Death wobble, and Jeep Wrangler, are almost interchangeable words out on the trails nowadays. Given the fact that hardly anybody, that off-roads with their Jeep Wrangler JK and JKU keep it standard, it is no wonder that factory components, are often not able to keep up with the added forces caused by bigger offset wheels, bigger wheels and tires and higher suspension geometry. Most people start with the lift and larger tires, where, they should actually first upgrade the crucial steering and driveline link components to handles these before hand. Let’s look at the most common causes for death wobble, wandering steering and bumpsteer.
Usually with larger wheels and tires, and rough terrain adding to the forces, we find that the factory ball joints, in the original tie rod ends and drag links often develop some play, and this can be a major cause of instability in the front steering knuckles which in turn could cause death wobble. To counter this, or prevent it from the start, we would recommend upgrading your tie rod ends and drag link joints, however, because once the wheeling bug starts to bite, we often find that tires get ever larger and obstacles even rougher, so it may be a good idea to just upgrade the whole tie rod and drag link, with heavier duty 1 ton units, such as these Teraflex units available on Amazon below:
Also often suffering under the forces of larger wheels and tires, and bigger offset wheels, are the component keeping the front wheels straight whilst allowing them to spin. These are both the knuckle ball joints on the axles, and the wheel bearings themselves. We find the most common of the two, and probably THE biggest cause of death wobble in Jeeps, are the ball joints. These factory units simply CANNOT stand up to the pressure off-roaders put on them. These again, are crucial links working hard, so we would again recommend you get only the best from the start, so that you know you are ready and covered no matter what ridiculous tire size you may later feel like, or how rough you take it off-road. We opted for the expensive, but worth it, Rare Parts ball joints as below, also available from Amazon. Although they may be slightly more expensive than competitors, they are the strongest by far, so save you from money by not having to replace them anytime soon again:
As simple as this sounds, it is also often a simple cause of death wobble. Because of the solid axle design of the Jeep JK suspension, the two front wheels is integrated with one another, so it one wheels’ balancing is out, it will transfer across the tie rod into the other wheel, often worsening the movement, and this over time, can prematurely wear out many other steering and suspension components because of the added strain on them. This in turn can develop into major play in components later on, which then could cause major death wobble.
The track-bars, and control arms are also often a cause for suspension play, which in turn could also be a cause of death wobble. The often neglected parts of suspension lifts, also need to be adjusted, or replaced if the suspension is lifted anywhere higher than 2 inches, just to get the axles and angles back to designed operating spec. Even without a suspension lift, these bushes in these parts also take quite a beating during suspension use and articulation, so just checking and replacing these bushes, when required can often be enough to tighten everything up again and stop or prevent death wobble
Images from Amazon