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Mysterious "death wabble"

I have a 1996 Jeep Cherokee, which I thought was a great deal when I bought it but realized that was a lie. Despite a clean CarFax report, I have spent about $500/month on maintenance for this jeep for the past 18 months.



Most recently a front caliper stuck and I had the calipers, rotors, pads, and hoses replaced. During the same repair I had the rear springs replaced as they were sagging severely. Since I got the Jeep back, a rhythmic “whop” noise peaks at 35 mph. The noise is absent below 20 and inaudible over 45. When you reach 60-65 mph, the Jeep steering begins to shake. If you slow below 60 it disappears.



To add to the story, this shaking steering has been present since I bought the Jeep. I have had the all the shocks replaced, the track bar, the end links to the stabilizer bar, the clutch (probably not related), and the entire AC system (not related). After having the front tires replaced and the track bar replaced, I did not have the wabble anymore. Therefore the reappearance of this wabble is very disconcerting.



During the last repair, I negotiated having my Jeep “looked over” as a part of my repair. The mechanic stated that I need to replace the front shocks (does he mean spring?) and front/rear differential work, in addition to replacing a number of gaskets.



What is causing this “death wabble?”



NOTE: This Jeep does not have “shocks” it has coil springs and shock absorbers (front) and leaf springs and shock absorbers (rear).

The track bar is the most common cause of the death wobble, but other worn components can cause it too. I’m not sure this is what you are experiencing, though. Your symptoms sound more like a wheel out of balance or a defective tire. The death wobble normally starts by hitting a bump at speed, is described as being violent, heart-stopping, and pants-wetting, and is often severe enough to cause an accident. It can be stopped, but usually requires slowing down to below 30mph to get it to stop. I would have the new tires rechecked for a defect, balance issue, or possibly bent rim.

I would get a second opinion from the mechanic who suggested you need your front shocks replaced. “Shocks” is just an abbreviated way of saying “shock absorbers.” I think you are thinking of struts, which is a shock absorber designed to hold the coil spring over it, along with a mount and, in some cases, a bearing plate. They are most frequently seen on modern passenger cars.

+1 to mark’s comments.

Additionally, you should have the steering damper replaced.
While there are many front-end components that contribute to the classic Jeep Death Wobble, I don’t see the steering damper mentioned as one of the parts that was replaced, and the steering damper is one of the parts normally involved in this problem.

Just want to note that a clean Carfax does not replace a good mechanic’s inspection at purchase time. Perhaps most of the issues you are dealing with could have been spotted at pre-purchase time, and used as a negotiation tool to get the price down and the car fixed before purchase.

Unfortunately Jeeps come with a high maintenance cost, and you are experiencing that.

Jayhawkroy is correct.
From many posts in this forum, it appears that a lot of people put a lot of trust in these Carfax reports, only to find that the vehicle with the “clean” report is not so “clean”.

From information that was never reported, to information that was mis-reported, to bizarre errors, it has become obvious to me that Carfax reports cannot be relied upon.

If a car dealer is willing to provide one free of charge, use that report as ONE tool to evaluate the condition of the vehicle. Prospective buyers need to exercise normal due diligence by having the vehicle in question examined by a mechanic of their own choosing. And, even with a mechanical inspection, I would not buy a used vehicle unless I also had access to its maintenance records.

I bet you will never buy a 12 year old jeep again…

The only thing a carfax report will tell you is if the title has been branded salvage or rebuilt or if the vehicle has been taken to a body shop that reports to carfax. Not terribly useful. Don’t rely too heavily on them, or the “manufacturer certified” used car deals either. Those are no better than any other car.