Jeep suddenly vibrates wildly


1999 Jeep Cherokee Sport. WE will be driving down the road at highway speed and all of a sudden, out of the blue, the front end of the car will begin to vibrate wildly from side to side and up and down, making it VERY SCARY to drive. It will do this for about 10 seconds and then the car will be fine.

We took it to the repair shop and they could find nothing.

Can you help?


What you are experiencing is known as “death wobble” because it scares you to death. The typical causes for this are worn suspension components such as control arm bushings or the steering damper. Once the problem starts, it can be a bear to track down the actual cause.

Sometimes simply replacing the steering damper can seem to solve the problem (and in fact it might be the problem), but you should still check the steering linkage and control arm bushings.

Do a search for Cherokee and “death wobble” on the internet and you will find a wealth of information.


As I recall the searing dampers on those Jeeps were known for problems.


“Death Wobble” usually is aggravated by oversized tires and/or wheels, especially when accompanied by a body or suspension lift. As mentioned earlier, there is a wealth of information on the internet and, especially, in any of the Jeep forums. In many cases, a very careful alignment will reduce or eliminate the problem if you have corrected any underlying issues such as worn steering damper, loose bushings, etc. It can be controlled but tracking down the problem can be a bear.


Oversize tires aren’t very likely to be the problem. I’ve run 30x9.5 since the early 1990s. As long as a good quality lift kit was used, the steering may have a vague feel, but shouldn’t cause vibration.

Regardless, there are grease fittings on the front suspension and steering, that require regular attention. Not sure how many later models had, but there are quite a few on a 1991.

However, the only time I experienced the symptom described was when a tire was going bad (much like the infamous tread separation with some Firestone tires).

Good luck isolating the problem.

Alter Geek


I don’t consider 30 x 9.5 to be particularly oversize. I’m referring to 32’s and above. The greater mass can create problems unless very well balanced. Improperly installed lift kits can definitely add to the problem. I’ve seen Cherokees with 8" lifts and 38" tires with no problems.


Here’s a good link for “death wobble.” As mentioned by other posters, alignment, big tires, suspension problems are the usual cause. It’s a well-known phenomenon in the Jeep and offroad world. Can be difficult to pin down but you can fix it.


Sorry, here’s the link. Guess you can’t edit on the new boards.

By the way, the link in the first post in the above will direct you to information specific to a Cherokee.