Man falling for his 1996 Jeep Cherokee, "Jo"

So I purchased a 1996 Jeep Cherokee to survive through graduate school in New Orleans. Since I bought the thing I have been falling for the poor thing and its been sucking my pocket book.

Anyway, since I bought it there has been on problem that has been bugging me and no mechanic can seem to fix it.

Anytime I drive above 60 mph I either get a continuous shudder through the steering and front end of the car or no shudder, but when I hit a bump it starts. I can stop the shuddering and prevent it by driving no faster than 55 mph. Recently I have noticed that when I am sitting at a park and I turn the wheel to the right or left I get a little squeaking noise. This noise is not really audible from the engine compartment, but from inside the jeep or with your head under the jeep near where the upper control arm connects to the body/chassis.

What is the problem? How serious is this issue? Can I drive Jo back to Chicagoland (approx 1000 miles) with a trailer in about 10 months or does Jo need to be retired to city driving only?

This is most likely a case of failure of the steering damper, which is fairly common with Jeeps as they age. This is not an expensive repair and you should definitely have it taken care of before you set out on that 1,000 mile highway trip.

I had the steering damper (previous owner put on wrong size of damper Jo is 4x4), end links, front and rear shocks, and track bar replaced…Next move is the tires because they have cupping because of something…my mechanic just says to replace them. I will replace them ASAP, but the steering shudder cannot be solely caused by that…otherwise the squeak while parked wouldn’t happen.

If your tires are cupping and you simply replace them w/o doing any repair work, the new tires will soon be ruined also.

Rather than relying on your present mechanic, I would suggest that you seek the best front-end shop in your area, and have them check the front end. As one example of what may be needed, badly worn ball joints can cause tire cupping, and worn ball joints also constitute a safety hazard.

Do a search for “death wobble”. That’s what folks call it because it can scare you to death when it first happens. You will find a wealth of information on Jeep forums on diagnosing and fixing the problem. Bascily, after 13 years, something is worn out in the front suspension, tires are out of balance, or tires are misaligned.

You may want to check about shipping your goods to Chicago. Amtrak runs a train from New Orleans to Chicago (its the old Illinois Central “City of New Orleans”). This may be less expensive than pouring money into the Jeep to make it road worthy.

I have had things hauled as a partial load by moving companies at very good rates. If you go coach, Amtrak is a good bargain.

Sounds like ball joints or other suspension/steering part. Don’t give up on it, get it fixed. It will be a lot cheaper than replacing the vehicle. Especially since you’re “attached” to it, you don’t want to just throw out a relationship like that, after all you two have been through. As the other poster suggested, find a good front end shop. They will find the worn culpret, change it, and you will have many happy motoring miles left between you two.