioned it happens at a certain speed, I would say that tire balancing is a crucial step in trouble shooting.

is your steering geometry correct? Track bar in same plane with TR/DL? Drop pitman arm?

You mention making several changes. Can you take a picture of your steering components so that we can look at the geometry? A straight on shot looking at the front would be beneficial. You would be surprised how much a track bar in the wrong plane or bad geometry can contribute to DW.

I do recommend you get the tires balanced by a reputable shop as step 1.
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Old 11-14-2015, 12:10 PM   #11
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One of the most common triggers for DW are tires that are imperfectly balanced. That can even include tires that were just balanced by a shop that didn't take enough time to really get them balanced... which means perfectly. That your DW symptoms changed when you rotated your tires reinforces my thoughts that you have one or more tires that are either bad or imperfectly balanced.

I have only had true fully developed DW twice, which was on my previous '97 TJ. That was like 18 years ago and that was from a front tire that had lost a balancing weight. The DW happened twice before I could get to the tire shop and I about crapped because it was so frigging violet. That Jeep was darned near brand-new when it developed DW so it wasn't from loose or worn parts, it was just from one front tire being way out of balance.

But a loose steering or suspension component can also make it easier for DW to develop once triggered by something like an out of balance tire, bump in the road, etc. So the above recommended dry steering test should definitely be done too, in addition to getting the tires balanced. Especially watch the track bar while doing the steering test. ANY side-to-side movement of the track bar at either of its two mounts needs to be taken care of. And no, a bad steering stabilizer is never the cause of DW either.

The key thing to know about getting your tire balanced is that most tire shops are lazy and will only take the time to get the tires balanced to the point they consider "good enough" which in the TJ's case is never going to be good enough. I have what I consider to be a good tire shop I frequent but even they haven't always gotten my tires balanced well enough so I don't have a speed sensitive shimmy or the early stage of DW so I can feel it's close to DW but it doesn't get completely there. So as good as my shop is, there was one day I had to return twice in the same day for THREE balance jobs until they finally figured out they were going to have to take the time to get the job done right.

Or you could even have a bad tire... like a ply separation, etc. So the first thing I'd do is take it to a good tire shop and explain what's going on... that they're going to have to take extra time to insure the tires are perfectly balanced, not some hurried "good enough" balance job. Insure you are forceful enough with your description so they get the idea that they're not going to get away with a quick balance job with you. Heck I have tipped the guy running the tire balance machine $20 at the beginning so he'll take extra time with my tires so I won't have to come back.

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