Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle – Death Wobble in jeeps
Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee Death Rattle Or Death Wobble
Diagnosing and fixing the jeep death rattle or death wobble properly
The death rattle or death wobble in jeep wranglers and jeep Cherokees is legendary. Its called the death rattle or death wobble for two reasons.
The first part of the name death rattle means exactly what it says. If it is not repaired it can kill you.
Secondly , the word rattle simply mean that’s the steering wheel shakes , vibrates , and “rattles” in the hands and can in fact rip the steering wheel right out of your hands and cause your jeep wrangler or jeep Cherokee to roll over , flip , and kill you.
And we certainly don’t want that ow do we.
Jeep Death Rattle – Proper Diagnosis
Most people improperly misdiagnose the actually cause of the jeep death rattle thus causing wasted time , wasted money , and frustration.
Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups and it’s no different in the case of the jeep death rattle , or death wobble.
The actually cause of the death wobble in your jeep is the fact that a steering or suspension part in the front is worn , and some rare cases , an severe front end alignment problem or badly worn tires can cause the same death rattle as a worn part.
How To Properly Diagnose A Jeep Wrangler or Jeep Cherokee Death Rattle
To save wasted time and money you must properly diagnose the cause of the jeep wrangler and keep Cherokee death rattle.
The main causes of the jeep death rattle are usually the same , but not always so lets discuss what to check first.
Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle / Death Wobble Repair Step #1
Rule Out Worn Or Imporperly Balanced Tires First
Tires that are worn on your jeep can sometimes cause the jeep death rattle , either get down on your knees or walk about ten feet away from the front of your jeep and look at the tire tread and pay specific attention to the inner and outer edges , a little wear on either side is normal but of its severely worn on the inner or outer edges, this indicates that you have worn suspension components , the alignment itself is out of specs , the tires are improperly inflated , or all of the above.
But even if the tires a little worn , don’t assume anything , at this point just make sure the tires are properly inflated and lets move on to the next step. If you don’t know the recommended tire pressure , look on the side wall of the tire itself , it will be in raised black lettering somewhere around the bead of the tire right next to the rim.
Also inspect rims around the tire beads to make sure there isn’t a clean spot where a wheel weight may have been knocked off while parking or have fallen off because of age , if in doubt about your wheel balance , have it checked at a shop , 9 times out of ten , if your wheels are out of balance , the vehicle will shake at a certain speed and then clear up when you either increase speed or decelerate the vehicle.
Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle / Death Wobble Repair Step #2
Rule out steering column and linkage issues
Sit behind the steering wheel with the key in the ignition but do not turn the key or unlock the steering.
Place your hands at 12 o’clock and six o’clock on the wheel and gently rock it back and forth away and towards you , not by turning the wheel just push and pull towards and away from your body. Now put your hands at he 3 o’clock and the 9 o’clock positions and do the same thing.
There should only be a slight amount of play or give. If it moves noticeably more than jut a little bit , the steering column could have a bearing or bushing issue. If in doubt , have it checked by a competent mechanic.
If there is only slight play , this is normal , move on to the next step.
Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle / Death Wobble Repair Step #3
Rule Out Steering Column and Steering Linkage
While still seated in the drivers seat , place your foot on the brake firmly and attempt rock the steering wheel back and forth quickly about an inch in either direction.
You should have no more than a slight bit of play or looseness before you you feel tension on the wheel. If you don’t feel tension almost immediately on the steering wheel when attempting to turn it , grab a buddy to take your place behind the steering wheel.
Pop the hood and move it all the way back and let it rest against the windshield.
Along the firewall on the drivers side you will see the the steering column exiting the interior and it will terminate in a universal joint that leads to the steering box.
Have your friend or help place their foot on the brake and repeat the procedure of rocking the steering wheel back and forth about an inch rapidly from left to right.
Observe the end of the column and also the universal joint , there should not be any slop in the joint or any movement of the base of the steering column.
If there is movement in the universal joint , replace it , if the base of the steering column is wobbly , the bottom bearings in the column may be bad and the column will need replaced. Both of the above mentioned issues can and will cause a wrangler death rattle.
In there is no excessive play or slop in these two areas , move on to the next step.
Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle / Death Wobble Repair Step #4
Rule Out Ball Joints , Tie Rod Ends , and Wheel Bearings
Grab a floor jack , place it under the axle and jack up the vehicle and place jack stands under the axle on each side, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GO UNDER ANY VEHICLE USING A JACK ALONE WITHOUT JACK STANDS IT CAN AND WILL KILL YOU IF YOUR NOT CAREFUL.
If you do not have access to jack stands , simply jack up one side at a time but DO NOT go under the vehicle for and reason.
Have you helper put his foot on the brake (this rules out wheel bearing slop), Grab the tire at 3 and 9 o’clock and attempt to rock it quickly back and forth, there should be very minimal or zero play or slop .
If you find there is noticeable play , inspect the outer tie rod end and make sure it isn’t worn. If it is replace it.
With your helpers foot still on the brake , place your hands at 6 and 12 o’clock. attempt to rock the tire in and out , you should feel no slop or play in it whatsoever. If you do, the ball joints are bad and will need replaced.
Have your helper take his foot off of the brake , now do the same rocking motion with your hands in the same position. If you feel excessive slop, either the wheel bearings are bad or they need adjusted to proper preload depending on the year of your wrangler. ‘Repeat this procedure for the passenger side of the jeep.
If no problems are found , move on to the next step.
Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle / Death Wobble Repair Step #5
Rule Out The Steering Box , Pittman Arm, And Drag Link
The next step in properly diagnosing and repairing the jeep wrangler death rattle is to rule the steering box and the Pittman arm.
With a friend sitting in the jeep and the steering unlocked with the ignition key, look directly at the bottom of the steering box and the Pittman arm.
While looking at the steering box and Pittman arm , have your helper rapidly rock the wheel quickly back and forth two inches each way while observing the Pittman arm and steering box.
There should be no visible slop at the Pittman arm where it joins the steering box , If there is visible play , either the steering box bearings are worn or the Pittman arm itself is worn on the steering box shaft (This is very rare).
If you find slop , address the steering box of worn Pittman arm.
If there is no slop , continue looking at the Pittman arm but this time where it connects to the ball joint of the drag link. The drag link is a very large steel bar with a ball joint on one end and a threaded collar on the other end that transfers steering box movement to the tie rod ends to turn the wheels.
It is joined to the Pittman arm via a ball joint and a threaded stud and castle nut the goes through the Pittman arm.
Have your helper repeat the rocking procedure and observe the ball joint at the Pittman arm, again you should see not visible play or slop. If you do , replace the drag link , it is also possible to pump it full of grease at the grease fitting to temporarily take up the slop and see if the problem improves.
Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle / Death Wobble Repair Step #6
The Final Steps In Diagnosing And Repairing A Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle
The final steps will involve the most likely parts causing the death rattle, but it is much better to make a proper diagnosis by ruling out the above mentioned parts than to spend time and money repairing something that doesn’t need replaced.
Checking The Jeep Wrangler Track Bar For Wear
There is a big steel bar located un the front of your Jeep Wrangler That has a ball joint on the drivers side , and a heavy neoprene rubber bushing and washer on the other end.
It is called a track bar because it basically locates the front steering and suspension components and insures the jeep “tracks” properly going down the road.
If either the ball joint or the bushing are worn , it will cause the dreaded Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle.
Have your helper perform the rocking motion on the steering wheel and observe the track bar ball joint on the drivers side of the vehicle, if it has visible slop , play , or movement , it must be replaced.
If the ball joint end does not have slop or play , observe the bushing end to the passengers side axle and have your helper repeat the rocking motion. If you see slop , replace the track bar.
The last item we need to check is the steering stabilizer. This is basically a horizontal shock absorber bolted the the drag link which stabilizes the steering while going over bumps and pot holes, It prevents the steering wheel from being ripped out of your hands and also prevents the jeep wrangler death rattle.
This CANNOT be checked with the rocking method mentioned above , the easiest way to check it is to simply remove the not for the stud holding it on , and test the shock by hand by pushing it into the cylinder. If there isn’t significant force needed to push the shock piston in or you see leaking fluid or noticeable side to side play , it must be replaced.
Jeep Wrangler Death Rattle Conclusion
Checking all of the above mentioned components in the proper order will not only insure that you make the proper diagnosis , but also that you do not waste valuable time and money replacing parts that do not need to be replaced.
The jeep wrangler death rattle is serious business , especially if you do a lot of highway or high speed driving. If you experience the jeep wrangler death rattle , make sure to have it repaired as soon as possible and always drive at slower speeds and avoid pot holes and bumps until you have the death rattle fixed.
It’s called the jeep wrangler death rattle for a reason, if it’s not repaired properly , it can kill you.
Don’t let that happen.