Help-My Jeep Moves when I hit a bump!

Okay so I have a 2004 Jeep Wrangler Sports Unlimited cloth top-extended version. When I’m driving and hit a bump in the road my Jeep seems to move, or shimmy, or slide-it’s very scary-and it does this in the winter on the snow and ice too-making it dangerous. What do you think it could be?

Your struts are probably shot. It can be dangerous, have someone take a look at it.


Thank you Techniker.

Do you know if struts are expensive to have fixed? I don’t have a mechanic and was going to take my Jeep to “Brakes Plus”-just because they SAY they will diagnose for free-as opposed to the screwed up dealer who charges $100.00 to look at it. Also, I’ve been researching that it could might be the tire rod? I’m not sure?

Thanks again.

Something we need to know too. Has this Jeep been raised and/or larger tires installed.

Think about a 215lb man (that’s me!) walking on stilts, higher center of gravity and a little wobbly.

I’m NOT shooting down the struts or suspension components, just trying to see maybe something simpler.

God Bless

They’re not terribly expensive. This is not a plug for Sears, nor is it even a recommendation, but Sears currently has an offer for free installation after the purchase of certain components. Other shops might have a similar offer.

JPKansas makes a good point. If you have the time, I would go to Brakes Plus and have them take a look. Then I would find a free brake evaluation service coupon for Sears and have them take a look (I believe they look at struts as part of the inspection, but I could be wrong). If they give you the same answer, it’s probably a safe bet. Be careful though, the reason these places offer these services is so they can sell you something.

Hope everything checks out,

Well thank you both…and you know JP#3-I think you might just have something there, I do get what you are saying. This is my first Jeep-and to my knowledge, it has not been raised…but I did buy it used. I will also say that it does get very windy here and I just feel like my Jeep’s cloth top is so large, it is extended-and I mean the dang thing looks like a big “buggy”. I’ve just always thought that SUV’s are more succeptable to the center of gravity thing-and with this Jeep’s huge cloth top I feel like sometimes it;s like a parachute-where seriously I feel like the whole thing rocks on the highway in the wind. I feel like when they made this thing-they didn’t make it right-I feel like it’s not enjineered correctly? Maybe I should call the headquarters for Jeep and find out about any recalls, or accidents this thing has had? I don’t know?

Have the Jeep checked out for suspension problems. That said; Jeeps have very unsophisticated solid axle set ups on the front and rear. They are made to be rugged “off road” vehicles and just aren’t very good on the highway no matter what you do.

Some roads have bad expansion joints where sections of road come together. A bad joint can literally raise up and the effect is to throw vehicles up in the air. This “unweights” the car for an instant. With solid axles and heavy springs this effect can be much worse in a Jeep than a sedan with independant suspension on all four wheels. The only remedy might be to slow down. Jeeps are really not good cars for going much over 55 mph.

Michelle, Have You Ever Replaced Your Jeep’s Steering Damper ? Jeep Wranglers Rely On A “Fifth Shock Absorber” (For The Steering) To Keep The Inherent Vehicle Shimmy Under Control.

There is a revised (improved part) damper from Chrysler, part # 52088959AB that should fit 1997 - 2006 Wranglers, but check with your Jeep dealer to be sure.

If you’ve not replaced the damper in recent history then it is probably a good precaution. I’d even consider new shock absorbers, too. Chrysler also recommends for owners to check tire dynamic balance and to check for loose steering and suspension parts first.

To those posting advice aboout replacing struts : Do 2004 Wranglers even have struts ?
I thought they used coil springs and independent shock absorbers up front.

Don’t keep driving the vehicle in this condition. How many miles on this Wrangler ?


Just did a part search. They have shock absorbers/strut assembly:

Techniker Do You Even Know What Struts Are ? This Wrangler Does Not Have Struts, Neither Front, Nor Rear !

As stated earlier it’s got coil springs and separate shock absorbers. That link you posted shows the shock absorbers, not struts. Take a look at the suspension.


The 2004 Wrangler has simple shocks attached to the frame and solid axles. The front ends are the same from 1997-(at least) 2005 (but I think 2006) Dana 30 (modified D30 with D44 aspects for Rubicons).

If you’re describing a “death wobble”, there are only a couple of sources. The steering dampener is one. The track bar bushing is the other. The track bar bushing is the absolute hardest to detect. It orients the frame to the axles. It will show no slop in the front end and only require a few mm of looseness to be really apparent while moving (hitting bumps, etc.)

It’s hard to see due to most an optical effect of looking for slop at a given joint while someone turns the wheel slightly back and forth. The track bar runs from the driver side frame to the passenger side axle housing near the spring perch. It’s a bolt through a steel sleeved rubber bushing. Only serviceable as a whole unit from the dealer, but after market bushings are available.

BEYOND that, alignment can be RADICALLY out. This is limited to toe in:out for the most part. Once airborne, the wheels would tend to take a bit of a slide until they were on solid ground again. You can feel it most while turning on loose traction surfaces. This will happen to some degree anyway since the steering geometry isn’t as good as the parallelogram rack and pinion type. At extremes (near lock) one tire will slip/drag, but if the alignment is out, this will be MUCH MORE apparent and with an earlier onset.

I own 2 TJ’s and my son owns a XJ with the same front end. Been there and done that will most of this stuff.

Gary, Thanks For The Expertise. That’s What Was Needed. We Needed A Jeep Person.

As I advised earlier, Michelle should take this to a mechanic who is “fluent” in Jeep as you are. Sounds like none of your suggestions are really expensive. Maybe Michelle should get a wheel balance, alignment, steering damper, and in the process (a preliminary check is part of a good alignment) have the steering / suspension components checked, paying particular attention to the track bar bushing you referred to.

None of this sounds extremely expensive unless bad tires or suspension / steering parts are discovered, but it’s got to happen.

Michelle should get that new jeep feeling after having it squared away.



Michelle, I’d Find A “Jeep Mechanic” Who Appreciates And Understands Wranglers. As You Can See By Gary’s (geeaea) Response They Have Idiosyncrasies (As Do Most Car Makes / Models).

You’ll know if you’ve found a good place if the mechanic first mentions the possibilities discussed by Gary when you tell him what you’ve told us and also if there are several Jeeps parked inside and outside, that’s a good sign.


Your Jeep does not have struts, it has shocks absorbers. Check the suspension bushing and the steering stabilizer.

Your going to a chain store instead of a “screwed up dealer”. What do you mean by that? Are they screwed up because they charge $100 to diagnosis this? If so they are not screwed up but grossly overpriced.

Don’t think for a minute that chains like Brake Plus/Car X/ Midas/ Mienike/ Suspensions R Us can do a better job than a dealer on a regular basis. Yes, dealers do mess up but typically they do a good job.

Do you realize the typical training session for a chain is a sales rep coming in with soda, pizza and a talk for 45 minutes (or at least thats the way it used to be)?

If you are handy with a wrench you can change all 5 by yourself.

Ah yes, a man who uses bold caps on a forum.

Struts combine shock absorption and oblique load bearing.

I don’t know if Jeeps have struts or separate coil springs/shocks. I tend to stay away from vehicles with disposable transmissions, engines, and every other part. As has been said repeatedly, take it to someone who knows Jeeps. The goal was merely to point out a suspension problem.

My vote would be for the steering dampener. They’re essentially a mini-shock absorber, take a whale of a beating anyway, and they’re a known, common problem.

All one has to do is disconnect one end and operate it by hand. If it moves freely or has free spots in it then it’s bad. It’s also an easy cheap fix.

The older VW Beetles also used steering dampeners (the Super Beetles did) and suffered the same symptom when the dampener went bad.

The description of the problem actually sounds like the way a Wrangler normally rides. When they hit a bump in the road, they do sort of feel like they move sideways a little bit. It can be unsettling if you are not used to it. If it were the death wobble, the description of the problem would probably be a little more colorful. After all, the OP did mention this is her first Jeep. I would still recommend at least replacing the steering damper and having the track bar checked for wear. New shocks aren’t a bad idea either. The death wobble is not fun to deal with and will often result in a large dry cleaning bill, if you manage to correct it without totaling the vehicle and killing yourself.