|What Is "Death Wobble" and How Do I Fix It?|
The "Death Wobble" is a very dangerous vibration that occurs in the front end of a vehicle. When a vehicle experiences death wobble, the entire steering system rapidly turns back and forth, making controlling the vehicle very hard. The only way to stop the death wobble once it starts is to slow the vehicle down until normal steering control is restored. Death wobble is very common on vehicles with a solid front axle and coil spring suspension that utilize a track bar. Most Jeeps, as well as Dodge and Ford trucks have this style suspension and are known to experience death wobble.
A Jeep Wrangler JK with death wobble. You can see that control over the vehicle's steering is drastically reduced when death wobble takes over.
Death wobble is often blamed on a failed steering stabilizer or shocks and struts. While death wobble will cause the steering stabilizer to fail, it is not the result of a worn out stabilizer. The death wobble is actually all of the play in the vehicle's steering system added together resulting in very loose steering, which is then set off by a bump while travelling at high speeds and results in the wobble. What this means is that the death wobble is not usually contributed to one single component, is it the total amount of play in all of the steering components combined. Worn tie rods, idler arm, track bar, wheel bearings, pitman arm, steering center link and shaft, ball joints, alignment and even tire pressure can combine to cause the death wobble. This is what makes properly diagnosing the problem difficult and leads inexperienced mechanics to blame the steering stabilizer when no other obvious cause presents itself. Each individual component needs to be inspected for signs of wear. ANY play in ANY component of the steering system warrants replacement.
After replacing any worn suspension parts, the vehicle should be aligned properly to restore the steering to and ensure that your newly replaced suspension components don't wear out quickly.
While the steering stabilizer is not usually the only cause of death wobble, the extreme abuse that the stabilizer and the shocks take during the death wobble causes them to wear out very quickly. If your vehicle suffers from the death wobble, you should replace your steering stabilizer and shocks along with the other necessary repairs.
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