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Old 03-06-2013, 03:06 PM   #1
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Wacky Geo Tracker Head Shake!

First time I tried towing our 96 Geo Tracker ... well ... not really the first time, but first time over 50 miles. Never had an issue until a few weeks ago ... pulled out of the storage facility, turned onto the highway, felt the back end of the Endeavor shaking. Looked in the rearview display and the Geo was "doin' the dance" .... steering wheel oscillation, left/right fenders alternately dipping .... quite the sight!! Stopped and checked everything ... nada. Started again and problem was gone ... uh oh. Went about 100 miles without incident and pulled in for diesel. Upon exiting, made a sharp left down gas station drive and the headshake was back !! Uncoupled and my sweetie drove the Geo the remaining 30 miles ... also drove it back home after our stay (lots of angst !!).

So, after a few searches I found 2 references to similar occurrences ... and no fix mentioned. I assume they drove the Geo off a cliff ...

I'm in Florida and we don't have cliffs. Decided to drive the Geo alone and try to simulate the problem. Too my surprise, if I flicked the wheel back and forth quickly, it would almost do the same thing except my hands damped it enough to stop oscillation.

Replaced the front struts ... front end dip is gone. I assume this will fix it but decided to take one more step. Steering stabilizer/damper. Couldn't find one listed (probably due to age). I looked at some pics of various damper assemblies and decided to try to modify a Moog SSD87 (Ford truck) because it had mounting plates that looked like they might work if modified.

Long story short, modified the mounting plate and installed today (took much longer than anticipated). Everything clears and steering feels REALLY good. Next trip is in April but I think it's fixed.

Pics of the installed damper for anyone with a similar problem:
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Old 03-06-2013, 03:12 PM   #2
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Great post. Hope it all works. The only issue I had with it was that you said there are no cliffs in Fl. What about me ?
Cliff
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Old 03-06-2013, 03:34 PM   #3
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Great post. Hope it all works. The only issue I had with it was that you said there are no cliffs in Fl. What about me ?
Cliff
Once again, as frequently mentioned by DW ... I'm wrong

BTW, the reason I was looking for something to adapt is the Geo tow bar kit bolts right where you would normally mount a stabilizer bracket .... damn !!
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Old 03-06-2013, 03:37 PM   #4
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A bungie from steering wheel to ? works for this problem. No too tight and the wheel can still turn enough, doesn't take much. Some air cooled VWs had this issue.

Glad you got it solved.
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Old 03-06-2013, 03:56 PM   #5
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A bungie from steering wheel to ? works for this problem. No too tight and the wheel can still turn enough, doesn't take much. Some air cooled VWs had this issue.

Glad you got it solved.
Yup .... tried it before the struts (no success) but it probably would have worked after the new struts. However, I decided (for $55) to stiffen up the damping for normal (not towed) driving. Short wheelbase cars with not much castor .... sigh. New Smartcars are REALLY prone to wander ... bungee seems to work though.
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Old 03-06-2013, 05:17 PM   #6
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20 years ago we towed a '91 Tracker. I had this happen a couple times, both after a tight turn, typically in a parking lot of campground and both times on gravel. The steering would go to full lock in one direction in the turn then it would not straighten out. I'd have to get into it to straighten the wheel out a bit and then we'd be good to go.
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Old 03-06-2013, 05:39 PM   #7
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I had a vehicle that did this and it was a bad idler arm
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Old 03-07-2013, 05:07 AM   #8
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I had a vehicle that did this and it was a bad idler arm
Thanks, I can see that happening. In my case, the idler arm, pitman arm, steering box, lower control arms, and sway bar (and bushings) are all good. However, struts were worn and had little compression and rebound resistance.
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Old 03-07-2013, 05:10 AM   #9
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20 years ago we towed a '91 Tracker. I had this happen a couple times, both after a tight turn, typically in a parking lot of campground and both times on gravel. The steering would go to full lock in one direction in the turn then it would not straighten out. I'd have to get into it to straighten the wheel out a bit and then we'd be good to go.
Thanks, I met a guy while camping that towed a 95 Tracker. He had a similar experience while exiting a gas station ... sharp turn with a dip. In my 2 cases, same scenario .... sharp turn with dip (possibly a bounce).
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Old 03-07-2013, 08:11 AM   #10
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Had a Suzuki Samurai a while back. If it hit a bump just right would make you stop prior to quitting the dance thing. You could then proceed until you hit one of "those" bumps again when it would repeat the performance - until you stopped. That turned out to be a factory installed steering stabilizer that had gone bad.
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Old 03-07-2013, 11:28 AM   #11
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I towed a 1989 Geo Tracker behind my 89 Pace Arrow and never had any problems. A welder installed a tow bar to front frame. Custom built at the time with ball hitch. However, bottom line. The welder told me never, never, never back up towing a vehicle with tow bar. You can do a lot of damage to the front end of the vehicle. I heeded his advise. When I am in RV parks I see lots of MHs backing with their toads still hooked up. I also see lots of toads with their back wheels on the tow dolly and towed backwards down the highway. It has to cause damage.
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Old 03-07-2013, 11:36 AM   #12
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Our 94 has done the same thing. Always after a very quick, sharp turn. It also was at slow speed like in a parking lot. If I get out and click off the Blue Ox levers and straighten out the steering it will be OK. We have learned not to turn so abruptly with it behind.

Good info and food for thought for our toad though. I originally had thought the cable on our Ready Brake was hanging on something but could not find what.
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Old 03-07-2013, 02:45 PM   #13
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I've heard that a stiff bungee cord from the seat frame up through and around the steering wheel and back down to the opposite seat frame tames this without ruining tracking ability.
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Old 03-07-2013, 03:05 PM   #14
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I've heard that a stiff bungee cord from the seat frame up through and around the steering wheel and back down to the opposite seat frame tames this without ruining tracking ability.
Well .... sort of. Assuming all suspension components are ok, and it still does it, a bungee might tame it. However, the damping from the bungee is "after" the steering box. My goal was to ensure any oscillations are damped "before" the steering box. Wont know if it's fixed until next month. Meanwhile, the changes have certainly improved the overall handling of the Tracker.
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