Vibrations on Jeep Wranglers are a common occurrence and can really leave you pulling your hair out from frustration if you cant find the cause. It’s also a bit tricky to self-diagnose since you need to be in motion, usually any speed between 10mph and 50mph, to recreate the symptoms. This article will cover most of the possible causes of vibrations and what you need to determine to properly diagnose each.
The most common cause for Jeep Wranglers to vibrate are improperly balanced tires. Other causes can be any of the following:
- Bad U-Joit
- Bad Driveshaft
- Control Arm Bushings
- Brake calipers
In order to properly diagnose the problem, you need to first determine what has changed since the vibrations occurred. Perhaps you purchased a used Wrangler not too long ago and only recently noticed the vibrations. Have you upgraded to bigger tires recently? Have you done any suspension modifications or repair work on your drivetrain components? Have you recently driven on a very badly corrugated dirt road?
These all seem like unrelated issues, however, any one of the above mentioned scenarios can cause the vibrations to “suddenly” occur, without you doing anything out of the ordinary.
Once you’ve identified or narrowed down what the possible changes are, we next need to determine under which circumstances the vibrations occur.
Examples of these are:
|1||Occurs at 55-60mph|
|2||Fades away once you accelerate over 60-70mph|
|3||Occurs from speeds as low as 10mph|
|4||Only when you let off the gas pedal|
|5||Only under load|
|6||Only occurs when you brake|
Many of these issues are Dynamic balance related. That is because Dynamic Balance related issues always tend to manifest themselves around speeds of 55-60mph, then slowly fade away.
We’ve all heard of the infamous Jeep Wrangler “Death Wobble” and a vibration should not be confused with this phenomenon since the dreaded death wobble will not stop its violent shaking until you nearly bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
Let’s look at the possible causes of vibrations in more detail.
Jeep Wrangler Vibration at 60 mph
So once we’ve determined when the vibrations happen and under which circumstances, we can narrow it down to specific related components. Let’s start with the most common cause of annoying vibrations on your wrangler. The tires.
In 90% of the cases owners report vibrations it can be put down to something as “simple” as tires not being balanced properly. This is because the “run-of-the-mill”, so called, commercial tire shops, doesn’t specialize in balancing oversized tires. They don’t always have the experience or proper expertise to do so properly for big, heavy off-road tires commonly found on our 4 wheel drives.
I personally have experienced this at least twice. I recently fitted a set of 33” and low and behold after spending a good few hours waiting, the tires weren’t balanced properly. Unfortunately there wasn’t a long enough road close by where I could get up to speed to test if everything was ok, so I took it around the block and everything appeared A-OK. I mean, I trusted the guys, but it was only a few days later once I hit the freeway that I felt the heavy vibrations.
See most of these tire shops are used to balancing smaller tires found on the majority of passenger vehicles. The minute they come across a 33” or bigger AT or muddy, it requires a different level of patience and skill. Many of these shops, unfortunately don’t have that level of expertise. Be warned, they’ll quickly take your money even though the job isn’t perfect.
You could just be missing some tire balancing beads. The only balancing product on the market proven to increase fuel economy!
Don’t make the same mistake as me, take the time and find a long enough stretch of road to properly test the balancing of speeds to 60mph and over before you settle your bill.
How do we know it’s not the dreaded death wobble?
The Death wobble doesn’t stop until you do!
Well, simply because, If you were genuinely experiencing the infamous “death wobble”, you would not be able to accelerate through it and make it disappear. That is another phenomenon all together which involves quite a few suspension components acting up simultaneously. The Death wobble doesn’t stop until you do!
Many people tend to overlook the ‘unbalanced wheel’ answer as the solution, since you often hear owners say, well, the wheels where recently balanced, or the wheels where balanced twice this month, so it can’t be that. Truth is sometimes it takes up to 3 or 4 attempts before regular tire shops can get it 100% perfect. You might even have to make use of another tire shop with better expertise and experience to get the job done right.
Let’s look at some other related causes of vibrations.
Let’s say the vibration occurred for the first time at 50mph. later it became more obvious at lower speeds, until at low speeds of even 10 or 5mph the vibration is noticeable, then you might have something as simple as a loose wheel. The gradual progression is sign something is getting worse the more you drive it.
Wouldn’t cost you a dime to take a wheel brace and check out all your wheel lugs and make sure they are all 100% tight. A wobble as low speeds of 10mph or less is not really dynamic balance related.
If you have a decent spare wheel, you could rotate each tire to see if the problem is in fact an unbalanced tire or simply a loose wheel. Will probably take you the better part of a Saturday morning, however, it won’t cost you a cent, and you can safely rule the wheel balancing and loose lug theory out. While you’re at it, check each tire for flat spots.
Another cause for vibrations is a badly worn u-joint. You won’t have to physically remove the part to inspect, since all it takes is a quick crawl underneath to check. The u-joint jackets should be properly sealed with no signs of rust water leaks or grease leaks. They are cross-shaped with caps on each end and some have a grease able nipple. A quick eye-balling will determine their condition. Don’t forget to check the two on the front wheels too.
U-joints that feel wiggly or have excessive play in them should be replaced ASAP. That play in your drivetrain is heavily exaggerated once that driveshaft is spinning at thousands of rpm’s. If you feeling vibrations near your transmission, thoroughly inspect the u-joint closer to the transfer case for play. A wobbling gear shifter, that vibrates in sync with your speed, is also a dead give-away the problem is directly related to a component close by.
When replacing U-Joints, insist on genuine parts only. The recommended U-joint for Wranglers are the Spicer 5-760x.
Bad Drive Shaft
A bad driveshaft can also cause weird vibrations under acceleration. If the vibration is only noticeable when you apply the gas, is a good indicator that the problem lays in your drivetrain.
Below are common symptoms of a bad drive-shaft
- Vibrations from under the vehicle
- shaking coming from underneath
- Loud clunking noises under load
- Car shudders upon acceleration. …
- Loud Squeaking noise under load
- Clicking or knocking noises when accelerating
Bad Control Arm Bushings
A badly worn out control arm bushing is another culprit that causes vibrations. You can usually give it a quick eye-ball to determine their condition. Any signs of cracking and wear are a sign they need replacement ASAP.
BAD Ball Joint
If your Wrangler has anything over 100,000 miles on the ODO, it’s probably time to replace your ball-joints anyway.
Signs of a failing ball-joint include:
- Clunking metal-on-metal noises emitting from the front suspension.
- Vibration from the front
- Wandering or loose steering to the left or right.
A worn Rotor is one that is not completely flat and does not make flush contact with the brake pads. It can become badly worn from old age or damaged easily if they are not EO or cheaper versions.
If you do frequent river-crossings where the rotors are fully submerged in cold water, this can cause a cheap brake pad to breakdown under the extreme hot-to-cold and back to-hot conditions, leaving deposits on the rotor surface. The pad breakdown causes uneven surface friction and warping over time. A badly warped brake rotor causes mild to severe vibrations which can be felt in the steering wheel when the brakes are applied. Any vibrations felt only while braking can most likely be accounted to your worn brake Rotor issue.
Other Contributors to Vibrations
- Pinion Angle
- Track bar mounts
- Loose track bar bolts
As mentioned from the outset, you need to determine when the vibrations are most noticeable:
- High speed
- Low speed
- Between a certain speed range
- Are the vibrations mild or violent
- Does slowing down decrease the vibration
- Does speeding up ease the vibrations
When diagnosing the source for the vibration, you need to be very specific with the symptoms. It might be a good exercise to take the vehicle for a quick drive to document when and where the symptoms are most obvious. If you can’t seem to trouble-shoot on your own, rather take it to a professional for a diagnosis.