Ah, the dreaded wobble.
Anyone who has ever driven any form of Jeep for extended periods in their life has gotten a glimpse of this treacherous ordeal.
The death wobble refers to the borderline violent wheel shake which seems to begin occurring out of nowhere but is normally soon after running wheels first into a giant pothole or bump in the road or trail.
This can be a terrifying feeling, especially when traveling at highway speeds, or somewhere far from your beloved garage or any mechanic shop for that matter. It can feel as if at any given moment your axel will fall off, sending you for a whirlwind of a ride and crash.
In reality, the axle will not fall off, nor will your wheels come apart, but that doesn’t stop your anxiety from shooting through the roof as you wobble down the road and continue shaking long after you exit the Jeep.
The coined term “death wobble” can also be rather misleading as no one has actually lost their life due to this common occurrence with Jeep owners. Getting through the wobble involves simply keeping calm and using your common sense in order to regain control and overcome the situation at hand safely.
While overhyped to an extent, at Altitude Jeep we know that the commonly-known “Jeep death wobble” is something that is in the back of many people’s minds when looking into purchasing their first Jeep. That’s why we’re here to explain what exactly this wobble entails and what measures you can perform to fix and even prevent these anxiety-inducing occurrences from, well, occurring.
Death Wobble Explained
In layman's terms, the death wobble is a seemingly uncontrollable side-to-side shaking of a Jeep’s front end — including the steering axle, suspension, and steering wheel. This is a problem all-too-common among any solid axle vehicles that can certainly take you by surprise if not prepared.
With that being said, the “death wobble” is not guaranteed to happen with your Jeep Wrangler. Just because you own a Jeep does not mean that this will ever be a concern for you.
The death wobble can occur relatively easily, though, as all it takes is one good bump to the axle or even a hard braking to set it off. This is because the solid axles of Jeeps and other all-terrain vehicles are not as capable of absorbing the amount of shock that is somewhat inevitable in daily driving.
The death wobble is not to be confused with a similar Jeep issue known as “Bump Steer.” This is a problem that mostly arises due to adding an aftermarket Jeep suspension kit — improperly we might add. It should also not be mistaken for vibration felt at higher speeds, as this is typical of any vehicle that is experiencing an improper alignment in most cases.
Safely Overcoming The Death Wobble
The first rule of thumb for safely conquering the dreaded wobble is to never panic. While this may seem like an obvious tip, it is much easier said than done. While it may feel like you are out of control of your Jeep, is is still safe to drive and will continue going the direction in which you steer it.
With that comes the second rule — maintain a solid grip on the wheel the entire time. Don’t clench down on it like a stress ball, but keep a firm enough grip to maintain control without your hands going completely numb.
Once you feel calm and [relatively] in control, the only way to resolve the wobbling issue is to safely bring the Jeep to a stop by slowly braking. Don’t attempt to slam on the brakes or punch the gas in hopes that the issue will miraculously vanish — it won’t; trust us. If anything, this will cause further damage to your Jeep.
After bringing your Jeep to a stop and performing a quick inspection, get started on the road again slowly avoiding reaching the speed that initially brought about the wobbling sensation. Also be sure to keep a keen eye out for potholes and other obstructions in the road, but if you have to endure them, at least do it slowly so that you keep the amount of shock to a minimum.
Once you’ve safely gotten your Jeep home or to the shop, there are a few methods that you can try in order to solve your wobble problems. One method to attempt to fix Jeep wobbling is to replace the steering stabilizer. This does not work, and if it seems that it is for you, it is only temporary — masking the real issue.
When attempting to diagnose the issue, disconnecting your stabilizer can help you pinpoint the source of the problem more easily. Quite simply, you need to inspect each of the steering components and determine which part or parts are either damaged or on their last days of life. In most cases, we’ve found it to be either the front track bar, tie-rod ends, or even the ball joints.
Possible Causes of Death Wobble
While the effects of the death wobble are readily apparent, discovering the underlying reasoning can be difficult to diagnose. This extreme wobbling sensation of your Jeep can be caused by numerous different sources that could be loose or damaged throughout your Jeep’s suspension and steering systems. While it can be difficult to find, it’s more than likely one or more of the parts that make up this intricate system that has been going bad for quite some time and has led to the eventual emergence of the wobble.
Common Wobble Misconceptions
One of the biggest myths that exists surrounding the Jeep “death wobble” is that this only occurs with aftermarket Jeeps. Stock Jeeps and any other vehicles with solid axles are similarly prone to getting the death wobble under the perfect storm of conditions.
We will note that the majority of instances are with those who have recently had aftermarket Jeep parts such as lift kits improperly installed. This is why we always recommend purchasing only quality-assured aftermarket Jeep parts from reputable dealers like Altitude Jeep and always having a professional installation completed rather than tinkering with the aftermarket Jeep suspension kit yourself and hoping for the best.
If you find that in order to fix your death wobble problem you need to replace and upgrade your Jeep’s suspension, we offer a wide range of quality aftermarket Jeep lift kits, shocks, and suspension systems to get you back on the road in your Jeep and riding better than ever.
What are you waiting for? Elevate your ride today.