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Beware the “death wobble.” It could happen to your truck

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!

Death wobble?
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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Not alone

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!

Related:

2022 Ford Super Duty truck series coming soon with more tech

##RVT999

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travilenman
27 days ago

You don’t hear about this with GM products….Just saying

Larry
1 month ago

Dodge has had this problem in their pickups. My 97 got heavy-duty upgrades. Now it’s completely adjustable and tracks much better. Sure would like Dodge to help pay for some of my parts.

Last edited 1 month ago by Larry
L Beal
1 month ago

My 2019 F-350 had that issue. We took it to a dealership in Idaho and they were clueless about it so we left to Glacier NP. If you’ve been to Montana you know they don’t have hills there, they have huge, steep mountains. As we were driving down one of those huge mountains the truck starts shaking crazily, trying to brake made it worse and we thought that was the end of our lives. Shifting to manual helped a lot and we were able to slow down enough to stop.
We finally Googled it and it’s an issue Ford has had since 2012. I was so mad, that dealership put our lives in danger by lying about a very old issue.
Fast forward a couple months when we finally found a dealership that was not booked solid and they fixed it. Well, we thought they fixed it. It worked great for a year and then the shaking restarted so off to get fixed again it went. This second time only lasted 3 months. Now, a year and 3 fixes later it still doesn’t feel fully fixed, but only time will tell.

Wayne C
1 month ago

Death wobble can be aggravated by installing a suspension lift or leveling kit. It’s much less likely with stock suspension with upgraded shock absorbers and steering stabilizers

Richard
1 month ago

Bought a new Jeep in 2012. Was aware of Death Wobble. It’s a known “Thing” in the Jeep world. Changed factory bolts in the control arms immediately (They had started to wear at 1K miles). Never had a problem since.

Mark Kaye
1 month ago

my 99 4Runner had this
it was worse with the summer tires
finally had my mechanic replace all the rear upper/lower control arms and panhard bushings
all the bushings were worn and allowed the suspension parts to move back & forth in their mounts
still a bit of the wobble with summer tires and the right ‘bump’, but only lasts a couple of seconds i.e not life threatening
if it was any worse i would replace all the front suspension parts

Glenda Alexander
1 month ago

This has happened to me twice with my 2001 motorhome on a Ford E450 Super Duty chassis. The first time was in heavy freeway traffic in Dallas. I was driving about 70 mph. The mechanic couldn’t identify the cause. The second time was in less stressful conditions.

Ken Andrews
1 month ago

After the local Ford dealer replace the steering damper the 2nd time in 50,000 miles I had a different shop install the Rough County kit. Because I have the F350 we also need to install a front lift kit. So now the front of the truck is 2″ higher and the total cost was around $300 but I haven’t had the death wobble or had to have the truck down for a day to replace the Ford steering damper or pay the $100 deductible on the warrantee extension.

Greg Sorenson
1 month ago

II had a 2018 F250 with the “death wobble”. My dealer tried many things to fix it, made it better but never cured it. It was dangerous to drive! I fixed it by trading it on a Chevrolet Duramax. Best move I ever made!
I have since talked to a guy that solved the problem on his with an after market stablizer.

Ralph Williamson
1 month ago

Can happen on any vehicles with solid front axles and big wheels due to components wearing out. Just some models are worse than others.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ralph Williamson
Vince Sadowski
1 month ago

I tow a 2010 VW Jetta. Previous toad was a 2009 Jetta. Both have the death wobble. Going over a rr track or some diagonal break in the pavement will start the wobble.
I use a bungie cord thru the steering wheel down to the seat mounting and no longer have any issues.
I was heading north on I-77 in WV when the Jeep being towed by a motorhome started the wobble. Hard to believe what it does to the motorhome.

Glen Cowgill
1 month ago

2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland with 10,455 miles being towed behind my 36′ diesel pusher. Made a sharp turn into traffic at slow speed the first time it had the “Death Wobble”. Had to come to a complete stop and then started again with no problems. Second time hit a bad chuck hole in a turn and again came to a complete stop and was able to continue our trip with no problem.
Being a retired Automotive Technology teacher, I inspected the steering components and could find nothing wrong. I inspected my towing set up and could find nothing wrong. I had my son who is also an ASE certified technician take it to work with him. He inspected everything and could find nothing wrong. Have since put 500+ miles being towed without any problems. Still apprehensive towing it

Robert
7 months ago

It just happened two weeks ago on my 2020 F250 with only 31000 miles. I specifically asked the salesman when I bought the truck new if Ford had finally figured out the death wobble and got it fixed on the 2020’s. He of course said “yes”. We were doing 70 (75 was speed limit) when we hit several pot holes that spanned the entire lane and I couldnt miss them. Luckily we weren’t towing anything. Truck went into death wobble and did not stop until I got it below 40mph. Took it to dealer and they tested tires, balance and alignment. Then replaced damper on steering under warranty. So far so good.

Bill Braniff
7 months ago

I have a 2016 F250 Super Duty. I am interested in more info on the “Death Wobble”. I have not experienced the phenomenon and don’t want to. Anything I can do to prevent this from ever happening/
Bill

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  Bill Braniff

I have a 2016 F-350 diesel and have read a LOT about this ‘phenomenon’. Luckily I have not experienced this. I’ve got 45k on the truck, most of which are towed miles with our 8k Arctic Fox TT. We have spent a LOT of miles towing on Texas’s horrible roads, hitting unavoidable mini-Grand Canyons and miraculously no DW yet. Twice, we’ve bent the trailer axles requiring straightening. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that our luck continues. I LOVE my truck!

Patrick
7 months ago

I have a 2019 F250 4WD , I experienced the death wobble on the hwy one day after hitting a bump going around 60 had to almost completely stop on the hwy to get it to stop the wobble. Took it to the Ford dealer they replaced the steering stabilizer under warranty, the truck only had 35,000 miles on it but they said the problem was the tires, they were the ones that came with the truck, something seemed off with their explanation. I previously had the same model of truck only an 2011 that I drove for 200,000 plus miles w/o any wobble problem but the 2019 truck never seamed to drive and ride as well as the 2011. After talking to a local auto shop they said they had good luck fixing all my complaints by adding a front end leveling kit to the vehicle bring the front up as high or slightly higher than the rear. Rising the front changed the geometry of the steering and by doing that solved all my complaints about the truck. 80,000 miles later never have had another death wobble event.

Bob p
7 months ago

There is a Ford specialist garage in GA that did extensive research on this and determined that Fords specs on front end alignment are off. I don’t recall the name of the company but it should show up on google, but they worked on several ford trucks and came to the same conclusion. Ford won’t admit their specs are wrong but the garage experimented and solved the customers problems. They are on YouTube you should be able to find them either on google or YouTube, All they work on is ford trucks but they’re not with ford, they specialize in bulletproofing ford trucks.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Update: powerstrokediesel.com

Brad Wartman
7 months ago

I had a near-death wobble problem with my 2003 Dodge 2500. At 120K it started exhibiting “death wobble” symptoms on a minor scale. The tie rod ends were worn to the point where they needed to be replaced but we ended up replacing the entire front end. After that the steering was better but still not as tight as it should be. After some additional troubleshooting we determined the problem to be a worn steering gear. We replaced it with a rebuilt unit from RedHead Steering Gears and can highly recommend the quality of their work. After replacement the steering is now nice and tight :-).

Don Nedrow
7 months ago
Reply to  Brad Wartman

Most steering gears have an adjustment for looseness. I adjusted many vehicles when I did front end work. You should feel this in the steering wheel with extra play while setting still.

Ray
1 year ago

Experienced the Wobble some years back on our 07 Jeep GC. My advice and time and money permits eliminate the process and just replace the suspension parts,because if you replace 1 or 2 parts sure as God made green apples the rest will follow. Yours in camping and rving, Ray

E Step
1 year ago

Death Wobble is nothing new for Ford trucks. I had this problem with my 78 Bronco. All you could do was rebuild the front end. Track bar bushings. Radius Arm bushings. It was an expensive you to play with.

Ray
1 year ago

I have a 2015 F250 diesel with 125K miles. I have not had the death wobble yet but it is a concern. Looking thru the comments below it seems a lot of makes and models have this concern. Thanks for the headsup.

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