Video: Death Wobble Caught On Camera

Death wobble in any vehicle is possibly one of the scariest things you could ever experience, especially in a vehicle with large tires and a modified suspension going 60 plus miles per hour. Whether you have experienced it first hand or not, the video above is jaw dropping. Most folks never see what the vehicle looks like from the outside during a heavy wobble and Rare Parts Incorporated decided to do something about that.

Based in Stockton, California, Rare Parts Inc. is a steering and suspension part manufacturer and distributor. They started business in 1981 with the goal to have every part available for every vehicle. They stock millions of parts and have components from Moog, Mcquay-Norris, TRW as well as components they build in their California location.

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The Jeep isn’t turning a corner, the tires are oscillating harshly back and forth while the driver tries to drive straight.

The above video is a multi-camera set up that shows how bad death wobble car get and how fast. Using a good size chunk of lumber, the Jeep suspension and steering is set off into a serious wobble that only stops when the vehicle slows down to a near stop.

There are many potential causes of a wobble. The three main culprits are bad suspension geometry, bad alignment and worn out components. Something as simple as a bad tie-rod end can get things moving to an extent. Bad alignment is an easy fix, align the front end and the problem goes away. Multiple failed components is usually fairly easy to diagnose, find the sloppy parts, replace them, align it again and it is handled.

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Rare Parts Inc figured the best way to catch death wobble on camera was to create it themselves in a controlled environment.

Bad geometry can be tougher. The drag link, the piece that bolts to the pitman arm and extends to the passenger side, needs to be on a relative plane when compared to the track bar, the piece that bolts to the frame on the driver side and the differential housing on the passenger side and centers the housing underneath the vehicle. Often times, these two cannot be on the exact same plane due to positioning and mounts, though they need to be close.

Bad or out of balance tires can cause a shake, usually only small in comparison to what is seen in the video. Lots of places say a bad steering stabilizer can cause death wobble but that is false. The stabilizer is only a bandage over some other underlying problem. A properly set up vehicle should be able to drive normal without a steering stabilizer. The stabilizer is there to smooth out road bumps for driver feel, not stop it from shaking.

The image above, though of a TJ Wrangler instead of a later model JK as in the video, highlights the various components of a straight axle Jeep. Image courtesy of Quadratec.

The image above, though of a TJ Wrangler instead of a later model JK as in the video, highlights the various components of a straight axle Jeep. Image courtesy of Quadratec.

Jeeps are under the microscope when it comes to death wobble. There are multiple reasons for this. Straight axle suspensions are inherently more prone to wobbles and shakes due to the design. A worn out component translates through the vehicle differently than an independent suspension. Jeeps also get used in moderate and extreme situations and climates far more often than other vehicles. Additionally, Jeeps get modified, heavily. There aren’t nearly as many people swapping suspensions out on their Honda or Toyota. Components get changed, suspension angles are modified and not all suspension systems are created equal.

If your Jeep is shaking or wobbling, it is time to get under it and inspect everything. As mentioned above, there are lots of reasons why a Jeep could be seemingly trying to kill you. If you aren’t savvy with what is going on under there, get a profession to help. Better safe than wobbly.

About the author

Jake Headlee

Jake's passion started at a young age wrenching on cars with his Dad. Obtaining that glorious driver's license sparked his obsession with grease and horsepower, and the rest is history. Soon, he was a general mechanic and suspension specialist, and currently designs and modifies products for the off-road industry. Jake enjoys rock crawling, desert racing and trail running, and writing in his spare time.
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