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Old 12-07-2011, 03:21 PM   #1
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Ford suspension 'Death Wobble'

I have a 96 Holiday Rambler Endeavor LE, 34'. Who has info on the 'death wobble' in the front end. This home has a Ford F53 frame. The home only has 17000 miles. I've read that the 'trac-bar bushing's' are bad? It only happened twice but scared the dickens out of you. Entire front suspension feels like it is coming loose. Steering wheel shakes violently.

Happened in the 30-40 mph range. Both times. First time I think a washboard effect of pavement on slowdown might have set it off.

Any ideas?
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:36 PM   #2
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I suspect you will get a few different opinions on this subject, but I would start with checking tires for out of round or balance issues and plan on upgrading at least the front shocks. I would not think bushings or ball joints would be bad with this low of mileage, but would not hurt to have them inspected.
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:40 PM   #3
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Worn trac bar bushing is high on the list of things to check for when trying to trace down death wobble . Also tire balance and or alignment. with only 17000 miles you ball joints should be ok. (death wobble usually happens when you raise your 4 wheeler)
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:44 PM   #4
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A track bar would be optional equipment on the f53 chassis. It should come standard with front sway bar and separate steering dampener that looks like a single shock mounted horizontally.
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:54 PM   #5
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On second thought a fellow RVer said " If a problem is speed related it is a problem with your tires ". I had a vibration last year at 45 mph had the front tires rotated to the rear and the rear to the front and balanced. All the vibration went away.
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Old 12-08-2011, 12:56 PM   #6
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I had a 1997 F53 chassis with much higher mileage and never experienced the wobble issue although I've heard of it. Have the front tires checked for problems like out of round. If okay, have them balanced, then have all your "joints" inspected by someone who really knows what they're doing. Even though you have low mileage, I would NOT rule out ball joints because they can wear out quickly if something is wrong in the wheel geometry. I'd probably replace the steering damper regardless. If no joint(s) need replacing, then get a 4-wheel alignment and your problem should be resolved.
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Old 12-08-2011, 01:21 PM   #7
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I don't believe the Ford chassis has ball joints. All the ones I've seen have a straight axle and king pins. Given the age of the vehicle there could be wear on the king pins, especially if it hasn't been lubed correctly.

To get the grease to flow properly you need to remove some weight from the tires. It can be done by extending the leveling jacks (if you have them) or putting a jack under the axle and raising it slightly.

Be sure to check the tie rod ends, and the wheel bearings as well as the stabilizer bar bushings, tire balance, and shocks. Sometimes a vibration can be set up by an out of balance tire. If the shocks are worn to the point they no longer dampen the vibration it will get worse to the point of the "death wobble".
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Old 12-08-2011, 02:07 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hikerdogs View Post
I don't believe the Ford chassis has ball joints. All the ones I've seen have a straight axle and king pins.
Thanks Hikerdogs, you're right, I was thinking of my Ford P/U regarding ball joints. The F53 has king pins and on my chassis they are fine at 60K, but they have been properly maintained.
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Old 12-08-2011, 07:03 PM   #9
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Thanks to everybody. This gives me a lot to work on. I found a Ford dealership today that has a large truck service dept. I am going to let them check out next week. Will report back then,
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Old 01-04-2012, 06:40 AM   #10
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I have a 1999 National Tropical built on the F53 chassis. I have experienced the "death wobble" several times, BUT ONLY on the same exact stretch of road each time. It was going down a steep hill with my brakes on and the front end started to shake violently and the steering wheel shook too. Otherwise on the road, its been fine. but it does scare the hell out of you.
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Old 01-04-2012, 07:11 AM   #11
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Have you considered it might be warped rotors?
Quite often they'll get worse when the brakes are used for any length of time then straighten when they cool.
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Old 01-04-2012, 08:30 AM   #12
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The "death wobble" has been known to happen on brand new solid axle Ford truck chassis. I'm sure it can be aggravated by tire balance, worn bushings, etc., but it is NOT just a poor maintenance problem.

I've experienced it on I80 (east of Youngstown, Ohio) when a "dip" on a bridge approach nearly launched my motorhome into the air. The shaking was uncontrollable until I came to a complete stop. That's not a fun thing to have happen during morning rush hour on an Interstate.

My chosen fix was to install the Steer Safe unit. There are other steering stabilizers and centering devices out there, but mine is doing just fine.

The Steer Safe is designed to prevent loss of control on a blow-out as well.

I do recommend Good shocks, tire balance, sway bar bushing replacement, etc..., but simply for safety and driving comfort. They can't cause the "Death Wobble" by themselves.
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Old 01-04-2012, 05:50 PM   #13
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I brought this subject up with a Ford company representative 11 years ago and his advise was to install a Davis Tru Track front axle stabilizer bar. It took Ford another 7 or 8 years after that, before they actually installed it themselves on new F53 motor home chassis. It's a due it yourself project if you wish, but DO NOT remove the shock absorber mounted on the front axle and tie rod. The Davis Tru Track Bar does cure the death wobble.
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Old 01-04-2012, 06:42 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DGWest View Post
Thanks to everybody. This gives me a lot to work on. I found a Ford dealership today that has a large truck service dept. I am going to let them check out next week. Will report back then,
Were you able to resolve your problem?
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