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Wayne’s Death Wobble

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While taking a ride with friends last summer, I passed over a deep depression in the road, when suddenly the front wheels vibrated heavily  from side to side. Nearly pulled my hands from the wheel. l.After a complete stop, everything was OK for  the rest of the trip.

 

I take it that this is the death wobble mentioned here.

 

Want to mention that the end play in the steering box needs to be adjusted.  ( 1929 Packard ).

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Benefits of AACA Membership.

My "Death Wobble" occurred in `62, i was 14yr old, a freshman in H.S. I`d changed the gearing on a `53 Cushman Husky and decided to see how fast it`d go. So with my cousin behind me in a `50 F-1 Ford pickup, to check my speed, off we went. I was almost to 50mph when the wobble started, i backed off the throttle and started slowing down, but the wobble got worse, i`m thinking, this is not suppose to be happening. I got tossed off just before the scooter went down, and almost got run over by my cousin in the pickup. I had a major road rash on my right leg from my knee to my butt cheek, i jumped up hobbled over to where the scooter stopped sliding, it was laying on its side still running. My cousin, up to his dying day, said that was the greatest thing he`d ever seen.

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Before you open your tool box you always need to be reminded of your intent.

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1982 Kaw 750 gpz- brand new from the factory. you would hit 120 and the front end would go bursurk!

 

talk about unnerving!!!!!!!!  the front forks needed a stiffener-too much flex. Happened to me several times and learned to just let off the gas and not touch the brakes.......

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I do not think a lack of interest in mechanics is surprising. The only aspect of restoration that is consistently rewarded is cosmetics.

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Posted (edited)

I also don't think this issue is driven by lack of skills. If getting cars mechanically sorted was thought of as desirable (as it is by some of us) the skills would be there or be learned. One need only look at some of the fantastic sheet metal work done on what, to me at least, are pretty mundane vehicles. People spend small fortunes for paint but are reluctant to make their car actually safe to drive. Before the advent of "trailering" cars to shows owners were forced to address at least some of the mechanical problems. With "100-point trailer queens" that is no longer needed and, not surprisingly, it has gone by the board.

 

Also, to get back to the original observation, "axle tramp" (the British term) was a problem in period even with new cars. W.O. Bentley wrecked a car as a result of it...in fact, he was trying to induce it on a test drive. What was causing it was understood. What to do about it was a bigger problem. I don't think it was completely overcome until the introduction of independent suspension. I've seen it happen in a Silver Ghost (which had very low mileage and was not worn out). My one personal experience with it was in a Phantom II when I ran over some old car tracks with one wheel while turning. I nearly flattened a local bar... I suspect the patrons would have been pretty surprised if a RR town car had crashed through the door!

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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When I and the world were young, adding a steering dampner was common. Today most cars come with one so you rarely hear of them but most were a bolt-on item. Some werr a small shock absorber that went on the drag link. For AACA would that come under "safety" ?

 

On my Suzuki Water Buffalo a light touch on the rear brake would both slow the bike and load the front tire, both would help stop the wobble.

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Ive seen one added to an H6B Hispano Suize. A beautiful car and, at the time, owned by one of the nicest and most knowledgeable collectors I've ever met.

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On 3/21/2020 at 9:37 AM, JV Puleo said:

I do not think a lack of interest in mechanics is surprising. The only aspect of restoration that is consistently rewarded is cosmetics.

I think a lot of people pick their partners the same way! Let’s face it, it’s the visual that get us interested in the first place. The problem arises when people don’t investigate beyond the flashy and well polished exterior. Cars-people, same problem!😂

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On 3/22/2020 at 10:48 PM, chistech said:

I think a lot of people pick their partners the same way! Let’s face it, it’s the visual that get us interested in the first place. The problem arises when people don’t investigate beyond the flashy and well polished exterior. Cars-people, same problem!😂

Most people really are not driving their collector cars - - perhaps due to are they live in and what their friends and acquaintances are or are not doing.  We started doing cars to show only and were very exposed to people driving - and then we shifted focus to driving.  This Auburn has had over 40K miles put on since restoration - expensive proposition though as  it has had probably and extra 20K in maintenance verses had we just loaded it on and off a trailer with occasional drives around the block or show field.

 

As a sidenote:  Everything we have goes to Performance Alignment in Cincinnati, OH ( 1359 Mosteller Rd, Sharonville, OH 45241 Tel:  (513) 489-8500 ), Bill Bill Braucksick sets up cars for race drivers and not only is probably the best skilled person using a Hunter Alignment System in US, but has the engineering mind to figure it out (ie he knows how to tweak the specs appropriately) and has the repair facilities and machine tool access to fix problems when he runs into them via worn parts and ... 

 

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Back in the 90's our Pierce Arrow had the death wobble.

Hit a good sized pothole or bump doing around 40mph and the front end would some times go nuts.

Having had a '72 Datsun pickup that developed the same issue that I fixed, I first looked at the king pins.

King pins on the Pierce were fine but I did find other minor things that needed attention.

And while I was in the front end working on things, I decided to have the front shocks rebuilt, adjusting slop in the tie rod ends, have new tires put on as the tires were about 20 years old and then had the front end aligned at one of the few Bear Alignment places left that did antique trucks.

 

I'm not sure if any one thing got rid of the death wobble but after going through everything it has not since returned.

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I diagnosed a death wobble in a 1930 Pierce for a friend, and the cause may be of interest to those following this discussion.  The car was restored for show in the mid-1980s with a red chassis (factory show car?) but I put 1-1/2 tubes of grease in it (can't have nasty old grease spoiling the appearance of that show chassis, can we?).  The problem was in the replacement inner front wheel bearing seals.  As I've seen on other cars since, the large metal shell seals, unobtanium for decades, had been replaced with smaller-diameter metal shell seals PLUS a National Seal red-colored soft-plastic adapter / carrier to extend to the outside of the hub where the original was fitted into a recess in the hub.  The problem was that the lip of the adapter / carrier was greater than the recess into which it was supposed to fit.  The result was that the front hubs could not seat correctly against the base of each spindle.  You could ram it home and start the nut, but the lip could not compress, and the hubs were not fully seated.  My friend the owner send it back to the dealer from whom he purchased it for repair.

 

More common, in my experience, is slop in drag link / reach rod.  Remove the plugs, clean out the recess, turn the ball studs 90 degrees to an unworn portion of the spheres, grease well, and reassemble.

 

And try running 40 psi in the (repro) tires on big cars.

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A bolt-on shock (steering stabilizer) on the drag link was a popular option (and easily removed for a show).

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1 hour ago, Grimy said:

I diagnosed a death wobble in a 1930 Pierce for a friend, and the cause may be of interest to those following this discussion.  The car was restored for show in the mid-1980s with a red chassis (factory show car?) but I put 1-1/2 tubes of grease in it (can't have nasty old grease spoiling the appearance of that show chassis, can we?).  The problem was in the replacement inner front wheel bearing seals.  As I've seen on other cars since, the large metal shell seals, unobtanium for decades, had been replaced with smaller-diameter metal shell seals PLUS a National Seal red-colored soft-plastic adapter / carrier to extend to the outside of the hub where the original was fitted into a recess in the hub.  The problem was that the lip of the adapter / carrier was greater than the recess into which it was supposed to fit.  The result was that the front hubs could not seat correctly against the base of each spindle.  You could ram it home and start the nut, but the lip could not compress, and the hubs were not fully seated.  My friend the owner send it back to the dealer from whom he purchased it for repair.

 

More common, in my experience, is slop in drag link / reach rod.  Remove the plugs, clean out the recess, turn the ball studs 90 degrees to an unworn portion of the spheres, grease well, and reassemble.

 

And try running 40 psi in the (repro) tires on big cars.

 

In my post I left out inspecting the king pins and pulling the wheels to inspect and repack the wheel bearings.

Luckily for me the wheel bearings were in fantastic shape so I just cleaned them up and repacked them.

 

When I had the shocks rebuilt the shop asked me where I picked them up from.

They asked who had them sitting on a shelf for so long.

I told him they came off my car not from someone's stash and he said they had almost no miles or wear on them.

Said they were so clean inside all he did was seals and they were fine.

 

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Posted (edited)

Not to offend anyone here, but suspension shops (and there are a couple good ones - every major city has one or two that really know their stuff, but I know they get fewer by the day) are not like the bubonic plague - stop messing with all this crap and get someone to help you get it right. It takes king pins, good wheel bearing, decent shocks,  somewhat decent steering box and ball joints, spring bushings, round wheels, balanced wheels, and non-square tires - and then you are looking at alignment and shims to play with angle on the axle. I have done it at home with some basic tools, but a professional has been able to 10 plus times get it better over me or anyone I know messing with it themselves.  I have had countless cars done with the earliest being 1911, and the latest being 1972.  And love the way each handles when finished.  The only drawback is price - I bet the cheapest I have ever spent  is $500 to solve the problem and the most expensive was about 7K to solve the problem. 

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)
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57 minutes ago, John_Mereness said:

I bet the cheapest I have ever spent  is $500 to solve the problem

 

I think you got to the heart of it. I KNOW people who would block the thought of paying anything like that right out of their mind. Triggers impressionable memories- In the early 1990's when I was repairing collector cars a person told me he couldn't find bearings for the front of his first generation FWD Cadillac Eldorado. I followed up on them and the next time I saw him I said "I found the bearings for your car. They are (something like) $280 apiece".

"That's what I said, they aren't available". And he walked away.

 

That reply has stayed with me. Some people can say so much in so few words.

Bernie

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On the other hand, Bernie and John, there's no front end shop in my area (at very least) which will allow a vintage car to occupy valuable real estate, unsteerable with the old parts removed, while the shop or the owner searches for ball studs, king pins or tie rod ends.

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Grimy said:

On the other hand, Bernie and John, there's no front end shop in my area (at very least) which will allow a vintage car to occupy valuable real estate, unsteerable with the old parts removed, while the shop or the owner searches for ball studs, king pins or tie rod ends.

 

Plus, I bet I've spent more hours under a pre-war car than 99% of all employees at any alignment shop within 100 miles.

Hint: over a dozen pre-war cars have been in my family longer than I have.

Edited by zepher (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, zepher said:

 

Plus, I bet I've spent more hours under a pre-war car than 99% of all employees at any alignment shop within 100 miles.

Hint: over a dozen pre-war cars have been in my family longer than I have.

For those that do not have your skill sets: There are two kinds of alignment shops - one is on street corners tied to tire shops and periodically one dealing with accidents -and the others deal in serious problems and/or such as spring work - the shops that deal with the serious problems are well versed in making sure you are prepared (ie stuff does not sit in their shops and they will throw out the roadblock people)  Actually, you may never know they exist without asking around to a lot of auto body shops and ....  And, I think nothing of going to the alignment fellow in Cincinnati and seeing trailers in the parking lot with license plates from all over the United States  - he is a leading front end specialist for Indy cars, plus he is a good project manager matched to having a solid machine tool shop and has access to all the specialized machine tool shops in area too. 

 

As mentioned, I am pretty good at this too, but there are plenty of gu-ru's out there that are better. 

Edited by John_Mereness (see edit history)

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For sure, there are some very talented people out there and a lot of them are not in your brand new, shiny building with a string of brand new, shiny cars out front.

And if you are unsure of what you're doing, most definitely take it to a highly recommended shop and have them take care of you.

 

There is a tiny alignment shop near where I used to work that does amazing work on modern cars (from 50's on up) and is very honest.

Place has been there forever and the guys working there have been there forever.  It's a little hole in the wall that most people would drive right past.

 

As for doing pre-war cars, there are only a few truck/frame shops that can properly repair or align a car.

When I need an alignment there is only one shop about 30 miles away that can handle it.

It's an old Bear Alignment shop with guys working there that should be retired by now but are still going at it.

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In the 1960's, if a car did occupy that real estate, it was British or German, maybe a Frenchie once in a while. We are driving the foreign cars of today.

 

There are a lot of people out there who can fix a Chevy, Honda, Ford, or whatever the breed with an Alldata.com subscription, but you don't find many that can work through a basic knowledge of the mechanical principles.

 

Our local front end guy recently died. He used to drive the car before he put it on the rack and then test drive it when he was done. When did you see that last?

 

Since he died I have found you can spray two pieces of linoleum tile with silicone and make you own alignment machine.

Bernie

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15 hours ago, Grimy said:

On the other hand, Bernie and John, there's no front end shop in my area (at very least) which will allow a vintage car to occupy valuable real estate, unsteerable with the old parts removed, while the shop or the owner searches for ball studs, king pins or tie rod ends.

 

 

For many years we had a great shop up north, that were the go to guys to align anything, and they could handle a ten ton truck, or a Fiat Jolly. We could work with them also, which was a great benefit. They closed two years ago. Now down south, I have assembled all my own tools to do alignments in the shop myself............by careful searching of a combination of old and new modern tools, we can easily align all our cars. Our Model J- 357 has a steering damper on it for almost fifty years, and I spoke to all the guys who had serviced the car. They couldn't get it to stop the death wobble, so they lived with the band-aid. I tore into it and with some over the phone help got the alignment from out to lunch to almost perfect factory settings. It worked great, and we were able to remove the steering dampner, and the car behaved well. It was amazing how much better the car drove and felt after spending a few days chasing out all the little things, and getting the alignment correct. Lesson: The cars when new were really very good reliable drivers, it's lack of service, worn parts, and lack of knowledge, along with money issues that cause cars to behave poorly and make them disappointing to drive. 

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18 minutes ago, edinmass said:

Lesson: The cars when new were really very good reliable drivers, it's lack of service, worn parts, and lack of knowledge, along with money issues that cause cars to behave poorly and make them disappointing to drive.

 

Probably 20 years ago on TV I saw an interview with an older, leading physicist. They were walking on a path in a park. The interviewer asked the physicist what the leading edge in the field was today. The physicist laughed and said "You wouldn't believe how many times I am asked that question. And most people don't know how a butterfly's wings work."

 

I probably would have forgotten that if it hadn't applied to something almost every day since I heard him. Even in front end alignment the great concepts get waved around in a flurry, while many become bored and fall asleep with the details. To keep on topic, what to do? Take the camera off the car. Every editor knows that.

 

Bernie

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