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Old 12-08-2019, 11:35 AM   #1
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Death Wobble!

At 20,000 miles I experienced a death wobble in my 2017 Ford F-250. It was quite frightening but I was able to slow down and pull over. I had to go below 20 mph for it to stop. That was several years ago and I was not pulling a trailer. Ford replaced the front stabilizer shock and all was well.

Fast forward 22,000 miles later and pulling my 2019 Classic 30 I experienced it again. We had just left a winery north of El Paso and we hit a stretch of shallow potholed road when it began. We were on route 10 and doing 60 when we hit the stretch of road that was damaged. My steering wheel shook so bad I could hardly hold on. I could not steer and could not pull over. I practically had to stop on the freeway (75mph) with my flashers on and finally move off to the side brim. It scared me.

We were out in the desert and quickly found a small town coming up that had a Ford dealer. I started again and stayed just under 55 mph. It happened again and the front of the truck was literally bouncing in the air. We limped into the town and found Smith Ford.

"Ya we know all about the death wobble on those trucks (250 & 350) and we do not have the shock to fix it", the service manager told me. "Ford has a big problem with that. I have a customer that has had the shock replaced and it still does it!", he said. We can't even get the shock as it is such a problem that Ford is back-ordered for over a month."

Great! So we called two more dealers and my dealer at home and almost the same response. Ford owners beware.

We called a dealer in Tucson AR and they agreed to look at it in the morning. The road was very smooth to Tombstone but I was afraid we would need tombstones if it happened again. It did happen a third time but I was going 50 and it stopped as I put the brake on.

I woke up early and drove carefully 1 1/2 hours to the dealership. They agreed to put a third party shock on to try to solve the problem. I ask the dealer to look at the suspension and make sure nothing got bent. The next day we headed out to Quartzite. Everything seemed fine during the trip and the roads were very good.

Leaving Quartzite and hitting a small patch of rougher road it happened again. I pulled over in a truck stop to see if the shock was still there. It was.

We called a dealership in Indio CA and, of course, they did not have the part. We booked a campsite at the same camp we will be back in January for 2 months. They had space.

I called Ford corporate and they do know of the problem but admitted nothing. I told them where we were going for repairs and ask them to get me a shock. They couldn't promise anything and needed to get their truck division involved who were not in on weekends. He said they will call the dealer on Monday and me to see where this is going. They want the new dealer to check the suspension again.

We had to cancel plans for Paso Robles (3 days) and here we sit.

Any suggestions anyone has about what could be wrong would be appreciated. This thing is dangerous.
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Old 12-08-2019, 11:38 AM   #2
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For those who are going to suggest that my towing setup is wrong, don't go there. We have 18,000 miles on this truck and trailer towing all over the country. I also have fairly new Bilstein shocks all around (not the front stabalizer shock, that was ford's). We've gone 8000 miles on this trip alone with no issues.
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Old 12-08-2019, 11:52 AM   #3
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Sorry to hear about your problem. For those who've never experienced the "death wobble" is may be hard to comprehend. My experience was 20 years ago in a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee (solid front axle). It suddenly feels like the front wheels have a mind of their own and something has detached in the steering linkage. Until it happens, all seems well, then suddenly . . . I kind of wish I had video footage from outside to see if the violent gyrations in the steering wheel were matched by equal gyrations of the front tires themselves. I was not towing anything, thank goodness.

Glad you were able to slow down, which seems to be the only thing that gets it under control.
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Old 12-08-2019, 11:57 AM   #4
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That's a scary story. Don't you just love problems that the experts can not fix because they don't even know what is causing it?


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Old 12-08-2019, 12:07 PM   #5
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Death wobble is a harmonic amplification of a natural frequency of the coupled steering and suspension system and is excited by a slight imbalance in one or more component. The stabilizer bar when functioning, eliminates amplification and also splits or shifts the natural frequencies to sub components and subsystems so any amplification gets distributed to less harmful multiple frequencies.

All this to say by changing your steering and suspension geometry, it is possible make the problem less severe. this is why trucks of the same model experience death wobble to different degrees.

Are your tires wearing evenly? If not re-balance them and adjust the alignment. check for loose components, consider adding just a slight additional amount of toe-in. Change the weight distribution on your hitch, shifting the weight forward can help.

None of this adequately substitutes for a worn stabilizer but it might get you to a place where it can be replaced and it can reduce future amplification.
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Old 12-08-2019, 12:27 PM   #6
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RENT a tow vehicle from Penskey or another commercial vehicle rental company if you want to travel and the dearh wobble is still unresolved. It isn't cheap, unless you compare the cost to that of a new tow vehicle. Just a shame to miss rallies and trips while futzing with this terrifying problem. And if you do tow, restrict yourself to clear days and more rural routes. Go slowly!
Look for forums for your tow vehicle... more insights may be found there.

Do remember that a great setup changes as tires, brakes and other components wear and stuff is added to the truck bed. You may want to go back to day 1 and look at and reset every component in your truck and trailer.

My GMC had a similar problem that went away with a front wheel alignment.

Keep the dealer and corporate miserable until they fix this.

Paula
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Old 12-08-2019, 12:28 PM   #7
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Iíve never owned a Ford and have never heard of this issue in any other brand. While Iím not disagreeing with the explanation from BayouBiker - I just donít understand why itís an issue in that particular brand - do other have it?? Weird and scary for sure.
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Old 12-08-2019, 12:38 PM   #8
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We have a f250 4x4. Is this a 2 wheel drive problem?
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Old 12-08-2019, 12:41 PM   #9
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This was not uncommon in years past and is quite common on Class A motorhomes with live front axles? I might be able to help.

Is your truck a 2 or 4 wheel drive?

What size tires are on it?

Has it happened without the Airstream or only when towing?

Have you ever done scale weights?

Sorry, I have to ask which hitch system are you using?

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Old 12-08-2019, 12:44 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpinWhite View Post
We have a f250 4x4. Is this a 2 wheel drive problem?
Mine is a 4 x 4. I will have them look at the alignment. That is a good suggestion. We will look at the tires also. They have 43,000 miles on them but are not worn unevenly. The 2017 year is when they raised the truck about 3 inches to please the trucker boys. I'm not a fan.
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Old 12-08-2019, 01:02 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by SteveSueMac View Post
Iíve never owned a Ford and have never heard of this issue in any other brand. While Iím not disagreeing with the explanation from BayouBiker - I just donít understand why itís an issue in that particular brand - do other have it?? Weird and scary for sure.
All fixed axle designs will have this issue if the stabilizer bar is significantly warn, broken or removed. Fixed axle front ends are way more susceptible to death wobble because the two wheels are tightly coupled so they share the same natural frequencies making it impossible to engineer common harmonic frequencies out as is done with independent suspension, where only one wheel at a time might shake for short a duration. When a fixed axle gets going the two wheels feed off each other. Some designs are more susceptible than others of course. Many of the Jeep models have a long history of death wobble issues.

Again my advice is to change up the steering geometry a bit. Change the alignment and weight distribution. If you do nothing, the problem will surely persist.
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Old 12-08-2019, 01:33 PM   #12
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Great advice all around. With almost 50,000 miles, many front-end parts are worn IMO. A good mechanic can check for excessive wear, and suggest replacing suspect parts proactively. Our very old Ford Econoline [1970!] had a twin I-beam front end suspension, and the "king pins" [correct term?] were known to wear prematurely, and cause a death wobble also. Are there similar parts in your front end which might benefit from being replaced? Maybe IMO.

The Ford F-250 forums probably have many threads which touch on this. When we got our first Ford Transit van, the this forum was invaluable:

https://www.fordtransitusaforum.com/

Check out these F-250 forum possibilities maybe:

https://www.fordforum.com/forum/ford...ford-f-350-15/

To summarize earlier suggestions worth following IMO:
-- balance tires [dynamically]
-- replace all tires maybe?
-- replace shocks [depending on mileage]
-- align front end
-- check alignment of rear axle/tires vs. front end [all 4 wheels/tires tracking correctly in the same grooves?

Sorry for the layman's guesses above, but some combination of new/different parts, and a skilled mechanic, will hopefully help you solve this dangerous problem.

Good luck,

Peter
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Old 12-08-2019, 02:32 PM   #13
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Rotors/20 inch wheels/Front Wheel Bearings?

I owned a 1994 4x4 automatic transmission, full time AWD Toyota Land Cruiser. It developed a front end shake that would quit after applying the brakes hard. This may have been around 140,000 miles. I referred to it as a 'harmonic vibration' as none of my older or later Land Cruisers had this occur.

At highway speed, if the steering wheel began to shake, just applying the brakes to slow down would stop the shaking. Once the first experience future events occurred sporadically, but after the third or fourth event I checked my wheel bearings.

The wheel bearings were getting some slop, so I replaced the front end rotor and bearing assemblies on the front end at the Toyota Dealership. Replaced the disc pads. So the wheels were now 100% new. No more 'harmonic vibration'.

It seems as though you have not checked the brake rotors or disc pads, yet. The dealership should have the machine where the rotors can be resurfaced on the vehicle on a lift. Or they should be able to test for the rotor being out of specification. I have heard the term 'warped rotor', but it has been a long time ago.

I have 18 inch wheels on my 2016 F350 4x4 Automatic Diesel. Do you have 20 inch wheels? This may also be factored to be an issue? (Or are yours also 18 inch factory tires?)

My tires are the LTX AT2 Michelins 275/70/R18.

Sometimes simple solutions may be the last to be checked. Hope this adds some information. I tow a 27 foot Airstream without issue.
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Old 12-08-2019, 02:58 PM   #14
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Turk, sorry to hear of this problem. I've had occasional death wobble on my 2019 F250 Diesel 4x4 since brand new. When I am on bad roads, or hit a bad seam on the highway, it wobbles for a second or two then stops. It is getting more frequent now at 23,000 miles. Its interesting that you and I both had the same sway problems with our Airstreams and our F250s. I think you and I just got unlucky by getting the loosest brand new F250s. I hope my death wobble doesn't get to the point I need to slow to 20 mph to make it stop.

I've owned dozens of F and E series Fords with straight front axles, many driven over 100,000 miles. I've never had this problem on any of my other Fords.
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Old 12-08-2019, 03:19 PM   #15
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I have never experienced death wobble as bad as you have, but alignment can be a problem. I had a pretty bad shake in the front end of our Tundra in Alaska when the back of the wheels got packed with mud. I also, strangely enough, had the same problem with a 4Runner on another trip to Alaska. Washing the mud out behind the wheels is tedious, but may work without removing each wheel if that is the problem. I doubt it is the problem, but it is an easy fix if appropriate.

It sounds, however, like this is a Ford problem and from the unavailability of parts, is fairly common and unresolved. You may be able to solve it with an alignment now, checking tire pressure and wear, cleaning the wheels and looking for damaged parts. Resonance in suspensions sometimes happens on an uncommon road surface or a combinations of things that come together to cause it—towing adds numerous factors which cannot be predicted easily before the vehicle goes into production. Tundras have something people call "bed bounce", but is really a suspension problem I think—certain concrete roads with a specific distance between joints seem to cause the resonance—southern Cal. is one place and I have experienced it on I-70 east of Denver.

Nonetheless, Ford seems gobsmacked by this and unable to act quickly. A letter to the CEO may help since going through the system, when the system has broken down, wastes your time. Also file a complaint with the feds—the National Traffic Safety Administration. Those complaints pile up, are publicized often, and get noticed by enough people to get noticed at the manufacturer.

Since an aftermarket part worked about the same, the part may not be the offender. It may be, like you, a victim of other forces. A different aftermarket part may work better or other adjustments may help. As noted above, slight changes can have good results but it could be many miles before you know.

Once fixed, perhaps temporarily, will you drive with anxiety all the time? The issues you explain sound potentially very dangerous. It may be time to get another brand. I have been told by mechanics later model Dodge/Ram trucks have frequent front end issues, so for a 30' trailer, you may be limited to Chevies or very large trucks used for commercial use.
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Old 12-08-2019, 03:20 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew T View Post
This was not uncommon in years past and is quite common on Class A motorhomes with live front axles? I might be able to help.

Is your truck a 2 or 4 wheel drive?

What size tires are on it?

Has it happened without the Airstream or only when towing?

Have you ever done scale weights?

Sorry, I have to ask which hitch system are you using?

Andy

Hi Andy

I have a proPride. 4x4 . 35" tires - 20" wheels. I've done scale weights.

It has pulled fine for many thousands of miles. I'm at 42,000 miles. The last shock gave out at 20,000.
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Old 12-08-2019, 03:25 PM   #17
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The company I worked for scrapped all of it's F-250 4x4s around 2008 after a couple of roll overs on I-10 at the exact same location due to uncontrollable wobble. On an intertate at 75+ MPH, bad things hapopen in a hurry. They took a big hit on around 40 trucks, but felt that employee safety was more important.
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Old 12-08-2019, 03:26 PM   #18
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If it happens again before you can get it fixed, try letting about 10psi out of the right front tire. That will put the system in a slight preload to the right, and the constant slight pressure needed to keep the truck from pulling should help keep the wobble away. Obviously not a great solution, but better than the oscillation.
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Old 12-08-2019, 04:33 PM   #19
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The company I worked for scrapped all of it's F-250 4x4s around 2008 after a couple of roll overs on I-10 at the exact same location due to uncontrollable wobble. On an intertate at 75+ MPH, bad things hapopen in a hurry. They took a big hit on around 40 trucks, but felt that employee safety was more important.
That is amazing . . . . . . did Ford do anything about this known problem?

These search results suggest the problem is well-known, as many have said here:

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=ford+f-250...&t=ffnt&ia=web

Lawsuit issues: https://www.carcomplaints.com/news/2019/ford-truck-death-wobble-lawsuit-f-250-f-350.shtml

2019 Class action:
https://duckduckgo.com/?q=William+Le...&t=ffcm&ia=web
https://dockets.justia.com/docket/ca...cv01082/632733

Ford knew of defect: https://wausaupilotandreview.com/201...ble-in-trucks/

NHTSA: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=NHTSA+Ford...&t=ffnt&ia=web

Bingo -- #11287012: https://www.nhtsa.gov/vehicle/2011/F...U%25252FRC/4x4
"TRAVELING ON INTERSTATE HIGHWAY 40 SPEED 65 MPH MY 2011 FORD F-250 CREW CAB SUPERDUTY EXPERIENCED AN EXTREMELY VIOLENT SHAKING OF VEHICLE FRONT END WHICH CAME VERY NEAR TO COMPLETE LOSS OF CONTROL. THE ONLY WAY TO STOP THE SHAKING WAS TO HIT THE BRAKES HARD AND DROP DOWN TO 20 MPH OR SO BEFORE THE SHAKING STOPPED-DANGEROUS ON A HIGH SPEED HIGHWAY. LOOKED IT UP WHEN I RETURNED FROM TRIP AND APPARENTLY THIS IS A FAIRLY COMMON PROBLEM. SUGGESTED FIXES OF ALIGNMENT, SHOCK REPLACEMENT AND TIRE BALANCING DID NOT WORK-STILL EXPERIENCE THE PROBLEM ABOUT ONCE A MONTH-ALWAYS IN A STRAIGHT LINE AND SPEEDS BETWEEN 55 AND 70 MPH. BUMPS IN THE ROAD MAKE IT MORE LIKELY TO HAPPEN. DATE BELOW IS THE LAST TIME IT OCCURRED-IT HAS HAPPENED ABOUT 10 TIMES IN THE LAST YEAR."

turk123 you might want to consult an attorney IMO.

Good luck,

Peter
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Old 12-08-2019, 04:37 PM   #20
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Death Wobble!

Itís a known issue with any solid axle front end like everything else there are trade offs to design. If the truck is out of alignment that can make it worse. Replacing the steering stabilizer is the general fix sometimes other front end bushings. There are lots of aftermarket solutions beyond the Ford part.

See this thread from the Ford truck forum

https://www.ford-trucks.com/forums/1...th-wobble.html
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