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I have a 1999 Jeep Wrangler (4 cyl) that has been infected by the infamous "Death Wobble". If this term is too slang then here is an article that can explain it better than I could hope to. I would like to fix this myself but I know very little about vehicles so I think I'm going to quickly get in over my head. Armed with my Hayne's Manual, Google, and a local You-Fix-It garage I hope I can make due.

The biggest problem I face is that this can be caused by a number factors and if I hope to do this myself I'll need to narrow it down to something specific.

  • Is it possible to determine the specific cause by behavior alone?
    • The problem started a few years ago and disappeared for a few months after I got all new tires and an alignment. I don't know why it came back though, I don't off-road.
    • It will usually start between 45-60MPH but will always stop if I change speed to >35 or <70. Most people with this problem report that it's anything over a certain speed.
  • Am I fool for attempting this alone with my current skill-set?
  • In the meantime, I can't always change my speed to stop the wobble and have to drive through it for a minute or two. I can control the vehicle fine so I am in no danger of wrecking, but am I causing excess damage to my Jeep by doing so?
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The one part of your question that no one has answered yet is: no, you're not a fool for trying to hunt this down on your own. It's a tedious problem to solve, but not beyond the scope of a DIYer with some tools. There's nothing particularly tricky about anything you're working with, so it's unlikely that you'll be able to screw something up, so long as you're careful about basic, general practices. I.e. don't exceed proper torque, don't cross-thread, note the way it was before you took it apart... put it back that same way, etc. Super basic stuff like that, and you'll be just fine. – Matt Apr 15 at 20:41

Talking a look at the article some of the items you can check yourself, for example the ball joints. Other balancing and alignment actions require special equipment. I would suggesting taking that list and checking everything you are able to on your own first. Your Hayne's Manual should walk you through steps to check the suspension parts.

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It's difficult to determine the root cause of a death wobble from the behaviour alone, but there are some clues. They're just not fool proof.

If you find your death wobble is related to speed, and stops when you lower your speed (instead of having to come to a full stop), then it's probably an issue with tire balance or possibly wheel bearings.

If you find you have to completely stop the vehicle (or close to it) to stop the shaking, it's probably related to your steering, and most often it's the trackbar.

The issue, however, is that usually death wobble starts with one root cause, but through violent shaking causes damage to other components so you will likely find you have multiple issues compounding the problem.

Assuming your tires are balanced, and your steering aligned, I would check the rest in the following order for a TJ, start with the trackbar, wheel bearings, tie rod ends, control arms then your steering ball joints.

For a JK or JKU, the list would be different similar, but in a different order.

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I had a similar problem that was caused by a misaligned brake caliper. It took me long enough to track down that it warped the rotor which then wore out other things like the wheel bearing and ball joint. – Matt Apr 15 at 20:43

I own a 1987 Land Cruiser, the death wobble on these machine can come from a bad aligment, tie-rod ends that need replacement or the steering stabilizer. Basically something is now worn-out and loose.

But be aware, changing the stabilizer may just mask any underlying issue, so check everything else before replacing the stabilizer.

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Found a recent Land Cruiser thread talking about this: forum.ih8mud.com/60-series-wagons/… – Gabriel Mongeon Jul 5 '11 at 20:20

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