By Gail Marsh
The first time it happened we felt sure we were going to die. No kidding! Our Ford F-350 dually truck was humming down the road when, without warning, the front end began shaking. The front tires felt like they were jumping! The violent shaking of the front end matched the crazy, uncontrollable movement of the steering wheel. It jumped from right to left and back and forth so fast that I don’t know how my husband held on!
What. Just. Happened?!
Could it be a blown tire? Did we hit something in the road? My husband let up on the gas immediately and aimed the truck toward the shoulder. By the time the truck came to a complete stop, the shaking had subsided. (Well, the truck stopped shaking. We surely didn’t!) Taking stock of the situation, we saw no visible outside damage. Inside, a spilled water bottle was the only sign that something really happened. At the time the shaking began my husband was traveling 60 mph (the posted speed limit). Thankfully, we were not towing our RV at the time!
We called and explained the situation to our mechanic. He patiently listened to our adrenaline-fueled story. Since we were close to his shop, we gingerly made our way there, taking side streets instead of the highway. Our mechanic checked the truck thoroughly, shook his head, and said two words: “Death wobble.”
As it turns out, some Ford trucks are notorious for this phenomenon appropriately named “death wobble.” (It should be noted that some Jeep Wrangler owners have also had this happen.) Ford’s F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks, manufactured in the years 2005 – 2019, all have the potential for the heart-stopping “death wobble.”
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After checking online, we learned that the “death wobble” phenomenon has happened to a lot of people over the past 16 years. There is a class-action lawsuit against Ford Motor Company (filed June 2019). The lawsuit contends that Ford knowingly sold Super Duty trucks that had a defective suspension. Ford denies the accusation.
What’s the cause of the “death wobble”?
“Death wobble” usually happens when driving at speeds over 50 mph. The violent vibration occurs most often after the truck has hit a bump, groove, or unevenness in the road. The lawsuit claims that “the trucks’ defective suspension can experience abnormal wear and/or loosening of the track bar bushing, damper bracket, ball joints, control arms, shocks and struts.”
There are many components to check and potentially replace. That’s why many truck owners are frustrated. It’s often a process of elimination (and money) to identify and fix what’s causing the “death wobble.”
Our experience took us completely by surprise.
Have you ever experienced the “death wobble” or heard of it happening? We’d love to hear about it!