A relatively common problem for Jimnys is the “death wobble”, where an imbalance in the front axle causes the steering wheel to shake at a certain speed – in the JDMny’s case rather violently and at 50mph!
Whilst there are many possible causes behind the wobble (there’s an exhaustive list on the Big Jimny wiki) for the average Jimny I think replacing the kingpin bearings should be one of the first jobs on the list. Both my UK and now my JDM Jimny – two very average vehicles in terms of their everyday usage and level of modification – developed the death wobble and in both cases it was due to deteriorating kingpin bearings, even though the symptoms actually varied slightly across the two vehicles.
There’s an excellent guide to replacing the kingpin bearings on the Big Jimny wiki but I think it’s worth adding the following points:
- If you’re careful not to stretch the wiring it’s possible to remove the hub without removing the ABS sensor – or rather, without trying to remove the ABS sensor and inevitably shearing the bolt. In my case the sensor didn’t want to budge even without the bolt in place so it would’ve ended up being a lot of (unnecessary) work to remove it.
- You don’t have to split all the steering joints. On the (UK) offside leave the joint as it is and swing the hub outwards; on the (UK) nearside split one of the joints and swing the hub outwards on the other. Just have something to support the hub once it’s free – I used an old milk crate.
- If your Jimny isn’t used extensively off-road you might not find the water/grease/oil carnage shown in the Big Jimny how-to. In the case of the JDMny everything looked relatively clean and in order but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find worn bearings… or worse.
In the JDMny’s case both bottom bearing cups exhibited heavy wear – as you can see from the images both had cracked, one was heavily pitted, and one had actually broken apart in situ – and the bearings themselves were also quite heavily worn. Judging by the non-OEM markings (and a couple of shims in the top kingpins) I’d assume that this wasn’t the first time the bearings had been replaced – probably not that surprising as the vehicle gets ever closer to the big 200,000km milestone (kilometerstone?).