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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi friends! I'm new here... I signed up to see if my fellow Jeep folks can help me out with advice- this is a bit lengthy but I wanted to give all the info!


I've got a 2003 TJ. 4x4, straight six, beautiful looker. Drove it for about 5 years with the tires that were on when I bought it- knobbies that rumbled as I drove down the street. As they became old & cracked, i decided to get them replaced with a smoother, quieter tire with better MPG, since I'm mostly driving around New York City. (Which, believe me, has plenty of streets barely smoother than a field!). Took it to a local mechanic. The very next day, I experienced my first death wobble. Definitely not just alignment issues etc- I've researched this, & had others drive it, and it's the adrenaline pumping, terrifying HOLY $#@% Death Wobble.

Took it back. Mechanics swore it can't be the tires, but they re-balanced them (balancing and alignment done with install of tires). Long story short- trying to resolve this, we've replaced:

- front shocks and dampener
- front internal axle joints
- linkages
- brakes & rotors (seemingly not related, but needed it anyway)

After each repair, they test drove it, I picked it up, then had DW again within days or weeks.

Everything I'm reading about DW that mentions tires, is about going UP in size, not down.

Old tires: Wrangler Duratrac 31x10.5 OR15LT 109Q

30.8 diameter, 10.6 width, 18/32" tread depth, 7"-9" rim range

New tires: Kenetica radials 235/75R15 105S
28.70 diameter, 10mm tread depth, 6"-8" rim range

I'm not going back to these mechanics, they've annoyed me enough for other reasons too. I'm currently looking for another good shop here who has experience with Jeeps, 4x4s, etc. but most the good ones seem to be out on Long Island pretty far- and since I'd be driving there at like 30mph...

I really want to sell this thing, but it's pretty tough selling a Jeep with death wobble. I'm hoping if I can fix it, I'll get a much better price.

Any helpful advice VERY APPRECIATED! Otherwise... anyone want to buy a 2003 Wrangler with lots of new parts but death wobble?!
 

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Welcome to the Forum.
 

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NYCJeepGirl - The first thing to do is read through Planman's post about DW.

https://www.wranglerforum.com/f202/...fixing-non-dw-shimmies-and-wobbles-78034.html

While the photos are of a JK suspension, the TJ suspension is almost the same, just a bit narrower. It also explains what is and what is not DW. Tires being out of balance will cause a speed sensitive shimmy (aka wobble) but not DW. If the wobble you experience is speed sensitive for example starts at 45 and then stops at 55, it is not DW and is most likely tire related. They need to be balanced with road force. DW can occur AT ANY SPEED. You are as likely to encounter DW at 30 MPH as at 55. Once you encounter DW, the ONLY way to stop it is to come to a complete or nearly complete stop.

If your speedometer was correct on your old tires, it is not very optimistic. Changing the tire size will change the speedometer and since the computer that runs the engine is also dependent on that input, it is now off as well.
 

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NYCJeepGirl - The first thing to do is read through Planman's post about DW.

https://www.wranglerforum.com/f202/...fixing-non-dw-shimmies-and-wobbles-78034.html

While the photos are of a JK suspension, the TJ suspension is almost the same, just a bit narrower. It also explains what is and what is not DW. Tires being out of balance will cause a speed sensitive shimmy (aka wobble) but not DW. If the wobble you experience is speed sensitive for example starts at 45 and then stops at 55, it is not DW and is most likely tire related. They need to be balanced with road force. DW can occur AT ANY SPEED. You are as likely to encounter DW at 30 MPH as at 55. Once you encounter DW, the ONLY way to stop it is to come to a complete or nearly complete stop.

If your speedometer was correct on your old tires, it is not very optimistic. Changing the tire size will change the speedometer and since the computer that runs the engine is also dependent on that input, it is now off as well.
There are a few things in this post that are way off. First off DW Most definitely can be speed-sensitive. it is generally an alignment issue so ANYTHING that affects the way the tires roll on the road can cause it. The Speedometer has absolutely nothing to do with the issue Especially since the tire size difference is so minute. You are talking about less than an inch. This sounds like a simple wheel pull issue. Swap the front and rear tires and see what happens. then swap left and right. the problem should follow the tires. If so they need to be remounted. if this doesnt work there is an issue with the belts in one or more of the tires, the typical cause of a tire pull. If these new tires came off the line one right after the other, if one is bad, it would not be unusual for the others to suffer the same defects. Back in the Seventies when I was building "Street Pro" Camaros, I ran into these issues with Firestone tires rather regularly. Unfortunately at the time, they were the main player in the field.
 

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rotate the tires, if the wobble changes, you know its in the tires.

never heard of duratracs referred to as knobbies - it's all perspective i guess
 

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If both front tires are twitching or dancing side to side when you are driving and you need to slow down to almost a complete stop for the twitching to disappear; that is considered DW. If the tires are only vibrating while driving; that is not DW. As others have responded... that is a tire related problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Definitely DW, not shimmy....

Thanks, guys! It's def DW- I'm cruising along (at a variety of speeds but usually over 45 or so), and suddenly, I can't control steering, the entire vehicle convulses & shakes-almost hops- violently, & the only thing I can do is pump the brakes & come to a complete stop. I've had shimmy, alignment issues, etc on other clunkers over the years, & this is a special and horrific experience.



I realize it could just be unlucky timing, that there's many things that cause DW-- but I keep circling back to the fact it was the day after the tire swap, after years with no issues, and the mechanic couldn't spot any other parts that are damaged besides what was replaced.


I've kept the tire pressure at what's recommended. As for a dry steer test- I believe the mechanic did that? I can ask. I admit I don't know a lot about this stuff, but I try to do my homework, & learn as much as I can, so I'm trying to get as much insight as I can before taking the Jeep to a new mechanic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
There are a few things in this post that are way off. First off DW Most definitely can be speed-sensitive. it is generally an alignment issue so ANYTHING that affects the way the tires roll on the road can cause it. The Speedometer has absolutely nothing to do with the issue Especially since the tire size difference is so minute. You are talking about less than an inch. This sounds like a simple wheel pull issue. Swap the front and rear tires and see what happens. then swap left and right. the problem should follow the tires. If so they need to be remounted. if this doesnt work there is an issue with the belts in one or more of the tires, the typical cause of a tire pull. If these new tires came off the line one right after the other, if one is bad, it would not be unusual for the others to suffer the same defects. Back in the Seventies when I was building "Street Pro" Camaros, I ran into these issues with Firestone tires rather regularly. Unfortunately at the time, they were the main player in the field.

Hey nectoxicdragon, are you saying this wheel pull issue can cause actual DW (not "just" a shimmy)? Because your post reminded me that at one point, before he put on these new tires, this mechanic told me my front wheels were torqued slightly in opposing directions. I assumed he'd fixed that (!!), but, hmm...
 

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Tires being out of balance will cause a speed sensitive shimmy (aka wobble) but not DW.
ABSOLUTELY out of balance tires can cause Death Wobble. Absolutely 100% can and will. The very worst fully developed case of OMG DW I ever had was on my first TJ when it was still near new and right after it threw one if its wheel balancing weights. Rebalancing the tire cured that DW and it didn't happen again for probably another ten years.

In my personal opinion that has developed over the past 20 years, DW is most often/commonly triggered by a bad or imperfectly balanced tire. Something in the suspension being loose just makes it easier for it to develop into full-blown DW.

A balanced electric motor spinning while only being loosely bolted to the work bench won't shake or vibrate. An out of balance spinning motor bolted firmly to the work bench will shake/vibrate the work bench. An out of balance spinning motor only loosely bolted to the work bench will shake the bejesus out of the work bench.
 

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The fact that everything was fine and then you got death wobble after a trip to the mechanic and new tires gives me the idea that either something in the steering setup is loose from a mechanic making a mistake or tires are off.

It may be a missing bolt or they didn’t torque something correctly. Or the tires are out of balance or inflation is jacked up. Maybe you lost a wheel weight.
I had new tires put on my Jeep recently at a franchise type tire shop and they inflated all of them to upwards of 40psi.. I promptly aired down to about 28psi.

I’d check for torque and wallowed out channels in the steering components and wheel weight and pressure.
 

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A balanced electric motor spinning while only being loosely bolted to the work bench won't shake or vibrate. An out of balance spinning motor bolted firmly to the work bench will shake/vibrate the work bench. An out of balance spinning motor only loosely bolted to the work bench will shake the bejesus out of the work bench.
That analogy should be a sticky in itself, pretty much sums it up
 
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just an fyi, get 5 auto experts in the same room and they'll likely all over inflate tires for a TJ.
Sorry to hijack but I gotta ask.. I recently got a 04 TJ with 225/75/r15 tires on the stock rims. A tire shop inflated my spare tire to 35psi, while I was under the impression it should be lower but he said it should be between 35 and 40psi.

My door jambs do not have the information regarding psi on them, and I cannot find any semblance of unanimity online of what they should be.

I'm currently rocking 25psi all around based on what I had read online, but this tire shop told be I should air up to 35psi all around.

Thoughts?
 

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Hey nectoxicdragon, are you saying this wheel pull issue can cause actual DW (not "just" a shimmy)? Because your post reminded me that at one point, before he put on these new tires, this mechanic told me my front wheels were torqued slightly in opposing directions. I assumed he'd fixed that (!!), but, hmm...
Almost certainly the new tires. If properly balanced, I'd bet they are out of round.
 

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Sorry to hijack but I gotta ask.. I recently got a 04 TJ with 225/75/r15 tires on the stock rims. A tire shop inflated my spare tire to 35psi, while I was under the impression it should be lower but he said it should be between 35 and 40psi.

My door jambs do not have the information regarding psi on them, and I cannot find any semblance of unanimity online of what they should be.

I'm currently rocking 25psi all around based on what I had read online, but this tire shop told be I should air up to 35psi all around.

Thoughts?
35 is too high. 28 - 30 PSI.
 

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Another thing to check is to make sure the shop did the alignment correctly. The Jeep should be toed in 1/16 in. I believe. My mechanic said that he has corrected several Jeeps over the years by adjusting that.
 

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Sorry to hijack but I gotta ask.. I recently got a 04 TJ with 225/75/r15 tires on the stock rims. A tire shop inflated my spare tire to 35psi, while I was under the impression it should be lower but he said it should be between 35 and 40psi.

My door jambs do not have the information regarding psi on them, and I cannot find any semblance of unanimity online of what they should be.

I'm currently rocking 25psi all around based on what I had read online, but this tire shop told be I should air up to 35psi all around.

Thoughts?
35 is too high.
x2, 35 psi is too high, even for a 28" tall tire. but i'd say 25 is a bit low. its been a while since i've looked at that size tire but between 30-32, depending on how loaded down the jeep is and tire load rating, sounds about right.

Another thing to check is to make sure the shop did the alignment correctly. The Jeep should be toed in 1/16 in. I believe. My mechanic said that he has corrected several Jeeps over the years by adjusting that.
it can be between 1/16-3/16 depending on tire size.
 

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Here is another vote for checking tires closer. To skip to the end, it is possible that multiple tires are out of balance, and you'll never figure it out rotating tires.

We chased an issue with my son's 2000 XJ for months (same front end suspension and steering as TJ). He had speed sensitive DW. It was really bad at highway speeds but not every time. First thing we did was rotate tires in multiple ways. It didn't help. Then we started chasing parts. Nothing jumped out as a smoking gun doing the normal recommended checks. Eventually we found a unibody crack near the steering gear box (an XJ issue). We repaired and braced that thinking that was issue. It turns out it was collateral damage from the DW, not the cause. After trying several things, working with a local shop extensively, and getting multiple alignments, we did a total swap of his wheels and tires with mine from my LJ thinking there was no way that would fix it. We were both running 31x10.5, and the XJ and TJ/LJ have the same bolt pattern. Problem solved.

Now what? We went to a different tire shop than the one he got his tires from to check balance. When we got it back, they were surprised he could drive at all. All four were out of balance by different amounts, so no amount of rotating them would have ever isolated the issue. Apparently whoever had been "balancing" them at the original shop had no idea what he was doing.

The happy ending is he has a smooth driving XJ with a lot of new front suspension and steering parts.
 

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I have to agree with MikeInMo....

IF you have the ability.... swap the tires/rims from another XJ or TJ for a test to see if the DW goes away...
 
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