Death Wobble & Steering Shimmy
The famous Death Wobble - what is it, what causes it, and how do you fix it???
Death Wobble is the uncontrollable shaking of the front end of a coil sprung vehicle, when this happens the vehicle has to be brought to a complete stop for it to go away. If you have ever experienced it you know it is like no other feeling in the world, it scares the life out of you. Death Wobble is not the vibration that many Jeep owners feel in the steering wheel. Steering shimmy is generally a slight vibration felt through the steering wheel caused by an unbalanced tire(s), a worn bushing, bad tie rod end, etc. This shimmy generally happens around 40 or 50 mph and goes away if you accelerate or decelerate. This is the first sneeze of cold season - meaning whatever is causing the shimmy can eventually lead to Death Wobble. Point being, do not ignore it.
If Death Wobble occurs be aware of your surroundings - do NOT jam on the brakes, the guy behind you isn't ready for it. There is nothing you can do to stop the wobble while in motion, slowly apply the brakes and move off to the shoulder. The steering wheel spins left to right very quickly and is hard to hold on to but the vehicle will remain in a straight line. Often there is a warning sign if you know what to look for, the steering wheel will start to rotate back and fourth and the vehicle shakes. Sometimes slowing down a little will settle it but in most cases it is to late and you only have a couple seconds to react.
Whether you have a shimmy or full on Death Wobble you are damaging more and more parts of your vehicle, the longer you let it go, the more it costs to repair. One bad bushing can bring on the problem but every other part of your front end is taking the abuse. This can happen to modified vehicles as well as bone stock Jeep's (and trucks) that are only driven to the grocery store.
So what causes Death Wobble? Lot's of things. Bad bushings, unevenly worn or unbalanced tires, bad ball joints, loose components; any part of the front end suspension/steering can be responsible.
How is it fixed? Throwing a new steering stabilizer on is not the answer. A steering stabilizer is there to help prevent the problem, it is not the cause of the problem. Putting a new one on may temporally stop the problem; but it will return as the stabilizer will quickly tire or blow out. Since there are many components that cause the problem it can be tough to diagnose. Often it is more then one problem, or the initial problem has caused damage to other components. Jeff Daniel's tech's are highly experienced in finding the cause and can usually figure it out within an hour. There are times that the first repair will not cure the problem but there is no way of knowing until you repair what is known to be bad and drive it.