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As vehicles age, rattling noises become louder, and shaking occurs more frequently. There are countless reasons why vehicles begin to erode as they age. 

Some vehicle events, such as a flat tire or dead battery, are more annoying than anything else. One of the most terrifying events a driver will face is “The Death Wobble.”

What Is A Death Wobble?

A death wobble, shimmy, or speed wobble is a sudden shaking of the entire vehicle. The event usually occurs while traveling at 45 mph and above, going over a bump or pothole. 

Many drivers have described the Death Wobble as a terrifying and uncontrollable incident, bordering on disaster. Drivers described the event as a sudden shaking of the entire vehicle, not just a tire or the front end. More descriptions say there is so much shaking that the vehicle quickly becomes uncontrollable. 

It is not just the steering wheel, and it is not just normal shaking or a shimmy.

Death Wobbles can be a short-lived event, or they can last until; “you carefully slow the vehicle down and get off the road.”

Warning Signs

A fundamental factor when discussing a death wobble is the event’s suddenness. Most driver scenarios say the shaking starts immediately while traveling at highway speeds and usually without warning. The event increases in vibration until the vehicle is pulled over.

Any vehicle in a death wobble is in sudden danger and will be highly challenging to control. To counteract a death wobble, slow the vehicle down immediately and pull to the side of the road.

Lightly grip the steering wheel and start slowing the vehicle down. Avoid sudden movements like shifting into a new lane or slamming on the brakes. Sudden steering wheel movements may cause the vehicle to flip during the Wobble. Keep your hands firmly on the steering wheel and avoid hitting the brakes. Maintain as straight a course as possible while stopping the vehicle. 

Steering and suspension inspections should be carried out regularly, fixing any issues immediately. Identify any loose or worn components needing to be repaired in the short term. Keep the suspension and steering systems in top shape all the time.

History of The Wobble

Over the years, experts trying to explain the uncontrollable shaking have linked the event’s cause to every area and component of the suspension, engine, and transmission. If you are unfamiliar with the options present on your vehicle, access a vehicle history report and start finding the problem.

The death wobble has been linked to several car brands, including Jeep, Ford, and Dodge. The first reported case of The Jeep Death Wobble occurred in 1995. Since then, only about 700 Jeep customers have fallen victim to the Wobble. In 2020, over 200,000 Jeeps were sold worldwide, so the death wobble issue is not as prevalent as most “experts” would have you believe. Fixing the Jeep death wobble requires the experienced eye of a trained mechanic.

Other major brands with significant death wobble problems are the Ford F250 and F350 truck models. The Ford Death Wobble has been a significant customer complaint in the last 15 years. A few F250 drivers lost control of their vehicle because the shaking was so violent. Drivers say they were driving at highway speeds above 70, when their truck began its uncontrollable shaking. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA has looked into the issue of a death wobble on Jeeps and Ford, yet no deaths have occurred. Most car and truck manufacturers have dismissed the gloom and doom of a death wobble.

How To Fix The Death Wobble

How To Fix The Death Wobble

Every mechanic has their own opinion of how to fix a death wobble. The death wobble event is common on vehicles with a solid front axle and coil spring suspension, which utilizes a track bar. Dodge, Ford trucks, and Jeeps have this style of suspension.

Jeep has narrowed its investigation into two components that fail or have become dangerously worn. On a Jeep Wrangler, the steering stabilizer or shocks and struts should be the first components checked.

Diagnosing the problem of what causes a death wobble is difficult and leads many inexperienced mechanics to blame a single part, such as the steering column.

 Experienced mechanics attribute the death wobble to a combination of several loose components, with a lot of play in the steering system. Many items can combine to cause the death wobble, including: 

  • Idler Arms
  • Wheel Bearings
  • Steering Center’s Link and Shaft
  • Your Alignment
  • Worn Tie Rods
  • Track Bars
  • Pitman Arms
  • Ball Joints
  • Even Your Tire Pressure

Finding the source of uncontrollable shaking and fixing the issue will be akin to putting a puzzle together. Several areas of the suspension and steering need to be checked and inspected before the vehicle is allowed back on the road.

Where To Look for a Solution

Jeep mechanics say to start with the front track bar, which is notorious for causing an imbalance in the suspension. Front track bars on a Jeep Wrangler is a suspension link that keeps the axle centered when the components flex or articulate. 

Where to Look for a Solution?

A mechanic must thoroughly inspect suspension components and attachment points; the list is long and should only be performed by a professional. Make certain your mechanic thoroughly checks the steering system for tightness and imbalance. Also, check shocks and springs for excessive wear.

Ensure the mechanic checks for bends or leaks in the steering dampener, where most death wobbles begin. Ball joints and wheel bearings should also receive close inspection. 

Simple solutions like tire inflation and alignment may be the key to fixing a death wobble. A misaligned suspension or underinflated tires force the front axle into uneven movement. Also, make certain tire pressures are maintained at optimum levels.

If You Ever Notice a Death Wobble, Get Your Vehicle Checked Immediately

Death Wobble is a frightening moniker for an automotive event that happens on very rare occasions. A death wobble is no mystery to an experienced mechanic. Loose bolts, damaged drivetrain components, and improper installation are most likely the cause of the uncontrollable shaking.

The event can happen on any vehicle, especially with damage to its front-end components or steering system. A worn suspension component such as a link, joint, or bushing is a common culprit of a death wobble. 

With its infamous name, no deaths have been attributed to a Death Wobble.

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