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Old 07-16-2019, 02:10 PM   #1
Dave Young
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Default Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Out for a drive yesterday and a few blocks from home, the steering wheel started to shake and wobble quite violently. It felt like a front wheel was about to come off! A good thing I was in 2nd gear and only doing about 15 mph at the time. (I had previously been clipping along at 45 mph on a main road and can't imagine what would have happened had it occurred then). I pulled over and stopped.


I got out to inspect, fully expecting to see a wheel sitting at an odd angle but could see no problem. Looked behind the wheels and underneath but still couldn't see anything wrong. I got back in and very gingerly inched forward to recreate the wobble but nothing happened. I slowly brought it back up to about 20 mph and still nothing. Kept on going and got it back to my house without any sign of a problem.



So now what? I don't know what to do. I'm afraid to drive it again until I know the problem and have it fixed. My question then is, has anyone else experienced this? What could it be? An obvious major problem like this couldn't just go away, could it? How was I able to carry on driving it after such a serious symptom of a major problem.


The car is a fully restored 1929 tudor with not much more than 3,000 miles since restoration.
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:30 PM   #2
MickeyT
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Sounds like you have experienced the notorious "death wobble". If so it could be any number of issues. Wheel bearings, king pins, steering gear box, steerng linkage, wheels and tires among other things. Start with the simple and check for looseness in each item. I'm sure others will offer better suggestions. I had it on my truck and it was gone after I did my front end rebuild.

Last edited by MickeyT; 07-16-2019 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:42 PM   #3
Purdy Swoft
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Several things can cause a shimmy or death wobble . The only thing that has ever caused shimmy on my model A's was improper toe in . The toe in should be set for 1/16 toe in at the front .
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Old 07-16-2019, 02:46 PM   #4
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Yup, check everything and make sure nothing is loose. Many install a steering stabilizer to fix this. It works but doesn't fix the underlying problem.



Most seem to pin the death wobble problem on the caster being off.


Been chasing death wobble on my '98 Cherokee for a while now as well. First time it happened was at 70 on the highway.... not fun.
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Old 07-16-2019, 03:18 PM   #5
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Can you tell us more about your cars condition and what you know has been done to the front end.

King pins, wishbone, front spring, steering box, shocks, any moving parts. What are there condition.
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Old 07-16-2019, 03:19 PM   #6
Bruce of MN
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

I found the rubber ball at my front radius rod mounting had fallen apart, so I replaced it all with the stock parts and my wobble went away.
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Old 07-16-2019, 03:58 PM   #7
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Yep, the 'death wobble' can come from any looseness or improper adjustment from the steering wheel all the way down thru to the wheel bearings.

Once thats checked and fixed set the toe-in to 1/32-1/16"
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Old 07-16-2019, 04:11 PM   #8
J Franklin
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Too tight shackles can cause shimmy, as well as an out of round tire, even when the other components are OK. It usually starts as a small vibration that increases in resonance until it comes to an abrupt manifestation involving other or worn components..
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Old 07-16-2019, 04:16 PM   #9
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Its surprising you haven't had it before. I mostly eliminated mine by getting rid of the aftermarket rubber"tennis" ball on the radius rod and replacing it with the stock parts, and by tightening the Pittman arm where it clamps onto the steering gear shaft. This year I expect to probably replace my king pins later this summer. I still get a bit of one once in a while but only at pretty low speeds on crappy roads. It sure surprised me the first time it happened when I knew nothing about my new prized purchase!
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Old 07-16-2019, 04:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Couple posters here have mentioned replacing the rubber ball on radius rod and going back to the steel on steel. It would be easy but don't you have to replace the two bolts also? This means you have to access the clutch housing correct?
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Old 07-16-2019, 05:02 PM   #11
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 37 Coupe View Post
Couple posters here have mentioned replacing the rubber ball on radius rod and going back to the steel on steel. It would be easy but don't you have to replace the two bolts also? This means you have to access the clutch housing correct?
The bolts can be accessed through the hole above the ball. It's good finger and language exercise.
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:12 PM   #12
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Tighten your tie rod and drag link ends and make sure you have 1/16” toe in. Also check you pitman arm for looseness. It’s tough, but you should adjust your steering gear. Or, just find a club member and he can tell you what to do.
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:55 PM   #13
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

As others have said above, you have experienced what we know as the Death Wobble. If you had it at 20 mph (about the usual speed), it will disappear if you speed up. The danger in that is - you have to slow down again some time.
I recommend, like others that you go through the front end of the car and tighten anything loose and repair anything worn. Start with the steering box, then the pitman arm/sector shaft clamp and steering box/chassis bolts, then work your way through it. When I had it, I tightened the steering ball joints a bit - that helped but didn't cure it. I'd pay special attention to the king pins, wheel bearings, ball joint on the A frame, toe in, shackles - heck look at everything. It is quite likely it is a little here and a little there combining to play havoc.
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Old 07-16-2019, 07:04 PM   #14
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

The bolts holding the caps of both kinds of radius rod restraint have a "slot" for the retaining pin at the top which is normally inside the bell housing. The bolts can be changed using long forceps and going in/getting the threaded portion of the bolt into the hole/dropping it in place. (15 words to describe, a couple of hundred to swear.)

One problem I experienced in this exchange is the slots are not made deep enough on the retaining stud. You try to push the externally inserted stud retaining/anti-turn pin in across both slots and out the other side of the housing - and the slot(s) are not deep enough to let it pass thru.

A grinding wheel in a portable grinder was called into play and deepened the slot which allowed assembly.

Of course you get to do the 15 words/200 swears all over again.

This one of those jobs better done with the bell housing on a bench - if you have the endurance for it. There may be less swear words is removal of the engine/tranny.

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Old 07-17-2019, 01:54 AM   #15
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

I did mine while I was in there for a clutch job.
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:07 AM   #16
Bruce of MN
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

I left my special bolts in place and replaced everything else, so I didn't have to deploy any bad words when I worked on my radius rod socket.
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:23 AM   #17
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

I get the death wobble at 10 mph 1923 touring and can't find any thing loose maybe
tires, odd it goes away in high speed???
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:31 AM   #18
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

I just finished rebuilding a complete front axel. Bad case of death wobble. Lower king pin bushing was loose in the spindle. The spindle was shot. New bushing fell out. Also the balls were egg shape everywhere. Toe was 3/4 out. 2 different makes of shackles were used.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:25 AM   #19
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

I had sudden severe wobble at about 20 MPH . I pulled over but could not find anything obvious .I drove home at a sedate speed but no recurrence . I jacked up the front to check all front end components and the wheels . I spun the wheels to check for buckle and tyre bulges but all was fine . I noticed that one wheel stopped at the same spot every time very strongly .My local tyre shop had a ballancing machine that could ballance a 19" wire wheel and found the wheel was way out of balance by about 8 ounces .The ballance weights were clipped on the rim (both sides) .I had the other wheel done as well but was only slightly off ballance .The wobble has never returned ,I think both wheels got in synchrony at one critical point which produced the sudden onset . I have another car with a very mild wobble so I swapped the fronts for the back and fixed that but I supose they ought to be ballanced . The 21" wheel can be ballanced with the stick on weights used on alloy wheels .

John in sunny West Drayton Hillingdon County London England .
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Old 07-17-2019, 08:13 AM   #20
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Default Re: Scary ... What the hell happened ?

Do any of the vendors offer a service as in completely rebuilding a front end for a Model A Ford? I live in Ohio and recently saw a complete front end assembly for sale at $600 that supposedly was rebuilt a few years back from Snyders. No brake drums but everything else was either new or rebuilt ready to u bolt on.
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