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Old 12-22-2020, 02:43 AM   #1
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Word of warning...Solid Axle swap on Econoline.

Death Wobble is likely on a Dana60 swap (or likely any solid front swap), and from what I've read, almost guaranteed on Super60. While I agree with the mantra of trying to solve the death wobble issue, rather than cover it up...this seems to be near impossible on a Super60.

After 3 weeks of tweaking on the steering and suspension, and test driving, the only fix we got to work was a dual stabilizer setup. I went with the Rough Country dual N3 kit and it seems to solve the problem. I still get a little shudder from time to time, but it never turns into death wobble, even at places where prior I could ALWAYS make it death wobble at specific speed ranges.

For extra piece of mind, we also used an old stabilizer shock that I had lying around and fabbed up a setup that resembles the stock set-up of 6.0 F250's (passenger side frame to track bar). It didn't seem to help with shudder, but it did SEEM like it made it sway less on both straights and turning. It could be all in my head, but even if it is, I feel it couldn't hurt things. I am running heim joints (large rod ends) on my radius arms (both where the lower arm attaches to my frame mounts, and my upper arms to my lower arms) AND on my pitman arm side of my drag link (read further as to why I have one there)

So if you are having death wobble issues, I highly recommend running a dual stabilizer set-up. Even if you haven't yet experienced it, I'd still recommend running one anyways, just to be safe. No reason to not run the upper stabilizer also IMO.


Now for the second peice of advice...The frame up towards the front of E350's (at least on mine) is VERY weak. It is MUCH thinner material than I, and any of my truck buddies, would have thought. Also the C channel set-up seems to be weakly done there as well...now this may be for crunch zone purposes and what not, but it is not good at all for any time of left-to-right/right-to-left strain.

During a test drive while we were making adjustments to figure out the death wobble situation, it got so bad it ripped the panhard bar bracket right out of the frame (we used a RuffStuff outer frame bracket)...the bracket was fine, the welding my friend did was all still fine, but it literally ripped a big jagged hole from the frame itself. I'll try to remember to hit up my buddy and have him send me the pic of the hole.

Our solution was to fill in the hole (cut the bracket off the ripped out piece, cleaned the piece up, and weld it back into place, then we reinforced that whole area by welding on a 1/4 steel plate (we used a plasma cutter to cut out holes around a few bolt heads, and a sledge and vice to make the two [around] 90° bends...I know, we are precision fabricators ). Lastly welded the bracket onto the now reenforced frame. It seems like it is strong enough now. I've put it through a few decent overland trips since and we can find no stress areas.

Oh and as to why we changed the pitman arm tie rod to a heim joint. The very first time I got death wobble in it, I completely lost steering (it's a miracle that it happened on an open road with plenty of room...just 20 feet before it happened, I was on narrow twisties)...the cause?...The tie rod snapped. That had to be a ton of force on it to snap it. Rather than spending money to get a new tie rod and pitman arm (the tie rod seemed to have opened up the hole a bit), we just filled the hole a bit with weld and redrilled it to the size of our misalign spacers, and used a spare heim we had on hand...If you run heim joint control arms (or use them for any part really) I strongly recommend to get a spare of each size/thread pattern that you use...also a spare set of spacers that you use with your heims.

After the first drive with the pitman heim, we felt that it would wear out the hole, so we fabbed up and welded on a C bracket to the pitman arm, to wrap the heim joint. Seemed to help.

TL//DR.
1) Before attaching thing that could have a decent left-to-right/right-to-left force on the frame, check out the frame first and reenforced if needed! If you have already attacked such a piece to your frame, inspect it and consider reenforcing around it.
2) Carry extra parts that may take some abuse, especially if getting a new set could take awhile.
3) make sure to give a good torque check and inspection on important suspension and steering components of your rig.
4) If you are fighting death wobble on a solid axle, dual stabilizers (axle to the tie rod of each hub) may just be your fix...And I recommend running one even if you haven't got death Wobble before. Running a third stabilizer (passenger side frame to track bar) may not be a bad idea.

Feel free to harass me to post pictures of our work and/or of problems we ran into...I will likely forget otherwise.
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Old 12-22-2020, 06:06 AM   #2
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I would be interested in seeing pictures of this setup. Apparently this wasnt a conversion kit that you purchased from someone but rather a swap you did yourself?
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Old 12-22-2020, 08:11 AM   #3
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Death Wobble is result of bad kinematics. It is not inherent to a Dana 60 or any other solid axle.
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Old 12-22-2020, 08:46 AM   #4
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Stability issues with converting a 20 year old used ambulance to 4x4? Color me surprised?
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Old 12-22-2020, 09:46 AM   #5
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CB said it.

Axle doesn't know what number is stamped on it.

Physics is causing the problems.

Ripped out and broken parts sounds like the math is off. Way off.
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Old 12-22-2020, 09:58 AM   #6
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What is the degree on the axle angle? Incorrect caster can cause the wobble. Has the caster been checked?

A buddy of mine built a 100% custom radius arm setup and he used PMF radius arms that are adjustable.

Link: https://bit.ly/2KOc8Fz

or this: https://bit.ly/2WzHgeB

This may be an option. Get with a good alignment shop after installing some option for caster adjustment.

That's after making sure that your track bar lines up correctly.
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Old 12-22-2020, 11:03 AM   #7
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FWIW, steering stabilizers have their place, but they never SOLVE steering issues, they just mask them.


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Old 12-22-2020, 12:11 PM   #8
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What kit (if any) did you use to convert to 4x4?
I would think if the front of the frames were that weak a very successful leaf spring kit like U-joints would have lots of issues. You never hear about any. The force created during a death wobble on a heavy van is tremendous. I believe your damage is a result, not the cause of your problems.
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Old 12-22-2020, 12:49 PM   #9
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Snapping parts and breaking mounts off of the frame? There's red flags everywhere here.
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Old 12-23-2020, 01:51 AM   #10
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@Chinook...Yes, this was a set-up that we pretty much frakensteined together using components that are sold for various lifts and/or axle swap kits, stuff we had on the garage already, and things we fabbed up ourselves. After I get around to making a build thread for the Ambi, I'll edit in a link for it here. Basically we got a salvage yard Dana 60, use much of RoughStuff's Bronco to Dana60 stuff, and then pieced together and built parts to adapt an F250 lift for the Ambi. It is obviously more involved than that, but that's the oversimplified version until I map out our full build.

We did a very similar build to another 7.3 E350 Super Duty XL (this one a basic cargo van), swapping out the rear for a Sterling. That one has zero drive time on the lift, but should be running AND 4x4 by the end of January. My Ambi is only RWD right now; however, since the lift has been complete it has gotten a decent amount of drivetime of daily driving, highway driving, and a few decent overlanding desert trips. I'll likely try to sell my Dual Sport by the end of January to fund the transfer case, driveshafts, transmission conversion, etc.

@caringb...I suppose you are correct. This is actually the first time I have ever done much suspension work, besides very basic lifts or similar bolt-on type deal. It's all really been more trial and error for me, along with filtering through tons of forums, and then a lot of input from my mechanic buddy (who's more or less leading the three current builds we are working on).
I guess my view of the 05+ Ford Dana 60's could be a bit askew from the lawsuits and tons of complaints about DW in the 05-19 Super Duty's...we ended using that set-up for the steering and just making an panhard bar. I think the biggest problem was the pitman arm itself. We had nightmare upon nightmare with that thing, and I'm pretty sure we had a bit of wobble between the tie rod end and pitman arm. During our test runs over rough road, that likely both caused the pitman arm hole to warp more and weakened that tie rod end. We bought the steering components from ebay, and I'm guessing that we got cheap Chinese stuff, so that tie rod that snapped could have been crappy metal...I dunno. however even after having the drag link, and everything else, nice and tight, I could still get it to Death Wobble at certain speeds at very specific spots on the road, so we never did figure out the exact culprit

@simplesez...I know right, and it's almost like this thing weighs over 8100 lbs. XD. It actually drives very nice now, except you can definitely tell that my weight is very driver side biased (fuel tank, battery bank, my fat butt, and the huge majority of the cabinetry too)

@Pntyrmvr...Very well may be. A lot of factors at play too I guess. We've tried a lot of adjustments, with nothing really seeming to effect the Death Wobble. I feel like the biggest area that our math would be off would be in the angle of the radius arms (the angle of the arms out to in, not as in caster). When I attached one of the arms (I think driver side), it really wanted to fight me to go into place...so maybe our angles were slightly to large when we welded the arms? I talked to a couple of ppl and they said that it wouldn't be the cause, but it seemed like it would cause some tension for the axle to want to shift to the passenger side on rough road...but then I would think that the panhard would be counteracting that easily (but maybe that is why the frame gave around the panhard bracket?)...I don't see any stress going around it now (although I havent put up a go pro or anything to watch it)...maybe I'm getting a decent amount of frame flex around there still? We had a front hitch receiver on the van already, and assumed/hoped that it would act as a cross-member to eliminate some frame flex.

@225...I believe I have the caster at around 6° right now. We started at 8, and have adjusted and tested it from almost zero to probably 11°...didn't notice any change on Death Wobble at any of those degrees.
We went with RuffStuff DIY adjustables. I have tons of play room to adjust the camber, and I regularly check the torque on the heims.

@BroncoHauler...I completely agree. After the frustration of trying to hunt it down for three weeks though, me and my buddy were both over it, so went for the cover up. Rides and overlands great, but It would be nice to have the problem solved and not covered it up. I threw my advice about the stabilizers here mainly for those at that same point of "it's either becoming drivable this week, or I'm moving on to a new project".

@Lilnuts2...Hard to say. Maybe that specific area is weaker due to it being a crumple zone? Maybe not. I agree that the forces of the death wobbles were likely the main cause of stress on that part of the frame, but that part of my frame is super thin. I wish I had a better pic of it when the hole was there to show just how thin the material is. Regardless of it being causes by death wobble, I still wanted to get the message out there to anyone that has, or plans to run, a similar set-up...to at the very least inspect the frame around it, and consider plating it.

@b.rock...Such is the beauty of prototype 1 on a driveway build. As mentioned above, I feel there were two causes for the tie rod failure...1) using a cheap tie rod, and 2) not having the pitman arm hole bored perfectly. And as for the panhard bar bracket, I honestly feel that it was on a weak part of the frame, where the forces from multiple Death Wobbles sessions was just too much on said weak part.
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