It seems there is a common misconception in the general offroad community of what exactly a steering stabilizer does. Many folks think it is the fixer of most problems from death wobble, to wandering steering and bump steer. This is completely incorrect. In fact, a well set-up steering and suspension setup is not even supposed to need a steering stabilizer. It just helps… a little.
What does a steering stabilizer do?
The primary purpose of a steering stabilizer or steering damper, is to do just that, dampen the steering. What this means, is that it adds friction to the movement of the steering from side to side, so that small bumps in the road causing tiny deflections in the wheels, do not so easily move up through the steering column and steering wheel to your arms, which then could cause you to quickly over-correct making it worse, and possibly causing a rocking or whip effect, and the effect becomes like a cycle getting worse and worse.
How does a steering stabilizer work?
A steering stabilizer works in much the same way as a shock absorber, it is usually a piston moving through a tube filled with oil, and the on the viscosity or thickness of the oil, and the size of the holes in the piston, will determine how fast or how slow it moves, so how much resistance to movement it has. In the case with steering, being a side-to-side movement as opposed to vehicle suspension which is an up-and-down movement, so the steering stabilizer is mounted somewhat horizontally to exercise it’s dampening effect on the steering movement of the front wheels.
Does a steering stabilizer fix death wobble?
Yes, you will encounter, as we often hear, that a steering damper does help with bump steer and steering- or death wobble, however, it only mimics the problem, by lessening the felt effects, but it does not fix the underlying cause of those problems. You still have to correct the castor angle in the case of bump steer or correct the play in the steering system or the axle mountings in the case of death wobble. If you do not, and there is for instance movement in one of your axle mounting points, that movement will continue, without you feeling it, opening up the hole even more, or worse, creating metal fatigue, possibly leading to a mounting point breaking later on. You DO NOT want your steering to fail when driving 75 mph down the highway.
Should you use a steering stabilizer on your Jeep?
Do we recommend having a steering damper or steering stabilizer? Yes, indeed we do, but if however you have any steering issues like bump steer or death wobble, it would be wise to remove your steering stabilizer whilst you find the cause of the problem, as not only will it help you find the cause easier and faster, but you will also save your steering stabilizer from getting worn out prematurely from the massive number of times it will get cycled and extra strain on it from that problem it is trying to compensate for.