Death wobble is one of the terrifying words a truck owner can hear. Death wobbles often start small, a simple vibration or shudder, within a short time, the problem has advanced to the point that you can’t control your vehicle. This condition can affect any vehicle, especially diesel trucks.
So, do tires cause death wobble? Tires can cause death wobble, especially if they are overinflated or underinflated. Mismatched pressures are also a common trigger, meaning you have to ensure all your tires have the right air pressure. It would help if you didn’t drive with overinflated or underinflated tires, especially on rough road terrain. Once you have a death wobble, correcting it involves a slow process of elimination that needs some level of experience.
Death wobbles are not a good experience for any driver, and it is vital to know every detail about them for better handling in the future. There are many causes of death wobbles, a wild moment that could see you lose control of your vehicle. Tires have been heavily linked with this condition, and many drivers wonder if that is true.
Tires can cause a death wobble, especially if they are not of optimal standards. If the tires are underinflated or overinflated, they will likely cause a death wobble. You should also ensure that all tires have matching pressure levels because mismatches in pressure could trigger death wobble. As a driver, you must know some of the common causes of death wobble. This puts you in a better position to know how you can handle them in the future.
Tire pressure is one of the common causes of death wobble. In fact, the first step in diagnosing a death wobble is examining tire pressure. When your tires are overinflated, underinflated, or have mismatched pressures, you are likely to experience death wobble.
Unfortunately, a recent study shows that only 15% of Americans can properly check tire pressure. You should know how to check tire pressure if you intend to address the death wobble problem. The right pressure levels are listed on your vehicle’s door jamb sticker — always ensure the tires have this level of air pressure.
Improper steering alignment is another common cause of death wobble. People use trucks in an extreme manner, off-roading, sled pulling, and running them through potholes that punish suspension and steering components.
With time, these parts will start getting loose, worn out, and in some cases, broken or bent. Proper alignment is vital because it ensures that you continue driving in a steady and straight manner, reducing the chances of death wobble.
Although it is often overlooked, out-of-spec caster is also a common trigger for death wobbles. Leveling, lift, and lowering kits all affect the amount of caster present. Luckily, once you fix the alignment, you get the wheels back in proper spec. Therefore, you are encouraged to be cautious about the lift kit, especially when working with smaller trucks. Overlooking it could significantly increase the chances of death wobble.
Tire balance is another common cause of death wobble. Unfortunately, most drivers don’t have their tires balanced. In fact, most divers have tires balanced only once — when they are mounted on wheels for the first time. What you didn’t know is that tires need more frequent balancing than what you think.
As the tire gets older, its proportions and weight change significantly. This can cause a mild, out-of-balance condition in the long run. When the balancing is awful, the tires might lose some if not all their wheel weights, triggering a death wobble condition.
Therefore, you should rotate and balance tires at every oil change because it helps prevent worsening conditions. It also prevents tire wear, keeping your tire in excellent condition for much longer.
Ball joints are another common cause of death wobbles. These are some of the essential components of any suspension or steering system. They act as a pivot between the vehicle’s suspension and steering knuckles and are also responsible for handling the various force loads you subject your vehicle to daily. When the ball joints wear out, they result in unwanted movement from tires and wheels.
This transfers vibration to the chassis, worsening the condition significantly. When you use larger wheels and carry extra weight, you can easily exceed the factory ball joint limit and cause damage. Experts recommend that you use heavy-duty, greaseable, and rebuildable ball joints for maximum efficiency.
Even though the custom ball joints are not cheap, they will save you from a lot of trouble later. To check the state of your ball joint, lift one side of the vehicle and grab the tire at 6 and 12 o’clock positions. Then, rock it back and forth while looking for play at the ball joints — you shouldn’t detect anything.
You should also be cautious about the tire rod. The tire rod plays an important role by connecting the steering knuckles and transferring input from the drag link to the wheels. When you add bigger, off-road tires, you can increase the level of stress on the factory tie rod. Bent tie rods and worn-out rod ends can increase the chances of death wobble.
You will see these signs through steering wheel shake, wandering, and chassis vibration. Besides, a good tie rod will have adequate rotational movement around the joint and not any side-to-side or up-and-down play. Heavy-duty rod ends, and tie rods are readily available in the aftermarket and are resistant to loads from other larger tires.
Checking the track bar is important because they are also common causes of death wobbles. In most cases, death wobbles are traced back to the track bar. This is a very important component because it locates the front axle under the truck.
Given that the track bar attaches at one end of the frame and the other end to the axle, it is subjected to massive loads as the suspension and steering cycle. In such cases, one of its essential components has been compromised; that is bushings, bolts, and bracket welds.
This compromised situation will trigger it to transfer vibrations and start oscillations that become death wobble in the long run. Therefore, you must ensure that the track bar is in good condition to prevent such cases and limit the possibility of death wobble. You should also be cautious about the state of its components, like screws and bushings.
Can New Tires Cause Vibration?
Vibrations are a common thing among vehicles with worn-out tires. Even though old age has often been thought of as the cause of vibration, drivers are getting concerned about the possibility of new tires causing this problem.
New tires can cause vibrations. When you first put new tires on your car, an alignment that is even slightly off can result in vibration. Compared to older tires, new tires have better lateral grip, meaning they can pick up an alignment vibration more easily. Apart from new tires, there are other possible causes of vibration in a vehicle. Knowing these causes will go a long way in helping you fix the problem.
Tire and wheel balancing is one of the possible causes of vibration. The subject of wheel and tire balancing is crucial to your vehicle’s efficiency performance. When you buy a new set of tires, they are installed on wheels and then individually balanced to cancel out any impersonation.
This is the aim of both tire and wheel manufacturers, and it helps prevent vibration. However, even the smallest imperfection or imbalance can be detected when driving at a high speed of around 1000+ revolutions per mile.
In that case, you should take your vehicle to a technician. They will fine-tune all of the tires and wheels through balancing. If you still detect vibrations after getting a new set of tires installed, it could be due to the fact the technician didn’t do a good job balancing one of your tires.
Some drivers wonder if older sets of tires also experience wheel imbalance. The answer is yes. The wheel weights responsible for creating wheel balancing are applied to the wheel’s inner part using an adhesive.
With time, the wheel weight can weaken and completely detach from the wheel. Some of the factors that cause this detachment include extreme driving conditions such as heavy braking and rough off-road terrains.
You can also experience vibrations due to flat spots. If your vehicle has been in a stagnant position for an extended period, flat tire spots can result in driving vibration. Of course, tires are meant to be used regularly.
If your vehicle’s weight is focused on a specific area of the tires for a long time, it is likely to develop flat spots. This occurs especially if a corresponding drop in tire pressure has been triggered. When you start using the vehicle again, the flat spots will create a driving vibration until the tire regains its shape.
Thankfully, most of the tire flat spots can be fixed by proper tire inflation and some miles. Braking, conventional cornering, and acceleration will guide tires into proper shape. You are warned against overinflating your tires with the aim of removing flat spots. Doing so could make tires unstable.
Damaged or bent wheel tires are another common cause of vibration. The presence of many pothole-riddled roads could increase the likelihood of driving vibrations. Typically, wheels and tires are built to withstand road imperfections. However, there are limitations to how much they can withstand. Driving on roads with extremely bad conditions can cause structural damage to tires or even bend your wheels.
Therefore, you should be cautious about the pothole impact — if possible, avoid driving on such roads altogether. Even though it is possible to fix damaged or bent tires, you can’t be sure of their efficiency. Therefore, you will have to get new tires to replace the damaged ones. This can be costly, especially if you have to replace all of them. It also means you need to do extensive wheel balancing.
Can You Get an Alignment Before New Tires?
When installing new tires on your vehicle, many drivers wonder whether they should get an alignment before or after the installation. Knowing when to have an alignment is vital because doing it at the wrong time might not produce the desired results.
You can get an alignment before installing new tires. This is possible because the only thing that changes your vehicle’s alignment is the right height. The change is negligible because there are sophisticated suspension and steering designs that come with modern vehicles.
You should know that your vehicle’s steering and suspension system has several parts. All of these parts must be well-aligned and in great condition to ensure your vehicle’s handling process is decent.
This also ensures your steering is stable and your tires have even contact with the road. When your vehicle leaves the factory for the first time, all the parts are in excellent condition and aligned perfectly. The steering system is usually aligned with a computerized, laser-guided vehicle alignment machine.
Unfortunately, road imperfections, collisions, mileage, and other factors cause misalignment in some parts of the vehicle. When your vehicle is out of alignment, it affects both the handling and steering response and wears down tires prematurely. In that case, you will need vehicle realignment to help restore its condition.
If your vehicle is constantly drifting to a certain side on a straight road, it is a sign that the vehicle needs realignment. This is also the case if your steering is constantly vibrating on a standard road. In addition, if your steering wheel is not centered when driving straight, it is a sign that the vehicle needs fixing. Check out any of these signs to have your vehicle realigned on time.
Even if your vehicle is not showing any of these signs, you are advised to still take it for alignment. Check the manufacturer’s manual for further instructions regarding vehicle realignment. What most drivers don’t know is that vehicle realignment comes with a wide range of benefits. For instance, it helps minimize tire wear, keeping it in good condition for a long time.
Death wobbles are responsible for many accidents, especially if you are driving at high speed. Sadly, tires are one of the main causes of death wobble, especially if they are not in optimal condition. Underinflated or overinflated tires are likely to cause death wobble due to instability.
Mismatches in tire pressure could also result in the same. Also, new tires can cause vibration because they have a better lateral grip than old tires. Even when driving on smooth roads, you will experience vibrations. Finally, contrary to what some drivers think, you can get an alignment before installing new tires