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Did we fix our truck’s scary “death wobble”? No, but here’s more information…

By Gail Marsh
It’s amazing how many of you responded to our experience with our truck’s “death wobble.” We wrote about that a couple of weeks ago. It’s obvious now that our wobble experience was not a once-in-a-lifetime fluke. Also surprising is the number of readers who experienced truck wobble in vehicles other than heavy-duty Ford trucks! We heard from Jeep, Chevy, and Ram owners who at one time or another were also forced to hang on for their lives as their respective vehicles jumped and jiggled uncontrollably beneath them. Thankfully, no one reported serious injuries, but many folks say that it’s just a matter of time before someone is hurt or even killed. I’d have to agree!

Dump it or live with it?

Even more interesting within our readers’ responses are the many ways truck owners have addressed their death wobble issues. Many folks simply traded their vehicle for a different make or model. I understand completely. Not knowing if or when the wobble might happen is unnerving! If we could afford to make a switch, we’d consider it. Other folks simply view the wobble as an inherent part of owning a big truck. They’ve chosen to drive slower and (I guess) be ready for the wobble whenever it happens to strike.

The cost of a fix for the “death wobble”

Many other wobble-weary owners took their vehicles to dealerships and private mechanics. After a lot of trial and error, some folks reported success. But it often came with a hefty price tag! We heard from people who spent less than $100 and found a fix. Several others spent thousands of dollars and still haven’t found a fix that lasts.

Variety of fixes?

Most amazing to me is that different folks found a variety of “fixes.” How can it be that greasing the bushings fixed the wobble for one guy, while another had to replace the tie rods? Still another reader replaced the total front end to alleviate the death wobble in his truck. Replacing the original factory steering damper with a heavy-duty steering damper did the trick for yet another reader. I’m beginning to think that there is no one answer! I just don’t understand it. Do you?

Our local mechanic has had our truck for three days now. First, he was unable to make it “wobble.” Then one of his workers drove it and had what he described as “… a wild ride. Now I know why it’s called a ‘death wobble.’” We’re hoping that they can come up with a solution, but after hearing our readers’ stories, I’m not overly optimistic. I’ll keep you posted!

Are/were you involved in the 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.

Oh, and if you have any advice, ideas, or any further experiences, please leave them in the comments below.

##RVT1001

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David Nowak
4 months ago

My 07 class A 35ft Mh on a Ford F53 chassis leans on the passenger side. Any ideas to level it out

Dennis
4 months ago
Reply to  David Nowak

Hi Dave, I have a 1999 Forest River 303F on an F53E chassis. (bought new 1998) I swap my own summer and winter tires. Springs got a little “tired” and wheel wells fell below top of tires in the rear making swap outs extremely difficult. South Bend (Indiana) Clutch and Spring inserted rear spacers on the springs to elevate the rear end. All wheel wells adequately elevated above tires for easy swap outs. Years later my passenger side front “dipped down” a bit. A spring company in Chase, MI suggested I put a 1″ Acme shim under that corner. He closed his shop before I could have it done. I just live with it, it is not that bad. Moral of the story: A good spring company should be able to level you out. If I remember correctly the cost was not too bad. Good luck. Dennis

Larry
4 months ago

1996 Fleetwood Bounder had bad death wobble. The front end had all joints, king pins and sterling stabilizer replaced by the previous owner. Being a retired long haul driver by trade I know it’s caused by either tires out of balance, bad tires loose joints.
My cure was remove the stabilizer and install new tires with a road force balance. Tire pressure must stay at the balanced pressure to maintain the balance.

Kenneth Andrews
4 months ago

If other parts are not worn, replace with a heavy duty steering damper, some mechanics and repair shops are notorious for up selling parts and repairs!
(IE, Whole New Front End)!!!

Vaughan
4 months ago

Agree. Installed a Bilstein 5100 series damper on my 2013 F350 Dually on the advice of a friend. Also put 4600 series Bilstein shocks on truck and make sure tires are good and alignment is good.
knock on wood 🪵, so far 91k miles and no issues. And we tow a big coach.

MrDisaster
4 months ago

While the complaint has been filed. it may take a few years to determine the total number of members of the class. After that the court will have some hearings to approve the class and then the arguments will start, depositions, claims and counter claims. I suspect a trial date won’t be set for 5+years. sigh

Eric
4 months ago

I’ve driven a 2002 Ford Econoline E-350 one ton V10 from new to the current mileage of 175K miles. It has the same type of front suspension that Ford still uses on it’s heavy duty trucks (known as Twin I-Beam), and it has never had a speed wobble. It does not have a steering damper, and the only steering parts that have been replaced are the tie and track rod ends.
I know that vehicles such as Jeeps with solid front axles are prone to speed wobbles, but had never heard of or experienced a speed wobble with an independent front suspension vehicle.
All I can suggest is, replace everything that can wear in the front suspension and steering, fit a steering damper, and (IMPORTANT) be sure the front wheels have the same offset as the stock wheels originally provided by the manufacturer.
Also be sure the wheels and tires are round and balanced properly.

Last edited 4 months ago by Eric
Steve D
4 months ago

Check out the YouTube episode on Keep Your Daydream where they experienced the Death Wobble, identified the problem and worked a solution. Why couldn’t Ford engineers do that for its customers!?

Jeff Arthur
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve D

Why , that would be a admission of guilt . No manufacturers would ever admit to something that could be held against them in court

Henry Mackenroth
4 months ago

After reading about this, I am developing a (Totally unfounded, but a guess, and with little qualification.) which is “Friction Wear”. All the points in the front and rear suspensions are subject to wear. The basic design is based on lighter weight vehicles which when scaled up for heavier loads, need much larger wear surfaces to stay withing material tolerance. If the actual parts don’t have the needed surface, then they will wear faster.

Perhaps more attention should be paid to the Rear Suspension also. When it is out of whack it will wander causing “Bump Steer” where the rear end takes over the steering to an extent and counteracts the steering wheel input. This would lead to over steering. Ralph Nader wrote about this with the early Corvairs. Also some research into Tire pressure versus loading could give some insight. The “Light end” should need less, which is probably the rear. The vehicle figures are really for Maximum allowable loads.

Eric
4 months ago

The Corvair with swing-axle rear suspension (1960-1964) had an “oversteer” issue on the 1960-1963 models. It was cured on the 1964 model by using a trick developed for the VW and Porsche cars with swing-axles.
From 1965 on the cars had a completely different rear suspension, so not a problem from 1964 until the end of production.
I think the oversteer problem is completely different from the “death-wobble” problem.

Steve
4 months ago
Reply to  Eric

I have seen this video and I have experienced the death wobble on my 2011 F-250 SD. Not sure if this is only a 4×4 issue or not. But the video notes that the camber is within spec but by increasing to a certain degree solves the problem. As a manufacturing engineer with lots of machining experience, parts can be in spec but to one side or the other of design tolerances. Parts to one side of the tolerance may cause the vehicle to experience the problem and parts to the other side of the tolerance may be fine, which why this does not happen with all vehicles. Per the video, changing the camber to the high end or slightly more than spec eliminates the wobble. To me this fix sounds like a logical correction. Ford pay attention.

Ed Lacrouts
4 months ago

My 2019 F-250 had the DW . I took it to my Ford dealer an he agreed to repair it free of charge. They added a heavy duty damper to the steering system and it worked. I have also seen another solution on “you tube” involving adding an offset spacer to the suspension which changes the Camber of the front wheels. This seems to be the best since it does not need to be replaced periodically.

Kent
4 months ago

Are there certain year trucks that are more prone to the death wobble than others?

running from gnats
4 months ago
Reply to  Kent

No! Any 4×4 with a solid front axle can get the so called death wobble. It is caused by lack of maintenance (lubing) every grease fitting. The design of the front suspension of a solid axle and wear (lack of maintenance) is the cause. Most shops do not get all of the grease fittings, if they lube them at all.

From my experience, most shops (including dealers) miss the grease fitting on top of the pitman arm. It then develops wear and the “death wobble” can occur. Most of the time, replacement of the pitman arm and making sure it is properly lubricated will take care of it…permanently.

Steering dampeners are just a temporary fix that may not work.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
4 months ago
Reply to  Ray

Interesting. Thank you, Ray. 😀 —Diane

Ran
4 months ago

We had a 2015 Jeep Cherokee limited and did not experience the wobble, but others have. I finally got Chrysler to fess up to the issue which had to do something with leaving power to the steering mechanism while towing. They finally developed a wiring harness and installed it. However, due to Chrysler’s numerous denials and difficulty in obtaining warranty issues, we dumped it! Only 15K miles. I always wanted a Jeep, but now am back to my reliable Chevy truck!

Robert Strigler
4 months ago

I have a 2012 F350 SUPERAntiSpyware and have experienced the Death Wobble. I had my wife and 3 kids in the truck at the time. Terrifying to say the least. Worst of all is Fords totally irresponsible denial of any problem. Paid over $1200.00 to have them repair it.
How can I join the class action suit?

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
4 months ago

Hi, Robert. I’m not sure where that lawsuit stands, but here’s the phone number for the law firm of McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, the plaintiffs’ attorneys: (909) 345-8110. Good luck! 😀 —Diane

Happy Camper
4 months ago

We own a 2009 F-250. While we have not experienced the death wobble, is there something we can do to be proactive to avoid it from happening?

running from gnats
4 months ago
Reply to  Happy Camper

Any 4×4 with a solid front axle can get the so called death wobble. It is caused by lack of maintenance (lubing) every grease fitting. The design of the front suspension of a solid axle and wear (lack of maintenance) is the cause. Most shops do not get all of the grease fittings, if they lube them at all.

From my experience, most shops (including dealers) miss the grease fitting on top of the pitman arm. It then develops wear and the “death wobble” can occur. Most of the time, replacement of the pitman arm and making sure it is properly lubricated will take care of it…permanently.

Steering dampeners are just a temporary fix that may not work.

Happy Camper
4 months ago

Thank you!