I know what you're thinking, not ANOTHER thread about DW. Don't worry, this isn't the usual "OMG what's going on" post.
I've spent the past week reading up on the infamous DW. I've read the forums and the article in the recent JP magazine, and what I gather is its like an old strand of christmas lights...one light fails and it mucks up the entire system. That and steering stabilizers only mask the problem.
My question: has anyone noticed if the wobble is brought on in different ways by different parts going bad. For example, if wobble from hard breaking or acceleration points to a different faulty part than wobble brought on by a bump in the road?
I ask because I can't make my Jeep shake if I try. I drive fast, slow, swerve, run over bumps, and anything else that would get me pulled over for reckless driving and the Jeep drives smooth and straight as an arrow. Then a few days later, driving casually on a relatively smooth road that I traverse on a daily basis, it shakes. I turn around and try to recreate the event.....no wobble.
When I have a free weekend, my step-dad and I will check all the joints and bolts and what not. I'm confident we can find the chink in the system.
First, do you have teh shimmy or the Death Wobble?
I remember hearing tale that you could tell under certain conditions if it might be your control arms....under braking v accel, and/or possibly in 4wd or not. I tried all these and couldn't perceive much of a difference....and it ended up being my CAs anyway. If you've got no wobble, but when you brake you do, then I would say it's likely you have runout on a rotor or "warped" in layman's terms...but if that's throwing you into full blown death wobble, you probably have other issues.
The methodology should be this:
Make sure your tires are balanced well and do not have uneven wear. Make sure your toe is correct. Check wheel bearings and ball joints. These are all easy checks and should be done regularly when you rotate tires anyway.
Do a dry steer test. This is also an easy test, but is typically only run if something doesn't right. Look particularly at the trac bar, but certainly all the other joints.
If all this checks out, then it's your control arms. This is usually the last check, as it is more difficult to confirm, but really, if everything else is good, this will be it. If you have 10+ years on the stock ones, it's a fair bet they are toast anyway, and I'd put even more odds on these if you are lifted.
I also had some intermittance when mine first started shimmying...kind of like you are referencing, like it would wobble all the time, but then if I wheeled it (flexing it out), the trip home would be smooth as glass. Again, final determination in my case was that it was my CAs. Another test I happened to do, (after my D/W became full blown) was to take the lift off the front. D/W was gone. Put the lift back on, D/W was present.