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Unread 05-28-2012, 07:01 PM   #1
mybux
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Death Wobble: Fix First or Upgrade?

I've got a 2003 Rubicon (50K miles) that can be considered stock. About a month ago after some "llight offroading) I started to notice symptoms of the dreaded "Death Wobble" (DW). Since then, I've done more research on this issue than I care to admit. I've checked for all the classic areas (Trac bar, Steering Dampner, Mud in the rims, alignment, and Tire balance. Eveything checked out fine, no slop, all componets tight, etc. The tires are about 5K miles old, so no issues there. The wobble has progressed considerably, to the point where safety is a real concern, and traveling anywhere over 50 mph in the Jeep is problematic.

Out of options, I took the jeep to the local jeep dealership, pointed at it and said "death wobble". 60 minutes and $90 bucks later, they told me it was the steering dampner. I replaced it myself with a Rancho 5000 SS, and took her back out to see if the issue had been resolved. It was better, but still severe enough for safety concerns. I'm inclined to beef up the Trac bar next, but I guess there aren't any guarentee's that will work either?

The biggest PITA to this is I'm ready to lift the Jeep (4 inch), and upgrade the tires (33's). Now with the Death Wobble, I'm concerned about doing anything to it prior to addressing the DW. On the other hand, upgrading the entire suspension may address the issue indirectly? I'm lost here, any thoughts from the community would be appreciated, if anyone knows of a shop (Not a dealership) in the Columbus, Ohio area that has experience with correcting death wobble, they'd likely get my business for both the DW and for the upgrades. Thanks in advance!

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Unread 05-29-2012, 06:29 AM   #2
Pillswoj
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Rubber bushings are the #1 culprit, either the trackbar or the control arms. If your lift plans are for a complete lift (all arms and trackbar) It would address all of the bushings. Don't forget the axle side bushings for the upper arms either. Having been through true DW twice and tracking down a nagging shimmy after that I prefer to replace every bushing possible with a Johnny Joint.
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Unread 05-29-2012, 07:14 AM   #3
roborules
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death wobble

I just fixed my 2003 Rubicon (56k miles) death wobble. Mine was ok until 52 mph, then it started wobbling and got bad very fast unless I slowed down (which I did of course). Like you, I researched a lot. I have a ~2" OME lift & 33's. Most likely you problem is somewhere in the front linkages. To check, I had my wife get in the jeep, put foot on brake, and turn the wheel side to side while looking for relative movement at the connections. On my first check I found that the upper track bar connection (to frame, drivers side) was a little loose. I tightened that up and the death wobble was about 40% - 50% better, but still there.
Did the check again, couldn't really see any improper relative movement at the other joints. So I grabbed each joint as she went back and forth, to "feel" for any relative movement. I found that the tie rod end connecting to the pitman arm had some movement, a slight movement/click each time it changed direction. It was hard to see, but by feel, it moved maybe 1/16 - 1/8 inch with each change in direction. I replaced that tie rod end and the death wobble is gone!

I think the loose track bar was my primary problem, but either the pitman arm rod end was also going bad to a lesser degree or the few track bar death wobbles I went through loosened up the others and made this weaker one just fail. Bottom, line, I think you have to chase the death wobble down and possibly replace a few connections to completely get rid of it. Good luck!
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Unread 05-29-2012, 07:24 AM   #4
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Hey robo, what/where did you replace the tre at pitman with?

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Unread 05-29-2012, 07:35 AM   #5
roborules
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tie rod end

Just a regular tie rod end. I think the one at the pitman arm is an inner tie rod end. I went to advance auto - he called the steering diagram up on the screen and we confirmed the end at pitman arm was an inner rod end. The only one he had in stock was Moog ($40). I think other brands may be a bit cheaper though.
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Unread 05-29-2012, 08:02 AM   #6
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Cool thanks. I have similar slack and am glad to hear that yours was part of the solution.

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Unread 05-29-2012, 08:38 AM   #7
1999TJRED85000
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Don't rule out the tires, just because you only have 5000 miles on them. Try rotating the front to the back and see if you still have the same problems.

But, if you are going to do an entire lift anyway, with larger tires, etc., just do a good job of it and replace all the bushings as you go. Chances are, you'll remove and replace the problem components. Be sure you use an adjustable track bar (JKS is my personal favorite) and as high a quality components as you can afford, realistically speaking.
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Unread 05-29-2012, 07:51 PM   #8
mybux
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First, thanks everyone I appreciate the feedback and idea's. With some of your recommendations, I think there are several new directions I'll go before thowing up my hands and going to the Pro's. Interestingly enough, I've discounted the tires as a cause, I guess I didn't realize it had quite that much impact particually given their condition. It's an easy and free test. That said, I'm just about out of patience here. I mean this is prime Jeep season, and getting DW at this stage is sorta like finding out your smokin hot girlfriend has the clap, she's still pretty to look at but you're not quite sure you want to ride her.

I'll keep you posted on how this works out.
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Unread 05-29-2012, 08:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mybux View Post
getting DW at this stage is sorta like finding out your smokin hot girlfriend has the clap, she's still pretty to look at but you're not quite sure you want to ride her.

I'll keep you posted on how this works out.
More like a yeast infection; it's stinks 'til you treat and cure it.
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Unread 05-29-2012, 11:02 PM   #10
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when you own a Jeep, anytime something breaks, that is just the jeeps way of telling you it wants an upgrade!

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Unread 09-05-2013, 08:08 AM   #11
mweidson
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Death Wobble Cured

My 2003 53K stock Rubicon started the death wobble a mounth ago, I researched online for possible fix, after finding some good information I decided to replace the track bar bushing and steering stabilizer.
This did the job, after 3 weeks of driving no more wobble.

Parts I used were:
Rubicon Express Front Track Bar Poly Bushing Kit With 1/2" Bolt RE1687
Rubicon Express RXT2000 steering stabilizer
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Unread 09-05-2013, 08:18 AM   #12
Wheelin98TJ
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Steering stabilizer is never the cure.

Violent shaking in the steering wheel cannot be controlled by a steering stabilizer.

The steering stabilizer is there to minimize feedback to the steering wheel when you hit a bump.
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Unread 09-05-2013, 08:24 AM   #13
SlackJaw
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lol, old thread bump, I suppose I'll update from my end.

Replaced ALL steering, D/W gone on test drive. Rotated tires, D/W returned. Put tires back to original location, D/W persisted. Replaced Control Arms, D/W gone.

Now...I still have a little instability. When I did the Savvy axle side kit, I'm pretty sure we melted the innards. I am hopefully remedying that this evening. Currently, I have what looks like a caster problem, but that's not it. I don't have a regular pulsating shimmy, but when I hit a bump, I can see the tires sort of slopping around. I got the tiniest bit of play in my hub assemblies, so that's getting done this weekend, and the Ball Joints might as well get done too, at 120k.

So we'll see...fresh CA joint, new hubs and BJs, and I'll check and adjust the caster, and of course the alignment after BJs... If that don't complete the cycle, then I am going to have to replace the stabilizer...I think it's shot anyway.
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Unread 09-06-2013, 06:51 AM   #14
sjaehnen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mweidson View Post
My 2003 53K stock Rubicon started the death wobble a mounth ago, I researched online for possible fix, after finding some good information I decided to replace the track bar bushing and steering stabilizer.
This did the job, after 3 weeks of driving no more wobble.

Parts I used were:
Rubicon Express Front Track Bar Poly Bushing Kit With 1/2" Bolt RE1687
Rubicon Express RXT2000 steering stabilizer
How much did it cost you to do that?
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Unread 09-06-2013, 07:00 AM   #15
sjaehnen
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death wobble

I bought my 04 X jeep back in July and the death wobble started about a week later (no warranty available). I'm not the most handy of guys but am trying to learn everything as I go. I don't get the wobble unless I hit a bump going over 50 MPH. A way I learned to prevent it is when I see a bump in the road I let off the gas and roll over it. I will get a slight wobble but it will go away. Now when I don't see the bump and my foot is on the pedal my jeep goes crazy and wobbles of course and at that point I have to stop completely and get off the road which in cincinnati isn't always the easiest. From what I read above it seems to me that some of you get it all the time when you reach speeds over a certain MPH. Mine is like I said when i hit a bump. Any separate advice than that of what you already gave?
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