If you venture off-road enough eventually you are going to break something. Most Jeepers see this as an opportunity to upgrade, mainly because we are optimistic people. In my case, the Big Run a couple of weeks ago took its toll on my stock steering stabilizer. The shock’s rod bent and the busted case required its immediate removal. I drove the JK without a stabilizer for about a week.
On two different occasions bump steer turned into a rather unwieldly death wobble. This isn’t normal. A steering stabilizer is a nice to have, not a need to have. My stock stabilizer must have masked the issue. After rotating my tires recently I noticed a slight drift to the right while driving down flat straight roads. I had ignored the issues and blamed the wind but maybe it’s not the wind’s fault after all. Death wobble is a frightening thing at 50 mph and freaks out your passengers and surrounding traffic. The violent shake rocks the Jeep, jolts the passengers and tilts the front axle up and down wildly. This is something to be dealt with as soon as possible. A quick Google search will show hundreds of threads on Jeep forums offering advice on how to solve the issue. I had a pretty good idea mine was alignment related. So, I called the Jeep dealership and scheduled a front end alignment. As suspected, the toe and castor were off. Not by much but enough to induce the bump steer and threaten death wobble.
A new lift is in my future, so a fancy upgrade doesn’t make a lot of sense. Mopar wanted $140+ for a shock that didn’t take much of a beating. My local auto parts store didn’t have any in stock and wanted $80 for a similar crap unit. I found a heavy-duty Monroe shock for $40 on Rockauto.com and placed my order. It seemed like a beefed up version of the stock setup. While this method wasn’t fast it allowed me to test the new alignment and vet any further issues. The reinstall was fairly straight forward. Just bolt it back in place. I used a bit of red thread locker to insist the nut stay where I put it. After a week without a stabilizer there is a noticeable difference in handling. Without the dampener it felt like my old TJ. Every bump, crack and crevice in the road was translated through the steering wheel. In some ways it felt more responsive around smooth corners but the way the Jeep wandered down the road and was bullied by wind was a fair reminder that it was missing. Personally, I prefer the ride/drive with the new dampener.