Big tires? Check. Big lift kit? Check. Jeep Death Wobble? That's a Double Check Houston. We're going EVA to check the track bar....
Jeep Death Wobble Suspension Woes
There's a whole family of parts that can attribute and cause a Death Wobble issue. I don't mean "family" like say, the Brady's. I mean like the Addams Family when Gomez causes a train wreck. But today, we're going to take a quick look and single out one part in particular, one possible component of a wobble: the Jeep Track Bar
. First, let's get familiar with what a Track Bar is. Below is an example for a Jeep Wrangler JK. The pictured one is by JKS (Part # JKS-OGS121
For the most part, it's just a steel bar. They're relatively straight, but have some mild bends in them to route around various chassis and engine components. Each is shaped a little different, depending on the vehicle. The Track Bar, depending on the kind of vehicle it's on, can be in the front or rear. It's usually in front of the front wheels, or behind the rear axle. The Track Bar runs across the frame / chassis, from side to side. (whether it's in the front or the rear).
What Does a Jeep Track Bar Do? The Track Bar keeps the suspension, mainly the front / rear axles, from moving or shifting side to side
In the old days, when leaf springs were the suspension of choice, the leaf springs, which are bolted to a solid axle, could keep the axle and suspension from moving in a sideways motion (or at least, very little). Many of those older vehicles didn't even use Track Bars. Once coil springs became more common, you needed something that could give slightly, but still keep the axle / suspension from shifting side to side. Thus, a Track Bar concept was born. Or, if you were into racing, it would also be known as a "panhard" bar. (that's not random. It was "invented" by the Panhard car company of France, which was founded in 1891). While the Track Bar keeps the suspension from moving from side to side, it doesn't prevent the suspension from doing what it needs to do: travel up and down (within the limits of the vehicle). At the end of the Track Bar are bushings. These allow bolts to go through them for mounting. Traditionally there's a bushing located there to allow some flex. Some times they are made of rubber, sometimes urethane.
How Does the Track Bare Affect a Jeep Wobble?
The Track Bar is a common cause on a Death Wobble for several reasons. Usually the bushings are shot, broke, or missing. This allows for a lot of slack, which allows the very sideways movement you can't have on the suspension. If you trail a lot, bending the Track Bar can cause a problem as well. The bar has to be a specific length to work properly on a vehicle, and there's a lot of engineering involved in choosing the right length. Bending the bar throws that off. The brackets where the Track Bar is mounted, or attached to the fame or suspension, can be damaged, broken, cracked, fatigued, and have any number of reasons that will cause them to fail. Inspecting the Track Bar and the surrounding components is the best way, visually, to see if there are any issues.
If you lifted your Jeep, consider using stronger Track Bars or ones that are adjustable. You can find them for Jeep JK
, both TJ and Unlimited
as well as Jeep CJ7, CJ8 and CJ5
. There are also universal fitments for Jeep Cherokee
. Grand Cherokee Track Bars are available for WK
. The adjustable bars allow you to make them just little bit longer when it's needed to fit your Jeep mods. Most Jeeps, from Cherokees to Wranglers, have a Track Bar. Even mini-vans, like a Dodge Caravan, will have a rear Track Bar. They're pretty common. So if you do have a wobble, a vibration, a Shake N Bake kinda Jeep ride, it might be time to pop the hatch and get underneath your Jeep to check out the Track Bar.