2017 Ford Super Duty Pickup
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North Carolina F-250 Owner Reports New Instance Of “The Wobble Of Death”

A Ford F-250 Super Duty owner reported that his pickup had experienced the "wobble of death." He was supported by another owner as they told their story.
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The “wobble of death” is back in the news. After it appeared about a year-and-a-half ago on various Ford forums, following its first notice in Chrysler/Jeep truck/SUV forums where it began, the “wobble” took a back seat to the many other automotive issues that have arisen since then. Now, though, it is back on the front burner following its appearance in a Ford F-250 Super Duty in Charlotte, N.C.

Let’s Review The “Wobble Of Death”

Before getting into this particular story, it’s a good idea to review what the “wobble of death” is. It usually occurs in a heavy-duty pickup truck. However, some Jeep-style SUVs have also reportedly had it. There have been hundreds of complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which has been looking into this issue for more than two years. What happens when the “wobble” occurs is that the vehicle is usually cruising at highway speed when the steering wheel begins to bounce and jounce as if the tires had blown out or as if a front end part had become loose. Sometimes, it starts with strike on a pothole or a large bump; other times, it begins as a resonance issue. It happens so quickly and suddenly that the average driver becomes alarmed and tries to brake to halt it. That doesn’t usually stop the vehicle as the “wobble” continues. The only way to stop the truck is to back off the gas and keep the wheels straight. Eventually, the vehicle will lose headway and stop. Once it has stopped, the pickup can then be driven home or to the service area very slowly. Here's a Torque News story where I explore the origins of the "wobble of death."

Why has it occurred? Fiat Chrysler Cars (FCA) and Ford have looked at the issue as they have tried to address the problem for their customers. What they have found or haven’t found is mind-boggling. On looking at the front ends of vehicles that have had this occur, they found nothing out of the ordinary. There’s no “smoking gun” part failure. Instead, techs have looked at the front ends carefully and have found worn tie rod ends, ball joints, track bars, steering stabilizers, drag links, as well as front end alignments. Also, techs have seen loose fasteners, improperly balanced tires, underinflated or overinflated tires. In other words, they have looked at and found a variety of possible causes. Each of these components or all of them can contribute to the so-called “wobble of death.” The following YouTube video describes the “wobble” and suggests fixes for it. Please note that the video has language that is not appropriate for all listeners and viewers.

Key Range Is 40 To 50 MPH

The “wobble of death” is the violent shaking of a vehicle that starts at about 40 to 50 mph and continues and gets worse as the speed increases. The funny thing about this is that it can occur once and never happen again or it can continually occur. It is frustrating because techs can replace part after part, and it continues to occur.

Some have suggested that the problem involves natural resonances with parts of the truck. In other words, as you drive along, a vibration sets up that is within what is called the “natural period” of the vehicle. If the truck continues at this speed for any length of time, the wheels begin to pick up the vibration and they not only set up a vibration at the natural period of the truck; the vibration can supersede it. In years past, it was called the “dry road shake” or “dry road vibration."

There was a reason that Torque News explored the causes and effects of the “wobble of death.” The reason for the renewed concern about the “wobble of death” comes from Charlotte, N.C. where a Ford F-250 Super Duty driver was moving along Interstate 485 at speed when the truck began to shake violently. Owner Jason Kincaid described the “wobble of death” to a Channel 9 TV reporter this way: “You know the feeling when your stomach drops out,” he told Jason Stoogenke of WSOC-TV, the ABC outlet in the North Carolina city.

Owner Finds Other Ford F-250 Folks With Problem

After safely pulling over and stopping, Kincaid went home and went online to investigate the problem. “I saw account after account of people labeling it as the ‘death wobble,’” he said.

A victim of the problem from Texas, Justin Hill, sent Stoogenke a video of his experience. “It just starts jostling the whole front end,” Hill said. He continued that you “can barely hold onto the steering wheel.” He complained that you “don’t expect to spend $40 to $50 grand and that this happens.”

Reporter Stoogenke continued his research into the problem and found more videos describing it on YouTube. He also found a Facebook group dedicated to the issue. As he researched, he found a class-action lawsuit on the whole affair. The action accuses Ford of selling 2005 to 2019 F-250 and F-350 Super Duty models with the “death wobble” and knowing it. The suit states that 12 people had had “accidents and injuries” due to the problem and that more than 1,200 owners had filed complaints with NHTSA.

One Report Compares It To An Earthquake

One Charlotte, N.C. driver’s complaint compared it to an earthquake. He claimed it was “the worst violent shaking I have ever felt in a vehicle” … it felt like “all four tires exploded.”

Reporter Stoogenke did a quick search of the NHTSA site and claimed he received more than 150 hits, 112 for F-250s, and 40 for F-350s.

F-250 Owners Hope For A Recall

Meantime, Hill and Kincaid are hoping for a recall. “If it’s not safe to drive, it should not be on the road in the first place,” Hill told Stoogenke. Kincaid followed up with this statement: “Any time, even one life’s in jeopardy, it should be addressed across the board nationally.”

Ford declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

WSOC-TV’s Stoogenke told people that if they experience the so-called “wobble of death” that they:

Some Tips If The “Wobble” Hits Your Truck

  1. Take the truck to the dealer, if it is even only to document the problem.
  2. Save receipts if you spend money to solve the problem, in case there is a recall, lawsuit or some other way for you to get repaid.

Marc Stern has been an auto writer since 1971. It was a position that filled two boyhood dreams: One was that I would write, and two that I write about cars. When I took over as my newspaper’s auto editor, I began a 32-year career as an automotive columnist. There isn’t much on four wheels that I haven’t driven or reviewed. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, and others. Today, I am the Ford F150 reporter for Torque News. I write how-to and help columns for online sites such as Fixya.com and others. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Most of Marc's stories can be found at Torque News Ford coverage. Check back again and search for Torque News Ford F-150 news for more F-150 truck news coverage.


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Comments

This is a design failure as the cure is more positive caster that the oem control arms will allow.. The current repair of an updated steering damper is a band-aid at best.
This is a good thought for the front end, but, there are so many other possibilities that can cause this from just having the wheels rebalanced or having a new alignment which is where the caster comes in. Still, there are many suspension parts that can affect this that should be replaced. It's a tough problem to run down, but, it is possible to cure.