Death Wobble Garage Day (Post #549) 11/8/2015

If you’ve been following for any time you’ll have read about my problems with the suspension on the Big White Bus. Mr. Fisher helped me swap out all the tie-rod ends. I thought I blogged about that but I guess I didn’t. In any event, I swapped out the tie-rod ends in an effort to find my death wobble problem.

You’ve never heard of death wobble? Check out this definition from High Sierra 4×4’s Glossary page.

Death Wobble: \ˈdeth\ \ˈwä-bəl\ noun. Death wobble is an exaggerated slang term for extreme steering vibration. This typically occurs when driving your vehicle and due to loose steering components or alignment issues the front end vibrates excessively. In extreme cases this has caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

You’ve never been in a vehicle that is experiencing death wobble? Trust me you don’t. This Youtube video from Alex Rheinbach is as close to what happens as you can experience through the magic of the internet.

Let’s just say, in morning or evening commuting traffic it is seriously no fun. Thankfully in my situation if I can decelerate to under 50mph the wobble stops. When you have this you will find yourself wanting to always drive on roads you’ve been on before. You will see seems in the pavement and wonder if this one will cause you to lose control.

If you’ve ever climbed under the front of your Land Rover you will see what seems like a jungle of bars and rods connecting this or that and the steering and axle. These bars and rods all have bushings that limited vibration and allow for the flexing of the suspension. These bushings can and will fail over time.

I swapped “most” of my bushings in 2010. You can read about it in my blog post “Bushings More Important Than You Know“. Some bushing I did not replace. I did not replace the sway bar bushings or the sway bar ball joints.

Ball joint and sway bar link to the front axle.

The bushing is wrapped around the sway bar and is connected to the frame with a bracket.

Bushing wrapped around the sway bar

Death wobble can be caused by several things. A bad bearings, swivel pin wear, swivel pin bearing failure, bad shocks, bad bushings, misaligned tires, and improperly balanced tires. That’s just the ones I know about. You can read forum posts for two days straight on the theories why this occurs and will this, or will that, cause a problem.

It all boils down to finding the worn out parts in your suspension. Your Land Rover didn’t death wobble when it was delivered from factory. So you will eventually have to find the parts that have failed. What surprised me was how a little bit of movement where is shouldn’t be moving can cause the problem.

So as you read above I’ve replaced my bushings but didn’t replace my front ball joints or sway bar bushings. I ordered them today from Rovah Farm. He had a kit that included the ball joints and sway bar bushings for 50.00$(US) shipped to my house. I know the parts have 230,000 miles on them. It is well passed time to replace them.

Back to the garage day, I went up to the Evil German Dude’s secret lair to diagnose the issue and to watch him re-wire his flatbed trailer. I got under the BWB and pulled the bushings.

The first task was to get the grease and dirt off.

Scrub-ba-dubba-dub. Well with parts cleaner.

The second was to inspect the part.

That’s not round.

The conventional wisdom was to go to AutoZone and see if they had a bushing that was close. The kid behind the counter gave it the old college try Googled some stuff, and tried to find a similar part for a 3/4 ton Ford truck. I wasn’t confident this was going to work and they didn’t have the part in stock anyway.

With the thought that we should “change it up” we decided to swap the bushing around and see what happens. I knew I’d be ordering the part in this weekend and what could it hurt?

We buttoned up the BWB and then it was time to pull up a couple of chairs and scrutinize watch the Evil German Dude re-wire the trailer.

Me and Paparazzi Ford with EGD in the background “wiring”.

We were quite disappointed with some of the work where he used electrical tape in place of zip ties. He had plumbed the entire truck with electrical conduit but decided this section only needed electrical tape. Sooooo disappointing.

EGD is going to cover the bed with PSP Landing Mat. You know the type of mat we used to create airstrips in the Pacific during World War 2.

This is also the stuff used for sand ladders. I will be securing a couple of of lengths to make sand ladders and flooring for my roof rack if it isn’t too heavy. Calumet Industries (2023 Update: they are out of business and they were TOO HEAVY. ) in Calumet, Oklahoma has tons of it. More on that later.

Thanks go out to my mates Paparazzi Ford and EGD for their help this weekend. As always I enjoyed myself tremendously.

Thanks for Reading and Happy Rovering.

6 Replies to “Death Wobble Garage Day (Post #549) 11/8/2015”

  1. Hi Eric, please find my experience with death wobble : I faced this problem couple of times : the 2 main root causes were :
    -tired steering dampener ( and / or endfloat at its bushing )
    -unbalanced front wheels even if there was no obvions vibration before the wobble crisis. Each Times it happened you could feel it coming progressively following a small impact or during breaking down growing up to resonnance
    Patrick from France

    1. Turned out to be my PANHARD ROD bushings. I bought a set of original rubber bushings to replace the poly set I have installed currently.
      I’ll blog it when I get it done.

  2. I sure would like to know where to buy the aircraft landing mats at a reasonable price !!!!!

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