Dodge Ram Death Wobble and How to fix it

Posted on January 17, 2012 There have been 2 comment(s)

If you’re the owner of any Dodge HD truck and haven’t had any issues related to the front end suspension and/or steering, you’re either oblivious to it, or you’ve managed to find a one in a million truck.  Since the release of the EXTREMELY popular 1994 Dodge Ram through the current generation of Rams, there have always been woes on the integrity, and many times the safety of these trucks in regards to the front end.  Typically, the 1994-2002 (called the 2nd Generation Rams) mostly had issues stemming from premature failure of the steering gear boxes, causing an extremely loose feeling that would work its way down through all of the tie rods and ball joints.  Most drivers would explain this looseness as “driving Miss Daisy” in which you’re driving down the road and constantly correcting the steering because of having to over steer the truck.  On top of this, most notice an extreme harshness when hitting pot holes, speed bumps, etc. that can be felt through the steering wheel.  In extreme cases of these trucks, many will experience an occurrence commonly known as Death Wobble (we’ll talk about this later in the write up).

Next came the release of the 2003 Dodge Rams (called the 3rd Generation Rams) that were in production through 2009.  With the design of these trucks came different suppliers of axles and axle housings in which Dodge got away from Dana axles and switched to American Axles that were larger in diameter, as well as slightly larger gear box, and a host of other “smaller” changes.  These trucks do not have as big of an issue with gearbox failure, just overall the gearbox is relatively weak, and unable to do its job as effectively as it should (which Dodge finally upgraded on the 2009 models).  The biggest complaint of these trucks are premature ball joint failure, which largely stems from looseness in the tie rods, similar to the 2nd Generation Rams, and this looseness many times leads to the previously mentioned Death Wobble.

Now, WHAT IS DEATH WOBBLE?  From the driver’s seat, Death Wobble is a situation in which an absolutely violent shaking of the front end occurs and transfers through to the steering wheel causing an abrupt side to side movement and this occurrence can only be stopped by literally slowing the vehicle down to a stop.  The most frequent situation in which Death Wobble occurs is driving at freeway speeds, going around a corner, and hitting a bump, or especially an expansion joint on a bridge…..then IT happens!

But what is the actual cause, or what is really happening during this event?  Basically, the suspension decompresses, releasing load on the front end, allowing everything to “loosen up” a bit.  Now, the wheels are able to toe-in and toe-out from each other (basically the front of the tires will point towards each other and then away from each other) in rapid succession, shaking the front end.

One of the biggest reasons that this toe-in/toe-out is even physically able to happen is due to a poor steering geometry from Dodge, there is literally a pivot point between the wheels that obviously should be connected.  Basically, if you were to follow the steering geometry starting at the gearbox, you will find the drag link connecting to the pitman arm and then to the passenger side knuckle.  Then, the center link connects at the drag link and goes to the drivers side knuckle.  The point at which the drag link and center link connect is the pivot point.

Stock Geometry on a 2003-08 Dodge Cummins Diesel Truck

Now, this pivot point isn’t necessarily the worst idea in the world, but especially as surrounding tie rods wear out and give some slop, it will DEFINITELY lead to Death Wobble.

In mid-model year 2008, Dodge finally made some corrective action to this whole scenario and released a revised steering geometry for the trucks.  Now, the center link goes knuckle to knuckle, and the drag link ties into the center link, thus eliminating the pivot point between the wheels.

2009+ Steering Geometry

This new geometry was released “under the radar” some could say.  To this day, Dodge will never admit to Death Wobble or anything of the sort.  For instance, if you take your truck to the dealer and say you have Death Wobble, you will typically be looked at with unbeknownst eyes and will be forced to explain what the truck is doing….because they’ve never heard of such a thing.  At that time, they will go through the front end and look for signs of wear, and will typically find that the…….(wait for it, wait for it) tie rods are worn and need to be replaced.  But guess what, they won’t just change the tie rods, you will get an entirely new drag link and center link, which also features a MUCH larger diameter than the old stock system.  You can’t even purchase replacement tie rods from the dealer for the old system, its been completely discontinued, wonder why?

So, now how do you fix or prevent Death Wobble? A Dodge steering stabilizer essentially acts as a buffer or shock absorber for your steering box. It mitigates many of the more subtle movements of your steering system, keeping things aligned and keeping the steering wheel steady in your hands. The result is that in the traditionally loose-handling Dodge trucks, your steering will feel considerably more tight, leading to being able to better control your vehicle and get more out of it for whatever job you need your truck for.

We manufacture top quality Dodge Steering Stabilizers. Our American made steering braces are built to the highest standard. Now your truck can handle the road better than when it was new!!

This post was posted in Custom Diesel

2 Responses to Dodge Ram Death Wobble and How to fix it

  • Jeff says:

    I have a 2004.5 ram 3500 dually 4x4 which has the new updated steering system a trac bar and steering box brace and shock I put in 3 weeks ago , ball joints , u- joints , wheel bearings are all only 2 months old and I just experienced the death whobble again at 60 kph I just don't know what else to do hoping for some answers

    Posted on September 24, 2012 at 1:10 pm

  • josh says:

    so my 2007 3500 mega cab got a death wobble on the freeway at 65 mph. so i took it to the local dealer and they said they had no idea what i was talking about. when the service advisor went for a ride and the truck shook so bad we almost went off the road he look at me and said "this truck is unsafe". they replaced all the ball joints, steering box with a 4500 model truck, pit man arm, all tie rods with the updated style, drive line, rebalanced the tires, and multiple alinement. Then i was called and was told the truck is ready. after 2 months of trying to fix it. so i go get it and guess what it still does it!! any other ideas thanks josh

    Posted on January 1, 2013 at 12:07 am

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