Death wobble is a scary phenomenon that can occur when you’re driving your car. It causes the car to shake violently, and it can be difficult to control. In some cases, a death wobble can cause the driver to lose control of the car and crash. So what exactly is death wobble, and how can you prevent it from happening? In this article, we will explore the answers to these questions and more.
Death wobble is used to describe a series of sudden, often violent front suspension vibrations exhibited by solid front axle suspensions and more infrequently, independent front suspensions. It can also be defined as the out-of-control phenomenon that plagues “big” cars like jeeps, 4x4s, and heavy-duty pickup trucks.
In conjunction with other defects in the car, unbalanced tires can indeed cause death wobble. This means that having only unbalanced tires and no other problem with the car cannot cause death wobble.
Are unbalanced tires one of the causes of death wobble?
Indeed, unbalanced tires can be considered as one of the causes of a death wobble. However, your vehicle cannot develop death wobble if the only problem with it, is unbalanced tires.
It is noteworthy that if your car has unbalanced tires, it can intensify issues leading to death wobble but it cannot alone cause death wobble.
Truth be told, most of us do not balance our tires as often as we ought to. However, this is something that should be done regularly. Once a car is in use, the tires are bound to undergo some form of wear. This will in turn affect the weight and proportions of the tires and cause the car to be slightly out-of-balance.
That being said, every time to make a trip to the mechanics for whatever issue there is with your car, it is safe to balance and rotate the tires as well.
Now, let us move on to discuss what other problems in conjunction with unbalanced tires could cause death wobble.
Other causes of death wobble
It is important to note that there is no single problem that can cause death wobble. Instead, a combination of problems with a car is what can be responsible for death wobble. Therefore, apart from unbalanced tires, issues such as loose bolts, worn bushings, bad alignment, and tire pressure can cause death wobble.
1. Tire pressure
Commonly, the first thing to consider or look at when death wobble occurs is the tire pressure. If your tires are not inflated enough, are over-inflated or there have mismatched pressure, it could cause death wobble.
Consequently, issues with tire pressure can lead to unbalanced tires and thus death wobble.
Another issue that could cause death wobble is improper steering alignment. The usage of these “big” vehicles and the nature of some of the roads they are driven on eventually harm the steering and suspension components.
This calls for proper alignment occasionally else, with time, death wobble may occur.
The track bar can be one of the things that cause death wobble. What the track bar does is locate the front axle under the truck.
If any of the components of the track bar such as the bolts, bracket welds, and mounting holes, are damaged, it can transfer vibrations and start the side-to-side shaking that eventually causes death wobble.
4. Tie rod
The tie rod connects the steering knuckles and transfers input from the drag link to the wheels. If the ends of the tie rod are worn out or bent, it can cause the steering to shake, and the chassis to vibrate and wander. These are all warning signs of death wobble.
5. Ball joints
Ball joints are very important components of any steering and suspension system. Thus, when ball joints wear out, they can cause unwanted movement from the wheels and tires, transferring that vibration to the chassis. This could eventually cause death wobble.
6. Steering damper
Also known as the steering stabilizer, the steering damper helps absorb unwanted secondary vibrations that can initiate death wobble. Since a steering damper is an essential part of the steering system, it needs to be checked regularly since it is also subject to wear, compromising its function.
7. The control arm or leaf spring bushings
Bushings should also be checked regularly for loose bolts and wallowed-out bolt holes which could cause movement in the suspension system. The resulting consequence could be a build-up to death wobble.
8. Wheel bearings
The function of the wheel bearings is to support the load of the car and allow the wheels to turn smoothly. Therefore, if wheel bearings become worn out, you may realize a side-to-side movement of your car, vibrations, and even noise. These could all lead to death wobble so the wheel bearings need to be checked at regular intervals.
9. Steering box
The steering box may surprisingly be another contributing cause of death wobble. The internal parts of the steering box can also undergo wear. When this happens, it will affect the steering, making it more difficult for the driver to control the steering wheel.
Safety tips for death wobble
Imagine you are driving at above 40 miles per hour and you suddenly realize your steering wheel is shaking from side to side. What do you do?
First of all, be sure to try and maintain your cool and firmly hold on to the steering wheel. Then, begin to slow down. I will recommend eventually parking when you can find the space to do so.
When death wobble occurs, it will be stupid and risky to keep driving at the same speed you were driving at and even try to switch lanes. If you do not want to stay alive, at least consider the passengers you are carrying and other road users.
How to handle death wobble
The best way to handle death wobble is by finding the root cause and fixing it. As we have seen, there are many potential causes of death wobble as listed above.
One of the ways you could find out what is causing your steering wheel to shake is by observing when it first happens. If it occurs immediately after hitting a bump, something is likely wrong with your shock absorbers or track bar.
If the death wobble begins gradually after driving for some time, it could be an indication of worn-out ball joints or tie rod ends. Another possibility is that your steering box needs to be tightened.
Whatever the case may be, once you have identified the potential cause, take your car to a mechanic to get it fixed.
It is important to note that death wobble is not always caused by one particular thing. In some cases, it could be a combination of factors that contribute to the problem.
This is why it is best to have a professional diagnose and fix the problem. Do not try to fix it yourself unless you are confident that you know what you are doing.
Death wobble is a serious problem that should not be ignored. If you notice your steering wheel shaking, the best thing to do is to slow down and eventually stop.
Once you have stopped, try to identify the cause of the problem and get it fixed as soon as possible. Do not attempt to fix it yourself unless you are confident in your abilities.
If you have any questions or comments about this article, please leave them below. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!