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Violent shakes over 50mph

22195 Views 24 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  mrderekmeier
Hi guys
I have a '96 4.0 Range Rover which has 89,000 on the clock. I am having a difficult problem and dangerous to say the least. Here it goes, traveling on the highway over 50mph, if I hit a bump the front end violently and I mean violently shakes. It almost feels as if the front tires are actually 2 basketballs making the steering bounce forefully. When I reduce speed to less than 30mph the violent shaking stops. it's happen several times and I am not touching that car. I took it to my mechanic, and changed small inner tie rod (right side) and long front tie rod. I also changed steering damper, with no change. My mechanic is stumped. he says front end is tight.
What can it be???????? could it be the steering box?
Please let me get some insight as I need to repair this problem before my upcoming vacation. Thanks!!!
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Thank you for the heads up. The thread really does not define any one particular solution. I just don't want to replace so many parts as I've been doing and still have the shakes.
In short, start with the cheapest first.

1. Get all the wheels re-balanced. Even if they were only done last month, just get them done.

2. Get the alignment set up to straight ahead.

3. Panic.
I had a nasty shake at around 80kph, did wheel balancing and alignment (Hardly out) tyre pressure was also a tad bit low but made a difference.

Other checks is steering box adjustment, if loose will cause a shake and goes for any vehicle with a box vs a rack.
Wheel bearings need also checking but your mileage suggest they should be fine... or are they..
Shocks do assist as to steering damper, in fact mine has two BUT who ever put the 2nd one on didnt spacer it out to prevent, if only minor touching the top one, done spacer with a fat washer and that too smoother things out.

Been told tyres can be a problem too, Perilli Scorpions seems to be the favoured choice on Disco 1 as there's no issue with shake as with other tyres

May pay to physically check each nut and bolt too, has done wonders on cars/trucks and suvs I've worked on

Best of luck and let us know what you find
Did you check your swivel joints? That was the culprit with mine and if you are not running non standard wheels, make sure you have the correct spacers.
I had the same problem years ago on my 98SE.

Freeway speed, drive over some uneven section of road and violent shakes, scary, dangerous and embarrassing.
I would describe it as tank slapping, (a motorcycling term for a similar scary thing that happens to riders from time to time)
I changed the suspect steering damper first up, as it was on the way out, but like you, still had the problem, as bad or worse.

After reading the numerous posts here and considering all the different things others have tried, I can only come to one conclusion:

The inherent design of our truck's front end is such that, with a particular combination of wheels, tyres, toe in, shock absorbers, and steering box adjustments, there is a natural resonance , which at a certain critical speed the front end can be set off like a bell ringing. Set off by a disturbance, a bump.
Once it starts, it just self excites and keeps going, until you get away from that critical speed.
You can be fortunate, in that for your car, the critical speed for resonance is so high you never reach it.
Others are not so lucky.
Changing components can change the resonant point so much, that it no longer is an issue, or if the components you change have basically the same characteristics, the problem remains.

As with all resonance circuits, a good damper can kill the vibrations or prevent them from starting up.
Some cars will have the problem worse than others of course, and then even a good damper may not help.
All of the above is just my theory of course!

Did you change the steering damper with a genuine one or an aftermarket one?

Why I ask is because after a lot of checks, similar to what you had done, for some mysterious reason, I decided to pull out the new damper and check it on the bench.
It was an aftermarket one, from the UK, (I am in Australia).

The damping was good and firm in both directions but when I applied small back and forth movements rapidly, there was a small amount of movement possible which was not damped at all. About 10mm to 15mm.

That was enough for me. I bit the bullet and purchased a genuine article, at about twice the price.
That was one of the best decisions I have ever made,.
After installing it, no more violent shakes, ever!

I know that it does not fix the underlying cause, but bear witness to the many who have effectively had to change the whole front end to get a result.

My problem may have been different to yours of course, but, I have done over 100,000k now since fitting the new genuine steering damper, and no more death wobbles, even once.

Good luck and cheers.
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I have had the problem once years ago and it was solved by replacing the steering damper. (The old unit was leaking oil.) As you mention a very scary and dangerous moment which makes you investigate and rectify the problem immediately.

Have had no reappearance ever after the change.


Thank you keijo and others for your input. My steering damper is an aftermarket unit which is about 8 months. The rig is in the shop until further notice. It's embarrassing and dangerous as hell when one is driving down the road and the shakes start.
I have regular 18" wheels that came with the truck, no mods there. Will follow the advice and will change the steering damper to an original factory unit.
Will keep you updated with the progress if I live thru this.................cheers :dance:
If the steering damper change works, then the actual problem still exists as the damper often masks the issue. I think you need to check through all the sterring parts as well, especially if the damper appears to have fixed the problem. It's easiest on a ramp with a helper, but check the ball joints in the steering system and the UJ on the steering shaft going down into the steering box.

Get a helper to wiggle the sterring wheel slightly. By actually holding onto the ball joint (being careful NOT to get your hand caught in any nasty areas), you may feel a click or movement withing the joint. These joints don't last very long if used in arduous/rough conditions and most aftermarket ones fail way before this. Check also for uneven wear in the front tyres as this can be a sign of a bad steering system. Also that feeling of being 'dragged' into the side of the road can be a give away.

Good advice as always, your record on this forum speaks for itself.
You are right of course, nothing beats fixing the problem at the source.
The problem is in finding the source.
For some it's clear and obvious.
Others seem not to be able to find it, no matter how much time and money they throw at it, short of replacing everything.

Saying that a good steering damper simply masks the problem though, is not necessarily correct.
It can be a bit like saying that your suspension dampers (shocks) are masking a problem with the wheels bouncing up and down excessively after you hit a bump.
Good shocks cure a bouncy car. Do you then go and fix the underlying problem, ie, the axels being able to move up and down on the springs.

The dampers are an integral part of each dynamic system, not just a masking item.
As I said earlier there may be not much wrong, but the steering system may just be inherently close to a dynamic resonance, and it doesn' take much to tip it over the edge. I still remember the issue vividly. It was not like something was loose, it was a genuine resonance that built up and persisted even when the road was smooth. The steering wheel was moving back and forth so forcibly, I could barely hold it, and I certainly couldn't stop it. I had to slow down as northy did.

By all means replace any faulty or worn componenets, that's a given. But as others here testify, that will not always fix the issue.
I guess I was lucky. I had the problem very severe. Two separate suspension specialists checked out my front end and steering components and could find nothing wrong, out of adjustment, worn, or even suspect, yet the problem persisted.
Now some 5 years down the track everything is still tight, no shakes and all I did was fit a good damper.

So good luck with your issue roversnorthy, it could be anything.
This is a great forum though, is it not?

Cheers all
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Quick summary of how I dealt with this problem:

Problem: At highway speeds the car would go into violent shakes, requiring me to reduce speed to get it to stop. VERY scary! Hitting a bump, or imbalance in the tires might set this off at any time, usually over 55MPH.

Step 1: replaced steering damper. Waste of time.
Step 2: checked ball joints, seemed ok. Had shop check them, along with tie rod ends and steering link. All seemed ok.
Step 3: replaced tie rods. No change.
Step 4: purchased full set of blue polybushings and ball joints to basically replace every part in the front end.
Step 5: replaced ball joints. While they were on the car, I could detect no visible play, and neither could the shop. Once off, they were VERY worn (I think top the worst). At the same time I replaced all the front bushings (radius arm to chassis, radius arms to front axle, panhard rod). Test drove and problem was better, but not 100% gone. Still would happen, but I would not have to completely stop once the shaking started, and the shaking was not as bad.
Step 6: purchased used hubs, as the hubs were basically the last thing to replace. Replaced with no difference. At this point I am pretty pissed.
Step 7: After driving the car for about 8 more months like this, I wonder if the polybushings were too soft, even though they were made for the rover. I purchase a pair of used radius arms with rubber bushings still in place.
Step 8: Replace the radius arms, which basically changes the bushings back to stock except for the panhard rod which I left poly. Test drive and problem is basically gone. I purchase 2 new stock panhard rod bushings and replace. Problem is 100% gone.

Lesson learned: The problem was probably close to 100% worn ball joints. The nature of the radius arm/axle setup with non-leaf springs is that there is tremendous stress to keep everything in place. The worn ball joints caused enough of a problem to start the death wobble. When I fixed the ball joint problem, but added the too soft poly bushings into the mix, the axle could still move enough to death wobble. Basically, any serious worn part, or a bunch of slightly worn parts, can cause death wobble. This problem is common in any vehicle with this setup in the front (some Jeeps!).

If I were you I would check things in this order:

1: ball joints
2: tie rods/steering link
3: hub bearings
4: bushings

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I just finished making a custom stethascope with a ten foot hose and am going to try finding my problem that way, maybe you should try the same?
I am going to attach the probe end of it to various spots under the truck and drive it and listen till I hear the loudest spot and start tearing it apart there.(VERY PISSED OFF!)
Hi guys
thank you for all the input and help provided during the last few days. It certainly demonstrates that this forum is very helpful to all.
My ride has been at the mechanic and he just call to inform me that problem lies in the 4 ball joints and the steering damper. He states that he's never seen a ball joint worn down to the bone. He owns and operates a shop but his full time job is at a Land Rover dealer as a mechanic. I trust what he says.
In any case, he tells me that the four ball joints and steering parts will cause something like $450+ labor will be $650+ :shock: . Is this price quote reasonable? :?: or is he taking me to the cleaners. Need to know as times are tough all over.
:crybaby2: Thanks

'96 range Rover 4.0
89,600 miles
sorry for the typos..................."cost" will be around 1,100 with labor included. seems high to me, but let's see the consensus.
I'm just quoting a job for the same thing on an RRC, it's $100 in parts and 2-3 hours labor, not sure about the p38, as the tie-rod/drag link are different, but time shouldn't be that much, IMHO...
I presume the Ball Joints are the upper and lower swivel joints? I did the drivers side and it can be a real pain if you don't have the correct extractor. Changing the Track rod is very easy. The good news is, It did correct my death roll at freeway speeds.
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