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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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Ray
5 months 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
5 months 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
5 months 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.

B Perkins
5 months ago

I have 2017 Ram Tradesmen 2500, at certain times at speeds 60-65 mph my front end begins that wobble or jumping. Slowing down it disappears. Checking tires and everything underneath seems fine. Then it starts doing it again. Not all the time though. It is either the left side or the right side that starts. It has had a safety recall fix ???, yet it continues to do this. What gives?

John
2 months ago
Reply to  B Perkins

When the vibration comes & goes with speed, it is usually wheel balance. Depending of course on tire size, it will happen about 30-35 but may not be noticed. Then again about 60-70. But this also could be a result of the road surface. You really need to work with it to clarify the details and go back to where you bought the tires and tell them what’s happening. If they have a problem addressing it, find a new tire shop!

Rich
5 months ago

Chevy pickups years ago would do the wobble. Had to put steering dampers on them. Seemed to correct problem

Gene S.
5 months ago

My 03 Wrangler toad is in the shop right now for that exact issue. Estimate is around $700 for tie rod end, steering dampener and the alignment that must accompany such repairs.

Ted
5 months ago

My 2014 Jeep Trailhawk has “death wobbled” a number of times, towing. My daughter’s 2018 Wrangler ALSO experienced the “death wobble”. Is there, or has there been, any law suits against Jeep? I had an older Wrangler that had the same problem. No one seemed to know how to fix it.

Dan
5 months ago
Reply to  Ted

New, heavy duty steering damper. If you have a lift kit, make sure it’s also heavy duty and the geometry is correct. If the vehicle is stock, with all factory equipment, including tire size it’s due to worn out front end components. You need to find a better shop. Start with replacing the steering stabilizer with a heavy duty one.

Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Ted

None that I know of, but if a manufacturer gets complaints they deny it then remedy it in later model years. Ray

Tom
5 months ago

Had this happen to me in my Chevy Silverado 2500. $3000 fixed it.

Jere Jarrell
5 months ago

my tow vehicle is a 2013 Chev Equinox It has happened twice while in tow. others have experienced it as well. Have to stop completely for it to quit. Never happened when driving it. Don’t think it has a steering damper will consider adding one.

Bob P
5 months ago
Reply to  Jere Jarrell

Our Equinox did this after exiting a truck dealership where we had to drive up a steep incline causing the tow bar to be greatly un level. As soon as we were on level ground it stopped. If the tow bar gets out of level by a good angle this will cause the problem. This is the main reason towing manufacturers caution us to have the tow bar as level as possible when towing.

Bob P
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob P

Powerstrokehelp.com is the name of the company.

Jay
5 months ago

I’ve had it happen in a F350 ambulance, with a patient in the back. Replaced sterling damper shock and all was well. Cheap and easy fix. We put it on a yearly schedule to be replaced.

RICK GROSZ
5 months ago

I JUST SPENT OVER $5000.00 ON MY FRONT END
I COULDNT KEEP MY TRUCK ON THE ROAD

Cliff
5 months ago

I owned several F250’s back in the mid 2000’s. One day my salesman brought up the “death wobble” after it had occurred with him a couple of times. I ended up replacing his vehicle because he was on the highway a great deal of the time. After a complete checkup by the Ford Mechanic, where nothing could be found, I moved it into a backup spot in our fleet. One day we needed a piece of construction equipment delivered to a customer about 2 hours away. I took this backup truck, and started down
I-40 at about 65 mph. As I crested an incline and started over an overpass, the death wobble hit. Had anyone been on either side of me, it would have ended bad. It was all I could do to try to control the death wobble and the now fish tailing loaded trailer. Upon my return home, I took this truck to two different Ford dealers and an independent service center that did a lot of work for me. Again, nothing could be found. I traded it for a 2500 Chevy.

Irv
5 months ago

Death Wobble is common in Jeeps that have been raised for better clearance and larger tires but can be fixed—although it may take several trips to a good off-road shop. It’s been 10 years since I’ve experienced it in my TJ.

Ron T.
5 months ago
Reply to  Irv

I’m actually glad to hear about this. Have a jacked up Wrangler and it happened to me first time just a week ago right after I left the driveway. Pulled over & checked everything out, found nothing and continued on as normal. I’ve had this vehicle for 5 yrs., but now that I know a bit about it, the old mechanic in me isn’t too worried.

JGinFL
5 months ago

Not sure why they’re saying the years ’05 – ’19. The company I worked for in the early ’90s had 2 new 1989 F350s, and they both got the ‘death wobbles’ too.

Bob P
5 months ago
Reply to  JGinFL

It has to do with the solid front axle of 4×4 trucks and tow in dimensions. There is a company in GA that has figured this out and they know how to fix it but Ford says no. It has to do with increasing the toein numbers. I can’t remember the name of the company but you should be able to google it.

Dennis
5 months ago

No problem so far with our ’08 F350, but appreciate the heads up. The experience can be even more exciting on a motorcycle! DAMHIK….

Bob P
5 months ago
Reply to  Dennis

My brother in law experienced this on his Harley full dresser back in the early 80s, got so bad the front wheel was bouncing in the air resulting in an accident that hospitalized him for a couple of weeks and plastic surgery to rebuild his chin that got ground off by the asphalt. He never got on a Harley again, had been riding them for 23 years.

Wayne
5 months ago

This is a common issue in the 03 to 08 Ram 2500 and 3500.
Caused by a poor designed tie rod steering system. The fact that they used the same weight of rods and gearbox used in a 1500.
All rectified with the Mopar 09 “upgrade” , that they are happy to sell you, involving much heavier rods that are designed to attach differently as well as a much heavier steering gear box.
Just google Ram steering 09 “upgrade”.

The original “wish bone” design allowed for the “toe in” to fluctuate with any up and down action of the front suspension. This should have been a factory free recall by Dodge.

Shane
5 months ago
Reply to  Wayne

We had an ‘05 3500 that it happened with numerous times. We never had an accident and it always went away after a short time25-50 yards but it was unnerving never knowing when it may happen. It’s extremely aggravating that Dodge knows about it and does nothing about rectifying it. I guess that it will take a wrongful death suit to wake them up.

E. Cowan
5 months ago

Gail Marsh, there a many factors which can contribute to a severe steering oscillation, one of which is the steering damper. Ford has an updated steering damper as well as your VIN could be covered under a Customer Satisfaction Program that extends the warranty. Please take your truck to your local Ford dealer and ask them to check.

Steve A Mangrum
5 months ago

My wife and I flew out to Idaho from Tennessee to purchase a 2006 F350 with only 47,000 miles in 2015, and drove it home. Thirty miles from the house I hit a pothole on I-40 and the death wobble was so severe I pulled over immediately. After replacing the factory shocks and steering stabilizer with Bilstein products I have had no more issues.

Jennifer Sproule
5 months ago

This exact thing happened to me a year ago. Ford tried to tell me it was due to extreme cold temperatures. The article describes it exactly as it happened to me but no one took me seriously. It was our 2011 F150

Aboyandhisdog
5 months ago

A very common affliction that anybody with an old Willys jeep from the ’40’s can attest to. All steering components need to be in good shape and adjusted (tie rods, drag links, bell crank and fittings, etc.). I added a steering stabilizer (shock) to the tie rod and keep things adjusted and have not had an issue since.

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