Front End Rebuild
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The Problem: This is most commonly referred to as the “death
wobble” in the Jeep and Truck world and it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose and repair. Here are some of the components that we associate with death wobble
o Track bar and Track bar ball joint - this runs from the frame of your vehicle to a mounting point on the axle, this keep the axle from moving laterally (left to right). This keeps your front wheels in line with your rear wheels so that your truck tracks straight down the road. This is the #1 problem we associate with death wobble.
o Tie Rod Ends – Your tie rod ends hold your front tires straight with a connecting bar, when you hear about “toe in or toe out” this is what they are referring to. Toe in is when your wheels are pointed at each other too much.
Toe out is when your wheels are pointed outward. Although these conditions rarely cause death wobble, they will cause excessive tie wear, this will also make your truck difficult to drive straight down the road. The issue we see with tie rod ends is excessive play. This play will allow the tires to “slap” back in forth creating vibrations and causing shaking in the wheel. The best way to think about this concept is by imagining a rowboat. When rowers on both sides are working in harmony the boat drives straight. When they are out of harmony, one side overpowers the other, steering the boat out of the direction, this causes the opposing side to overpower to get back to straight. This creates the “slapping” effect in which both sides keep trying to overpower the other until it’s happening so frequently that your wheel starts to shake.
o Drag Link & Drag link end – The drag link on your Ford F250/F350 is how your truck steering wheel is connected to your spindle or tie rod ends. All of these components need to be in good working shape with very minimal play to keep your truck driving straight down the road. Your drag link starts at the spindle on the passenger side of your truck. From there it's connected to your pitman arm which is connected to your steering/gearbox. Your gearbox is connected to a shaft that travels through your firewall up to your steering wheel. Although a worn draglink assembly usually isn’t the cause of death wobble, worn components in the drag link are generally caused by bad tie rod ends, or a worn track bar or track bar ball joint. Vibrations and slack in these components will cause a drag link assembly to wear out quickly as these components are not designed to take abuse from the road like your tie rod ends and track bar system are. Typically this is where we see “slack” in the steering system. If you can shake your wheel back and forth while driving and your truck doesn’t respond accordingly, this can be the cause.
o Steering Stabilizer – Will a new steering stabilizer fix my death wobble? In a short answer, it will not. Think of your steering stabilizer as a shock absorber that is stationary. Rather than returning to fully extended, it stays put. This keeps small bumps and vibrations out of your steering wheel and keeps your wheel from jerking back and forth. Over time this shock beings to wear out over normal use and becomes easier to extend and collapse. Replacing this with a new steering stabilizer may minimize the effects of
death wobble but it will not fix your problem; as your new steering stabilizer will be taking more abuse than it’s designed for and eventually wear out, just as the previous one did.
o How to identify components causing death wobble: This is a 2 person job. First, have your helper get into your vehicle and set the parking brake. This is for your safety since you’ll be under the vehicle. You’ll want to make sure the vehicle is on flat ground (concrete preferably). Have your helper start the vehicle and straighten the wheel. Now, position yourself under the front of the vehicle so that all the steering components are visible to you. Have your helper shake the wheel from 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock. Ask them to maintain the same speed while doing this, in most cases the faster they go from 10 to 2 the easier it is to identify an issue. What you are looking for is “clicking” (the best way we’ve found to describe it) in components. If everything appears to be tight you likely have a tire wear issue and we recommend rotating your tires and inflating them to OEM recommendations. If you see tie rod ends that have play or components which look like they are moving up and down you will want to look at replacing those components.