Jeep Wrangler
White Jeep Wrangler Rubicon by Zsolt Joo on

As a rule, this phenomenon occurs on off-road vehicles due to a breakdown of a suspension element or elements. The death wobble or shimmy effect can also be found on motorcycles and on some popular off-road vehicles prepared for overcoming difficult terrain, for example, Jeep Wrangler, Ford F250 / F350. The effect is dangerous by partial or complete destruction of the car’s suspension while driving. The scale of the wobble problem is visible in the video below, where the lateral vibrations along the front axle resonate. Wheels, steering system, and suspension elements begin to walk chaotically in a horizontal plane, increasing the amplitude and trying to turn the car around its axis. It is almost impossible to drive a car in a shimmy state.

Why is the Steering Damper Needed?

Steering damper

The steering damper is responsible for the lateral stabilization of the front wheels in the suspension design of individual vehicles prone to the shimmy effect. The purpose of this damper is to absorb lateral oscillations of the steering elements, which lead to the death wobble effect.

The steering damper is essentially a variation of the horizontal shock absorber (which it is from a technical point of view). The damper, like the shock absorber, is based on hydraulic fluid. The resistance created by the fluid also dampens the resulting wheel vibrations transmitted to the steering wheel, making the ride not only more comfortable even in off-road conditions but also less dangerous. But wait, what missions does it perform in general?

  • damping of unwanted vibrations of steering elements, which can strongly hinder driving due to the accumulation of driver fatigue, and also affect the wear of suspension and steering elements, as well as other parts of the car, in particular tires.
  • its work on bumps is very actual, which during their passage the car responds by shaking, shifting the steering wheel from side to side. The driver has to struggle with them, often endangering the safety of the car.
  • part of the steering damper’s job is to return the steering wheel to its original position to keep the car moving straight ahead.
  • the most important part of the damper’s work is to improve the directional stability of the car when driving on level roads and to avoid such effects as “shimmy”.

The shimmy effect occurs when you hit an obstacle or when one of the front wheels hits a pothole. You can eliminate or minimize the negative behavior of the front suspension simply by installing a steering damper, also called a shimmy damper. It will absorb all vibrations that will subsequently arise between the steering rods and the axle.

How to Avoid the Death Wobble Effect?

  1. Monitor the condition of the front suspension and steering system. Both drag link and tie rod assembly along with your ball joints shouldn’t be worn out too much.
  2. Keep an eye on the serviceability of the steering damper.
  3. If you are tuning or changing the steering and suspension elements of the car, do it with caution.

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