Dodge "Death Wobble" Finally Makes National News

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http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/05/16/bc-dodgeproblem.html The "death wobble" has been happening for at least eight years now, though I believe the tie rod failures are a new feature. CBC is overstating the problem a bit with their "Vehicle Can't Be Controlled" sub-heading. It is somewhat difficult to control, and it's a little scary even when you're used to it, but you can still steer and slowing alleviates the problem. I've even been a passenger when it happened at the end of a sub-14 second quarter mile at a drag strip. When it first started happening to a buddy with an '04 3500, we went out on the highway, induced it by hitting some bumps at highway speed, and I leaned out the window to observe what was happening. The front tire was bouncing rapidly; a crazy sight. On his '06 2500, he recently installed the newer, beefed-up front end from the current trucks that is supposed to prevent this from happening. I believe it has helped, but he had a failure of one of the new tie rods within a few months that put him into the ditch. He was fortunate that it steered him off the road at an opportune moment instead of into oncoming traffic or a solid object. He used all OEM Dodge components, but Dodge would not warranty anything because it was not the OEM design, even though those same components are installed on similar trucks when owners complain about the problem within the warranty period, and those trucks have also experienced tie rod failures. Another buddy had an '03 that he grew to hate so much that he would sometimes accelerate when it happened in a enraged attempt to destroy the truck. Fortunately, he ended up trading it in on an '06 GMC 2500 Duramax before any serious failure occurred. He prefers to sell his vehicles privately, but he couldn't bring himself to sell this vehicle directly to another person so he took a bath on the trade in. These trucks all had oversized tires - 285/70R17 and 315/70R17 compared to the OE 265/70R17 - which certainly contributed to the problem through the increase in unsprung weight and sidewall springiness, but apparently it's an issue even with the stock tire size. This is the only other BITOG thread I found relating to the problem: Very Dangerous Tire Bounce
 
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About the warranty thing, any manufacturer would do that. For them to warranty the part, it has to apply to the vehicle in question, not from a different year vehicle.
 
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Originally Posted By: rpn453
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/05/16/bc-dodgeproblem.html The "death wobble" has been happening for at least eight years now, though I believe the tie rod failures are a new feature. CBC is overstating the problem a bit with their "Vehicle Can't Be Controlled" sub-heading.
Overstating an issue in the press, i.e., sensationalism, is a common practice. I don't agree with it, but its part of a culture that exists within and outside the media geared toward adding as much punch to an article as they can in as few possible words. They want to make it as sound bite friendly as they can and ensure it grabs the audiences attention. Fortunately, here you've gone beyond posting the link and added some much needed context to balance it out and present a more accurate, if less sensational, picture. A good example of how and why to take everything put out from the media - regardless of the source - with a critical eye and hefty grain of salt. FTR, CBC is one of my primary news outlets as, though all MSM is biased toward one degree or another and injects as much sensationalism as they can into their stories, CBC tends to be one of the more moderate voices. Not bias or sensationalism free, but a little more free of it overall. Anyway, kudos to you for adding some first hand experience and well presented context to go with the article. -Spyder
 
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^ All Jeeps with a solid front axle are at least a bit prone to it. Typically only an issue with oversize tires though, and it can almost always be blamed on either incorrect alignment, worn parts or both.
 
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Also a known issue with Jeep Cherokees throughout the years. All the vehicles described use a coil spring setup with four control arms and a track bar controlling the live axle setup. The usual culprit on the Cherokees is the track bar, but the whole suspension must be thoroughly checked out and any slop eliminated. Also check the air pressure in the oversized tires - likely it is running too high and contributing to the issue.
 
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Tire balance can do it too. The one time I had minor death wobble on mine, it was due to having a front tire just a hair out of balance (slow down or speed up beyond where it starts, and it would clear up).
 
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What the heck?!? There's NOTHING new about any of this. So-called "Death wobble" is an instability that can arise in 4-link leading-arm solid-axle suspension that dates all the way back to AT LEAST 1984, when that suspension design was first used on the Jeep Cherokee! Its always a worn part, wrong adjustment, or something flat-out broken that causes it, and mechanics that understand the suspension can always fix it quickly.Its almost always related to either a trackbar problem, a steering problem, or leading-arm bushing problem. Its only a "mystery" when passenger-car mechanics or DIYers who aren't familiar with that design or don't understand what causes the wobble start playing around throwing parts at it and trying to get a fix, IMO. The design was scaled up and used on the full-size Dodge trucks starting with the 1994 Ram. Its a great overall design that allows much more offroad "flex" than leaf springs with a solid axle or independent front suspension does. Its simple, has a low parts count, is rugged, and generally low maintenance. Its much easier on tires than, for example, Ford's old Twin-I-beam. But you DO have to keep the track-bar joints tight, keep the track bar and drag link strictly parallel when lifting the truck, keep the scrub radius correct when increasing tire size, etc. or it will potentially develop oscillations (aka Death Wobble).
 
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Tie Rod failure is common on the last of the 3rd Gen 1500 Ram's too. Just had one replaced under warranty on my 08 w/ 21K on it.
 

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Originally Posted By: 440Magnum
What the heck?!? There's NOTHING new about any of this. So-called "Death wobble" is an instability that can arise in 4-link leading-arm solid-axle suspension that dates all the way back to AT LEAST 1984, when that suspension design was first used on the Jeep Cherokee! . . .
It certainly isn't new, though I didn't know it went back that far. I thought my buddy should make a post about his tie rod failure but he never got around to it. Then another buddy sent us that link by e-mail a few days ago which incorporated both the tie rod failures and the wobble, so I figured I'd get all of it into this thread. It's true that it does not seem to happen with a brand new front end, but it can begin happening with under 60k miles and no obviously worn-out parts. He has had many alignments at different locations with his trucks, and the problem can still occur shortly after. He has replaced every front end suspension and steering wear component at least once on his '06. I'm not sure of the mileage, but I believe it's under 100k. For a safety-conscious person to ensure that it never happens, you'd have to replace your entire front end at least every 60k miles: all bushings, ball joints, tie rods, and maybe even the steering box (I know that's been changed on his). Of course, this is based on a truck with 35" tires, and someone who is truly concerned about optimizing on-road safety would be using the stock 32" tire size. The rims are stock, so at least the offset is correct, and the trucks I mentioned are not lifted. I believe that the larger tire size is a far bigger contributing factor than he does. Maybe there would be a lot more allowable wear before it occurs with the stock tires. It seems that the recent tie rod failures - a far worse issue than the wobble - are a manufacturing defect, as my buddy had no wobble on the new front end prior to its failure. That's a separate issue, though one that would be aggravated by wobble.
 

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Originally Posted By: bdcardinal
About the warranty thing, any manufacturer would do that. For them to warranty the part, it has to apply to the vehicle in question, not from a different year vehicle.
True, but in this case Dodge would have installed that same front end had he complained hard enough about it while under warranty. Other than the upgraded parts, it's the same front end. I believe warranty was a no-go for him though because he imported it from the U.S. back when our dollar climbed to parity. Considering that their manufacturing negligence could have caused major damage or death to such a loyal customer, I'd think they'd be happy to simply warranty the damaged part.
 
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I'm looking at it and seeing oversized, non factory tires, and then looking at tie rod failures. Tell me again why this should have been warrantied? Sometimes we fail to see that the choices like larger tire sizes increase the overall stresses in the system above what they would have been stock. Correspondingly, expect a higher failure rate. All part of the tradeoffs. Had it all occured with stock wheels and tires, and perhaps an arguement could be made. Modify it, and all bets are off... (All that being said, I too have increased the size of my tires on my Cherokee and on my F150's. On the flip side, all were out of warranty and I fully accept what that might mean...)
 

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Originally Posted By: MNgopher
I'm looking at it and seeing oversized, non factory tires, and then looking at tie rod failures. Tell me again why this should have been warrantied?
I think your view is reasonable based on the information I've provided. I realize I've left out a very important detail! I totally forgot to mention that both new and warranty-repaired trucks with this batch of tie rods were recalled due to the manufacturing defect. Had these same tie rods been installed on his truck under warranty, as they were with other trucks of his model year, his truck would have been part of the recall. Had he returned the recalled part before using it, I'd expect they would have exchanged it for a non-defective part. So he bought a defective Dodge part that was later recalled, but they won't even replace the broken, recalled part.
 
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Originally Posted By: rpn453
[quote=MNgopher]So he bought a defective Dodge part that was later recalled, but they won't even replace the broken, recalled part.
How would they get reimbursed from the manufacturer? There is no VIN to apply it to. Recalls are all based on VINs not part numbers.
 

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Originally Posted By: bdcardinal
How would they get reimbursed from the manufacturer? There is no VIN to apply it to. Recalls are all based on VINs not part numbers.
So it's common for dealerships and OE distributors to just continue selling defective steering components they have in stock because the manufacturer won't reimburse them? Scary stuff! My guess is that they will not warranty it because doing so would be an admittance of guilt and that could induce liability in similar situations where the damages are severe.
 
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If a specific part number is bad the manufacturer will issue a stop sale and immediate return or immediate scrap notice on those parts. The issue with your friend is that the part in question was not specifically for his vehicle. Yes it may fit but it wasn't for his vehicle. So when the dealer submits a Service Part Warranty claim the manufacturer, in this case Chrysler, will kick the claim back and say "the part you want covered does not fit the vehicle". All the auto makers are watching warranty claims like hawks now. I just recently had to send A/C O-rings back to Ford to analyze on a warranty claim.
 
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For Dodge, is the death wobble happening only to Four wheel drive versions or both 4 & 2 wheel versions? Is it happening only to 2500 and 3500 Rams or are the 1500 also having this problem? For Jeep vehicles, is it only Wranglers or Wranglers and four wheel drive Cherokees?
 

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Originally Posted By: bdcardinal
If a specific part number is bad the manufacturer will issue a stop sale and immediate return or immediate scrap notice on those parts. The issue with your friend is that the part in question was not specifically for his vehicle. Yes it may fit but it wasn't for his vehicle. So when the dealer submits a Service Part Warranty claim the manufacturer, in this case Chrysler, will kick the claim back and say "the part you want covered does not fit the vehicle". All the auto makers are watching warranty claims like hawks now. I just recently had to send A/C O-rings back to Ford to analyze on a warranty claim.
Who cares what vehicle it was on. He could have been using it on a custom built race car. The part is unquestionably defective. There should be a real live autonomous human somewhere in the chain that can make a decision. Of course, there is. He/she is a lawyer, and that lawyer recommends that they deny guilt in every way possible. The lawyer is probably doing what is in the corporation's best interest as a sociopathic entity, but it's still shameful. Despite their denial, I have little doubt that Dodge would have been held held liable in court had the defective broken tie rod caused his truck to veer into oncoming traffic.
 
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