Although lifted suspensions are popular among four-wheel-drive enthusiasts, those extra inches don't always come without a price. For some, it's simple things like recalibrating the speedometer after installing larger tires, but for others, the lift brings a more frightening and challenging problem. Death wobble, as it as not-so-affectionately known in the off-roading community, is a violent and overwhelming vibration that takes over your front end and spreads through the steering wheel and the entire drive train. If you've installed a suspension lift and now your truck feels much like a wet dog trying to shake water off its back, here's what you need to know.
What Causes Death Wobble?
Understanding the cause of death wobble means understanding the basic geometry of the drivetrain and suspension. Keeping in mind that everything is connected, from the tires to the axles to the track bar to the drive shaft, you can see how the problem quickly flows from one area to the next. The altered suspension angles created by a lift kit can change the way that weight and stress are distributed. If one component of the existing suspension is worn or misaligned, it can wiggle a little bit. Since every piece is connected and dependent on the rest, that vibration can spread quickly through the entire structure.
How Can You Get Rid Of Death Wobble?
The resolutions for death wobble are as varied as the causes. Since there are so many components to the suspension and drivetrain, fixing the problem is a process of elimination. Here are some of the things that you should check.
- Visibly Worn Components - Slip under the truck and take a look at the parts in the front end. If there's any shiny, scratched or visibly damaged metal, that's likely where your problem is originating. Replace the damaged parts and see if it resolves the issue.
- Loose Bolts and Hardware - Check all of the bolts and bushings from the springs to the track bar. Sometimes, a single loose bolt is all it takes. You should also inspect the tie rod and drag link ends. If there's play in them, you'll want to reach out to a mechanic. The slightest extra movement in the suspension can lead to suspension shake.
- Tire Wear and Balance - If your tires are unevenly worn or out of balance, the tire can cause some vibration. When paired with a lifted suspension, that vibration can spell disaster. Make sure your tires are all properly balanced and inflated. Keep up with your rotations, too. If you don't rotate them on time, the uneven wear it can cause will often result in poor handling and shaking.
- Wheel Bearings - If there's play in the wheel bearings, that can affect the handling of your truck. When you add the additional height to your suspension, the vibration caused by the worn bearings can cause the whole truck to shake. Jack the truck up to get the front tires completely off the ground. Grasp the tire at the top and bottom, then try to wiggle it. If there's any lateral movement in the tire, that's a sign that your bearings need a mechanic's inspection.
- Steering Stabilizer - Installing a new steering stabilizer might help to keep the front end tighter and under better control. However, if you've been dealing with death wobble for a little while before you install it, you'll still want to carefully check all of the bushings, bolts and other parts again, because the vibration can cause further wear and damage to those parts.
If these steps don't reveal the cause of your death wobble, you'll want to reach out to an auto parts and repair shop like Brandywine Coach Works for some more detailed diagnostics.