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Shaking Jeep

I have a 98 Jeep Cherokee that has a nasty shimmy in the front end, mostly at about 50-60 mph. Within the past year I have replaced the tires and the shocks. Whaddya think?

Unfortunately, this sounds like the notorious Jeep Death Wobble that these cars are prone to after racking up a lot of miles.

If you have not already replaced the steering damper, that should be done.
However, many Jeep owners report having to also replace ball joints and tie rod ends in order to resolve this safety issue.

A local mechanic suggests the transfer case. Comments on that idea?

Personally, I doubt that a problem in the transfer case will cause a shimmy in the front end, but since he can examine the car and I can’t, I will defer to him.

Trackbar bushing. You’ll never detect it from looking at the front end components while having someone turning the wheel. It only requires a few millimeters to drive you nuts. I had it and went through all the usual suspects. Wheel balance, steering dampener …finally saw the body/frame movement when the wheel was turned. It’s an optical head game. You’re looking at the relationship of the components to the tires moving …but that’s not where the slop occurs.

It’s just a bolt through a metal sleeve surrounded by rubber. It eventually wears a slot in the sleeve.

There is no replacement bushing available from the OEM. A new track bar is $140+/- from the dealer. There are aftermarket bushings available, but removing the old one from the track bar is a work out. An air chisel can help. I wanted to use a torch and melt the thing out …but thought better of it.

Aftermarket bushings are about $10+ S&H.

Do the steering dampener first. You might get lucky.

No way. Check out jeepforum.com for lots of death wobble discussions.

I was trying to be diplomatic.
The well-known death wobble is related to worn-out front end components, but who am I to contradict a local mechanic who has examined the car?

I would still suggest beginning with the steering damper, but…

The steering dampener was replaced when I got new tires, a bit over a year ago, so I don’t think that’s my problem.

Then you need to go–part by part–through the front-end, examining ball joints, tie rod ends, and track bar bushings for wear. Some or all of these parts typically need to be replaced on “wobbly” Jeeps once they get into high odometer mileage territory.

Years ago when I had more time and less money, I did the bushings on my '90 XJ Limited, and even documented it here.
I don’t drive that one any more (it’s on permanent loan in the neighborhood), but as far as I know it’s holding up.
And now I might be doing it again on my '01 Sport… glad I took notes!
-G