Coincidences in life happen. The key to navigating these coincidences is to now always assume the worst. I am in the process of testing a new set of gears in the JL. The usually reliable Jeep decided to start the early stages of death wobble right after the gear swap was completed. Many people would immediately try and point the finger at the shop who did the work. Those people would be wrong 90% of the time.
This is a story of not assuming the worst, putting a little time into diagnosing the issue, and approaching it with the right attitude.
What I could have done wrong.
I could have run back to the shop that did the work and ranted and raved about how they broke the Jeep. Considering the work that was done has very little to do with the typical causes of death wobble, using the “Karen” approach isn’t the right choice.
Another approach is to run to social media and bash the establishment that did the work. Hardly a positive thing to do considering A: I didn’t know what the issue actually was and B: I really like the shop I work with, and I know that would be completely unfair.
Both of these approaches seem to make people feel better, but don’t fix the issue. If this ever happens to you, I suggest calling the shop up and asking for help. Explain the situation and, often, they will help you diagnose what went wrong. If it really was their fault, every good shop will fix it.
What I actually did.
I tried to diagnose it myself as best I could. Troubleshooting death wobble is hard with one person. Trying to lay on the ground, manipulate the suspension, and see everything going on takes time. It’s been in the twenties outside and laying on the ground is not on my to-do list.
After chasing it for a few days I called Rick at RnR Auto and Off-Road to see if he could help. Conveniently I also needed to swap out the break-in gear oil from the gear swap, so we set a day to accomplish both and I drove it over.
Rick had already done a great job on the gear swap so we knocked out the oil change and started diagnosing the wobble. As expected, it was nothing that he had done; it wasn’t even a part that he worked on that failed. This is why you always work with your mechanic and don’t immediately blame them.
What I do have is a failed drag link tie rod. Specifically the end at the pitman arm. The joint moves up and down even though the bolt is torqued correctly, and everything else looks perfect. Check the quick video below to see what I mean.
The next step.
I am taking it to the dealer this week. The part is covered under warranty, and that’s the fastest way to get back on the road.
As soon as the Christmas holiday is over, I will change the draglink, track bar, and tie rod to a more robust setup. The factory parts are unbelievably weak.