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Death Wobble: Causes And Cures

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on November 1, 2012 Comment (0)
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Death Wobble: Causes And Cures

A controversial and highly debated topic in the 4x4 world is the subject of death wobble. Death wobble is a blanket term that is often used to describe a series of sudden and violent frontend vibrations exhibited by some solid axle suspensions. If you have it, there is no mistaking what it is. Death wobble, if ignored, can lead to serious damage to other components and even loss of vehicle control.

Track Bar: Death wobble can often times be traced back to the track bar. Improper installation, loose bolts, wallowed out bracket holes, worn bushings, or broken welds can all be contributing factors. The track bar’s job is to locate the axle under the frame. Because one end attaches to the frame and the opposite end to the axle, the track bar takes significant loads as it cycles with the suspension and resists steering inputs. Once any of its associated components have been compromised, it can transfer vibrations and start oscillations that can become death wobble. An adjustable track bar with OE-style bushings, such as this unit from JKS (www.jksmfg.com), is a smart upgrade after a lift and will ensure the axle can be perfectly centered under the frame.

It is important to understand that there is no one problem that causes death wobble, but rather any combination of things, such as tire balance, loose hardware, damaged components, bad alignment, and improper installation of parts. All of these things can conspire together and start a domino effect that could ultimately lead to death wobble. Solving death wobble can be a slow process of elimination. If you experience death wobble, let off the gas and let the vehicle slow on its own until the vibration is gone, then proceed carefully and immediately to a place where the vehicle can be inspected. Even just one death wobble incident, can cause permanent damage to your rig.

Once death wobble is suspected, the first order of business is to rule out the simple things. Look for clues that might tell you something is wrong, such as uneven tire wear or play in the steering wheel. Next, crawl under the front of the rig and check for any obvious loose bolts, fresh rust, and wallowed-out holes, especially on the track bar bracket. Here is a list of components that can lead to death wobble and should be checked.

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