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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I am trying to ID a rattling sound on my 03 WJ with 199K miles. It is in excellent condition. Originally, there were two sounds (front and rear) but after my troubleshooting the front sound has been take care of (see below). The main sound seems to be coming from the center/rear of the vehicle and it can only be heard when the vehicle is in motion. Specifically, when hitting any kind of bump or hole in the road at 10 - 30 mph.

The strange part is that it is definitely getting worse, but my Jeep is handling fine. I only hear the sound, which can best described has a deep metallic sound that is loud and then repeats several times while dampening out (almost like it is ringing). Kind of like if you hit two pans together pretty hard and then did that again (rapidly) 5 times getting softer each time. Sound is not present when idling or driving on smooth roads.

Here is everything I have ruled out / fixed so far:
  • Front/Rear Shocks - these are pretty new (installed back in 2019) and all of the bolt connections appear to be tight
  • Heat Shield Above the Exhaust - the shield had fallen onto the exhaust system and would rattle a bit, so after much effort and a trip to the specialty drawer at the hardware store, I was able to reattach the heat shield to the body of the Jeep. Fixed but no real improvement on the rattling noises.
  • Front Sway Bar / Sway Bar Links - according to various forums, this is usually the cause of such sounds. Despite the high mileage, none of my front sway bar bushings and sway bar links have any play in them (literally zero play). From what I can tell, they are perfectly fine.
  • Front Drag Link Ends / Sleeve - I really thought this was the culprit... when I was investigating my front sway bar, I realized my drag link had a ton of play in it and that the bushings on both link ends were completely shot. I replaced this (new everything) and had my vehicle aligned. A bit of the rattling from the front stopped but the main sound was still present. Steering is much more responsive though!
  • Driver Side Lower Control Arm - when I had my vehicle aligned, I asked the shop to poke around and try to ID the sound. They said that the bushings on my driver side lower control arm were shot and that could cause this type of noise. I replaced it myself with the help of a friend. The sounds from the front of my vehicle have completely stopped! But the main sound persists...
  • Rear Sway bar / Sway Bar Links - I investigated these and they seem to be fine. There is a tiny, tiny bit of play in them but it is barely noticeable. I do not think this is the issue.
Here are my next ideas/thoughts:
  • Rear Control Arms (Upper and/or Lower) - I cannot really tell if these are bad or not... while my vehicle is on the ground, there seems to be no play in any of the control arms in the back. I am going to try lifting it up next week to see. I am guessing this because the sound is so loud and because it only happens when I hit bumps / holes in the road.
  • Rear Axle - idk just seems possible
Does anyone have any thoughts on this? What could it possibly be? Worth noting that the shop couldn't find anything obvious besides the front lower control arm.
 

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Mopar Nut
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My money's in and I call.

FYI - I threw an el-cheap-o Suspensia ball joint at mine. Was maybe only like $12. Bolts right in, no press req'd. Although I did have to beat a pickle fork in to sperate it from the upper control arm. Still quiet after 30k mi. Note while I do pound on her hard, I never do any serious off road so that ball joint doesn't get the articulation that some others may experience. It also has no Zerk, which I regret. But I also bought this WJ sight unseen for CHEAP, and really had no clue she would be this strong and that I'd be driving her daily after 30k and 2yrs.....
 

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Give the rear end a good side to side push or three. If there is excessive roll and/or you hear a clunking noise, then your UCA ball joint is shot. Word to the wise...go with Mopar replacement for that ball joint. You don't want to be changing it that often. Check the two bushings while you're at it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Man oh man, what a journey so far...

Rear upper control arm (UCA) ball joint and bushings were shot. Also, this is likely what destroyed my driveshaft's rear U-joint. Replaced that after all of the below, that was a lot easier compared to the UCA!

I bought a new UCA with bushings, an IRO UCA ball joint, and a 21mm boxend wrench. Spent a whole day in a friend's garage with my WJ on jack stands. We used a lot of PB blaster and some ratchet straps (for leverage on the 21mm, to start the three bolts on the rear diff). Almost 3hrs for 3 bolts ahaha. The whole process might be worth a write up...

Anyway, we got all the new stuff in no problem and torqued things to spec with the floor jack compressing the suspension.

Pro: omg my WJ has never handled better!
Con: THE CLUNK REMAINS

At this point I realized that I before (when I started this thread) I had a symphony of clunking noises. Now my WJ has one little section left that only decides to "play" when I hit any kind of bump at <30mph.

I gave up and went to a mechanic, turns out this noise is from the rear sway bar bushings and sway bar links after all! I guess even with a tiny bit of play, these can make all sorts of noise.

The mechanic also discovered that my transmission mount bushing was completely shot, and that my front steering shock was destroyed. I sheepishly admitted this was my fault because I realized that my dumb*** painted the steering shock piston when I applied Rust Bullet last summer. We had a good laugh.

I had the mechanic fix the transmission mount bushing and the steering shock, but I held off on the sway bar bits bc I wanted to use this opportunity as my excuse to upgrade to the Addco rear sway bar.

In summary: check your UCA, your transmission mount bushing (requires a lift / pit and a crowbar. Just pry up on the transmission and see if it moves), and your rear sway bar bushings and sway links.

Hopefully someone else finds this info helpful!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Update: I had to remove sway link frame brackets bc the sway link bolt has rusted to the welded nut, those are currently soaking in vinegar.

The point is that there is no rear sway bar or rear sway bar equipment currently on my jeep. So I took it for a test drive.

ahahahahahaha

same exact sound

ahahahahahaha

wtf

I think it may be all of my coil spring isolators, they look like
 

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Update: I had to remove sway link frame brackets bc the sway link bolt has rusted to the welded nut, those are currently soaking in vinegar.

The point is that there is no rear sway bar or rear sway bar equipment currently on my jeep. So I took it for a test drive.

ahahahahahaha

same exact sound

ahahahahahaha

wtf

I think it may be all of my coil spring isolators, the look like
Oh dear, all that work, and the no joy :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Update: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got'm"

Engine mounts where the trick. I am pretty sure the rattling sound was my exhaust system and also the engine itself hitting the bolts in the bad mounts. The shop in Michigan didn't even check these mounts, they only replaced the transmission mount smdh

Shoutout to @Kolak ; for providing the new mounts.

Old mounts after 205000 miles:





I was able to get the new mounts in without much difficulty, I followed the process outlined by @rrose3000; here 99 WJ Front Motor Mount Replacement

Passenger side: I could remove half of the engine bolts from the top, I had to remove the lower ones and the bushing bolt from underneath.

Driver side: total PITA! You can't even see the bolts from above the vehicle. I had to remove my air intake box. I really have no idea how it would be possible to get to the top driver-side bolt otherwise.
Removed the rest of the bolts from underneath the vehicle.

Tools used: impact wrench, short, medium, and 1ft impact extensions, impact universal joint, 15 and 18mm impact sockets (short), 18mm wrench, 15 mm ratcheting wrench (useful for the front-lower passenger-side mount bolt).

For the intake box, I used an impact extension with my 1/2" ratchet and a 13mm socket. I also had to use another ratchet with a 13mm deep socket to hold the nut under the vehicle (it is located behind the mudguard on the driver side front wheel well). For the other bolt, I again used the 13mm deep socket up top and had to use vice grips to hold the bottom nut/washer thing (also above the mudguard). I think there is a third bolt on the bottom, but I was able to slide the box out without loosening it. Protip: separate the actual intake piece from the box and reinstall that first, trust me...

For jacking, I bought a 2x8x8 pressure-treated board and cut from it three 10" long pieces. I then used some deck screws I had on hand to sandwich these pieces together. This ended up being a little too tall, so I parked my jeep only halfway up my Rhino ramps (this also gave me more room to unbolt things from underneath. Yeah that might be not ideal, but with the e brake, Park, and 4 tires on level ground I felt pretty safe ahaha. I used the wood as a buffer between my jack and oil pan, I specifically focused the pressure on the front part of the oil pan, farthest from the oil plug. No leaks so I don't think I damaged anything.

Bonus luxury tool: I used a Wi-Fi scope camera (and my very patient girlfriend, to hold the phone so I could see the scope display) to help align the bushing bolts. With these cameras, you can just wrap it around the control arm and point it towards the engine mount bolt hole. This greatly helped me raise/lower my floor jacks to align everything.

After the install, I immediately noticed that my Jeep had a much better idle. It sounds a lot better, barely even sounds like a tractor now. Significantly less shaking too, and my RPMs are finally consistent when idle (I have had stuttering the past year or so). And most importantly: the rattle is GONE, completely GONE!!!!

Hopefully this helps someone in the future. Note: there is a very minor, different rattle when I take really gnarly bumps/train tracks/etc., but I am pretty sure that driving around for 1+ years on ruined engine mounts destroyed my exhaust hangers. I know bc I have looked at them and they are in terrible shape. After I fix those, I think all sounds will be mainly engine related!!!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I am beyond devastated right now. Well, that is a bit dramatic bc in the grand scheme of things this is just a vehicle but still... I think the minor clunk I am hearing is the whole transfer case + transmission, esp bc the sound changes if I am using 4WD or not (I have an 03 with Selec-Trac).

If you haven't seen my other thread, a few months ago I had the transmission mount replaced by a shop and then the very next day I had a transmission shop fix the overdrive portion of the transmission. This was bc I found some slip ring pieces in my pan when I replaced the transmission filter and pan.

I have since been driving around assuming that you know, shops do good work. The minor clunk has been annoying, but whatever. It is probably the exhaust hangers, right? I finally get around to installing my front exhaust hanger, and I decide to FINALLY look closer at the transmission mount and this is what I see:




The first pic is the passenger side, front transmission mount bolt. The second pic is the bolt diagonal from that one (driver side, rear). On top of that:





The new transmission pan I installed just before going to the shop is BENT and there is a perfect two prong indentation from where (I am assuming) the first shop LIFTED MY ENTIRE TRANSMISSION when they replaced the transmission mount. I noticed this before the bolt carnage because this new pan was not leaking before and it seems to be slowly leaking along the seams now. Also, if you check my post history, the pan was literally brand new. And no, I did not lift my transmission by the pan when I replaced the motor mounts.

As for the mangled bolts, there is no way to tell which shop did it. My thought is the transmission shop since they were the last ones to have touched it...

Is there any chance I could have somehow damaged the transmission mount this badly when I lifted my engine during the engine mount install? Again: I did not lift anything from the transmission pan, I carefully lifted the engine with a wood block pressed to the thickest part of the oil pan. The way the engine + transmission pivots during this process doesn't seem capable of doing this kind of carnage...

Regardless, if you have read this far, please let me know: what should I do?
 

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Well, it is made by Chrysler after all. They designed the cheesiest wimpiest engine/trans mounts known to man and probably the wimpiest snap rings too. The old sayings usually hold true over time. If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. I have never expected good work from an auto repair garage and have always done it myself. The broken snap ring deal usually outlasts the life of the vehicle so most people just live with it. If your vehicle isn't rusted it is most likely worth fixing. If you have to pay to have it fixed then good luck shopping around for a competent shop. I have no confidence whatsoever in techs under 30. I prefer old school mechanics. I am getting too old to do my own maintenance so I am looking at my local shops quite closely. Good luck and I hope you can get it fixed right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Well, it is made by Chrysler after all. They designed the cheesiest wimpiest engine/trans mounts known to man and probably the wimpiest snap rings too. The old sayings usually hold true over time. If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. I have never expected good work from an auto repair garage and have always done it myself. The broken snap ring deal usually outlasts the life of the vehicle so most people just live with it. If your vehicle isn't rusted it is most likely worth fixing. If you have to pay to have it fixed then good luck shopping around for a competent shop. I have no confidence whatsoever in techs under 30. I prefer old school mechanics. I am getting too old to do my own maintenance so I am looking at my local shops quite closely. Good luck and I hope you can get it fixed right.
I know this is a forum and we all have our opinions, but this is completely irrelevant to the rest of this thread...
 

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How does that old saying go? Elementary my dear Watson! Allow me to spell it out. If Chrysler wasn't so concerned about saving a few pennies on every engine and trans mount, you wouldn't have had to buy unnecessary parts trying to chase a mysterious rattle and you wouldn't have had to pay somebody to break your transfer case causing you to unnecessarily spend more money to change the transfer case. I never saw swiss cheese engine/trans mounts in 40 years of wrenching on GM vehicles so this is all new to me. All these headaches over saving a few pennies during manufacture. I am a little sour about this because I have a mystery rattle that started this week and I am still trying to diagnose it. My motor mounts don't look totally shot but maybe they are half shot. The only motor mounts I ever changed were due to high horsepower abuse and never for a design failure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Don't worry I am plenty sour too right now ahaha

At the end of the day, I am also feeling like "this Jeep is almost 20 years old and has 207K miles on it"

My point is that is quite a long time and a lot of miles. Maybe not 40 years but still.

I have settled on taking it to a local shop to fix it or at least properly mount what is left. I will then replace the oil pan AGAIN, myself. At the end of the day I can't be too mad, but man do I wish I would have looked under the jeep right after I left that first shop smdh.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
FINAL UPDATE: I discovered the rattling sound! One of the rear brake caliper retaining bolts had come completely undone:


You can hear the sound for yourself here:

This high-pitched, very hollow clunk is exactly what was driving me crazy. I finally diagnosed it by riding my brakes over bumps. This made the sound completely vanish, and now I know why. Tightened this guy up, and now my jeep is SILENT over all bumps. I am so happy!

Now I have to emphasize, almost a year ago, this started as a symphony of rattles and knocking sounds. I fixed: rear upper A arm ball joint and bushings, rear driveshaft u-joint, engine mounts and transmission mount, front left lower control arm, rear sway bar and links, front steering components and links, front coil spring perches, and all coil spring bushings.

The biggest change came from the engine mounts and transmission mount, this got rid of a nasty full-bodied clunking and improved my idle and shifting.

I think the bad A arm ball joint did a lot of damage over the past 2 years. Check this stuff regularly!
 

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Uh, If you wish to be certain
your caliper retaining bolts
don't come loose,
you need to fit new ones.

New CR bolts come with
a dollop of thread locker.

Product Circuit component Auto part Magenta Metal


If you use "Loctite" instead,
the loctite lowers friction
in the same way oil does
so you end up overtightening
your bolts.

Part No 5012437AA
 
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