So one day you’re driving along minding your own business and all of the sudden your truck starts doing the hula at about 45 MPH when you hit a slight bump in the road. AKA “the death wobble” as some refer to it. Sometimes it’s so bad you have to almost come to a complete stop to get the truck to stop shaking.
|Update Jan 2012-In a nut shell, the death wobble on pre 2003 trucks is usually from the trackbar. On 2003 and up, the wobble is usually caused by loose steering linkage. I’ve updated this article to reflect that there are 2 main causes of the wobble depending on the year of the truck .
To be clear, 9 out of 10 times in my experience on pre 2003 trucks the track bar is the cause of the death wobble on trucks with the tierod at the end of the track bar. I base this on my day to day experience running a front end shop. Most other times if it wasn’t the track bar it was the steering damper. These are the 2 places I start with when a Dodge truck is on the rack. If it’s a later model truck like an 03 and later with a track bar that only has bushings at each end, we install the Dodge steering linkage upgrade kit. See below for more info about that.
Starting in 1994 Dodge trucks come with what’s called a track bar that keeps the front axle from moving side to side. This was necessary due to switching from leaf springs to coil springs on the front axle for a better ride.
In their infinite wisdom, (Dodge) they decided to put a tierod style joint at one end of the trackbar and a rubber bushing at the other end. Calling it a crappy design would be an insult to turds.
Usually the reason this happens on pre 2003 trucks is the end of the trackbar that has the tierod on it has become loose and is now allowing the front axle to move side to side just enough that it sets up an oscillation in the steering linkage and that is what causes the wobble.
On post 2003 trucks I usually hang new steering linkage using the factory linkage upgrade. See video below.
I know the first time I experienced the death wobble while test driving a customers truck back in the 90′s I just about had to change my underwear. It can be pretty scary.
The Problem Part 2
Going back to what I said earlier, the design is crap. And, the trackbar is expensive to replace. If you have big tires it’s not unusual to have to hang a new bar every 15000 miles. Ridiculous. There are a couple different styles of track bar you can install, there’s the BD Performance fully adjustable which is a permanent solution and there’s the aftermarket replacement bar which is basically identical to the bar currently on your truck. I talk about both below.
On pre 2003 trucks is to replace that crappy OE trackbar with one that has been redesigned to eliminate the tierod end.
This is assuming all your steering linkage is tight and your damper is OK.
BD Diesel Performance makes an adjustable track bar kit which is the fix on pre 2003 trucks.
You install it and you’re done. It should last the life of your truck. And like I said, it’s adjustable which is a cool feature if you have a lift kit on your truck because they tend to really put the woop on the OE track bar because when you lift the truck the bar actually needs to be longer to keep the axle in the right place.
With the adjustable bar you can dial it into the exact length it needs to be so it bolts right on. And since it’s not in a bind and it has bushings on both ends, it will last 10 times longer than the OE part that came off the truck. Not to mention it will take the wander out of your truck, as long as the rest of your suspension is in good shape.
My Truck’s Not The Space Shuttle
OK, for whatever reason you just need to fix your truck the cheapest way possible right now. My recommendation is to buy a Moog track bar. Nobody builds better suspension parts when it comes to OE applications. A Moog trackbar will hold up better than any other brand on the market when you’re comparing apples to apples. A Moog trackbar is about a third of the price of BD Diesel Adustable trackbar.
Last but not least, if the steering damper has more than 30K on it, replace it. And if you have any play in any of the tierods, get rid of them too. That is the order I would proceed in if trying to fix on a budget. Plus make sure your steering gear adjustment is good.
Later models that don’t have the tierod style trackbar but still shake
Recently I had a 2004 Dodge 2500 4×4 come in the shop that had the death wobble and it has the redesigned track bar with bushings on both ends instead of the tierod on one end and bushing on the other. Dodge went to this design in 2003.
Hmmm. Now what? The fix was installing a complete new steering linkage from Dodge that has been upgraded in diameter. It’s basically all of the linkage in one box ready to assembly. Sorta of…
You have to buy a new steering dampner to go with it, your old one won’t work with the new design. Don’t buy the factory one with the bend over price, just get one from your local parts house and you’ll save a lot of money.
Last but not least, you might have to tighten the steering gear a turn or so as icing on the cake. That’s what I had to do on the last one. But it was fixed.