You probably heard that my
flying carpet truck came down with a sudden case of “shitty construction”. I had a brief moment of terror, followed by a longer period of mental disarray, and finally a sinking feeling of money being drained from my life forces. (It’s like raising children.)
It was not a good day. Even so, things could have been worse. I’m happy to report that no humans or trucks were harmed in the filming of this movie.
I’m back on the road now. The truck, having scrambled my mind and spent my money, is quietly rumbling down the road. If it were a dog it would be hiding under the porch. As for me, I have trust issues. My formerly reliable equipment inexplicably went full apeshit. How does one forgive? While I was cooling my heels in a motel, my truck was probably out cavorting with Miatas and snorting ethanol. Our relationship will take time to heal.
However, it’s time to review the blessings of my little adventure (beyond the fact that I didn’t slam into a bridge abutment).
- I landed in a nameless town with much smarter mechanics than my home territory. At home I’d have better luck finding a Tahitian brain surgeon turned golf pro than a skilled mechanic. Local mechanics are often only barely competent; more like “parts changers” than “mechanics”. Parts changers can only fix obvious problems (like a deer antler stuck through the radiator) and their only solution is to unbolt something and replace it. If they’re lucky, the thing they unbolted and replaced was the cause of the problem. If not, they shrug, present you with the bill and ask if you want to try again. They don’t put a lot of thought in the diagnosis nor do they deeply ponder their solutions. Death wobble isn’t rocket science but it’s intermittent and not fully attributable to one component. I’m glad it wasn’t presented to my home labor pool. The guy I hired knew his shit and got to work pronto.
- Not only did I find a good mechanic I found a good mechanic with a good boss. When the mechanic dropped everything to get me back up and running the boss smiled and told him he was doing a good job. God bless em both!
- Just in time delivery worked flawlessly. My mechanic requested parts and his request was keyed in at the dealer which relayed the information to a warehouse which put the parts on a truck which delivered overnight to my location which was unloaded by the parts guys at the dealership who shoved the parts in my mechanic’s hand while the morning coffee was still brewing. Such a fragile system and yet so miraculous when it works. I don’t want to hear nostalgic whining about the “good old days” of local warehouses. That time is forever gone and I clearly remember parts for something unusual like a Volvo or a motorcycle easily became an insurmountable conundrum.
- In my youth, bad luck meant I was screwed. I’d look at a failed car like a cowboy in Death Valley might look at his dead horse. When you’re poor, situations get grim so very fast. Things have gotten better for me. I ran a Visa swipe that nearly made my skull implode but I had the “option” of doing it. I’ll survive. When fate punches you in the head but you come off the mat and get back into the fight pronto; that’s cool. It’s best to avoid the need for resilience but failing that I appreciate having it.
- The mystery (to me) of “southern hospitality” continues to inspire awe. Everyone was so damn sweet I wanted to hug them all. Never underestimate the value of human kindness. Every region’s culture is different. I live up north. There’s kindness here too, but it’s iced over and partially theoretical. There was nothing false in the gleaming example of pure undisguised kindness I just experienced. Everyone, and I mean every last one of the many people I met in the whole town, were super extra ultra nice. Where I live, folks are strong and hearty and they don’t exactly wish you harm, but they can be prickly to newcomers and… well actually they’re prickly to everyone including each other. (Note: It’s not just a north/south thing, I’ve met jerks in the south and saints in the north but “southern hospitality” is a real thing.) The town I left was just plain nice. Sniff… I love you guys!
Having moved back to North Dakota fairly recently, with most of our time away (32 years) being spent south of the Mason-Dixon line, I have to agree with you. I love the hospitality of Southerners. I still think in an accent (sodas or pop are still all Cokes, i am fixin to do various things, etc.) I am still on the fence about which place is harder to enjoy weatherwise (winters of -325 K vs summers of 100% humidity at 209 degrees above). I loved reading about the Death Wobble, having experienced a variety of odd attempts at suicide by my vehicles. So glad you’re all right and able to continue on.
Thanks. I’m also glad I’m all right. The truck has had a stern talking to and promises to behave in a better manner.
I’m from the North so whenever I speak with a southern accent it sounds like I’m a dickhead making fun of it… which is the furthest thing from the truth. If I hear “y’all” a few times it sooner or later comes out of my mouth too… because it’s the best damn word ever! (In fairness I dig northern accents too. I can also speak Canadian eh.)
I worked around cars and trucks much of my life and never heard of Death Wobble. So spill: What caused such an awful thing?
It’s caused by Dodge being the spawn of Satan and coddled by the Gov!
Actually it’s caused by “looseness” in a combination of parts in the front steering geometry of certain (shitty!) Dodge products. Generally the larger Rams and Jeeps… not the smaller ones. When there’s precisely the right amount of “play” in several components and one of the two front tires gets tweaked (just right) by a bump in the road (must be one tire, not both) then it sets up an oscillation as the tires jerk back and forth. They do this abruptly and at the precise frequency to make your sphincter pucker while your eyes shake out of their sockets. Once you come to a full stop the oscillation is gone and it may not manifest again until the “right” conditions occur again. This gives you time to stand by the side of the road and finish hyperventilating.
As far as I can tell it happens only in Dodge products and not Ford or Chevy (or GM). As far as I can tell it’s not necessarily related to any particular condition, age, miles, road hazard, tires, shocks, etc… More of a reverse lottery than “you mistreated your truck and have it coming”. BTW: my truck is stock, not lifted or anything.
It appears systematic; in that it’s not just one part that sucks, it’s the interplay of several parts all giving a little more than they should Otherwise you’d just swap the steering damper or something and know the demon has been exorcised.
Yep, quite a learning experience I just had. (Final note, it’s fixed and so far it seems to be a sound repair).
so, big Dodges have the Mechanical equivalent of the Lucas “Smoke Retaining Wiring”. I’m not going to get a big Dodge in the near future, then.
Unless you need a Cummins there’s no point to a big Dodge. Also, all the big trucks are computers with wheels. So far it’s been fine but all that potential gremlin habitat makes me nervous.
Ford F-250’s get it too.
No shit! I thougnt it was only one manufacturer. Now that’s just depressing.
“Death Wobble” sounds like a 4-wheeled version of a tank-slapper on a bike: believe me, experiencing that once in a lifetime is enough. I suspect it’s equally, well, let’s say a cause for some concern, but a least in a truck it’s unlikely to spit you off in a random direction.
You haven’t said where you were, and that’s understandable. Regardless, I’m glad you appreciate our native kindness.
It’s a cultural thing. I have ideas why it’s that way, but they’re not important. It’s been said of several military units, but with us it comes down to “No better friend, no worse enemy.” I’ve seen Southern hospitality answered by a profane tirade. At that point, it stops, & is usually replaced by “how badly can we fuck this obvious asshole out of all he has?” Now maybe the uncouth behavior was just due to frustration and anger at things going badly, but it doesn’t matter. North or South, when someone is nice to you, no matter how badly your day is going, suck it up, smile, & say “thank you.” Things will go ever so much better that way.
Death wobble is a lit like “tank slapper”… except it’s caused by the interaction of multiple parts. Plus it’s probably a lot safer on four (or in my case six) wheels.
Well, by the way you wrote about your beloved pickup I just assumed it was a big Ford. Well, maybe a GM, tastes do vary. But a Dodge? Merits and demerits of various pickups thread in three, two, one…
All three manufacturers of big American trucks suck equally.
At the risk of sounding un-American, this is why I love my big Nissan Titan. Best pickup I’ve ever had, no doubt about it. Other than the 14 MPG and the sad observation that most of the cheap plastic trim (both inside and out) has fallen off.
My 50 Willys CJ started doing that back in the early 70’s….
I just put a stabilizing shock on one of the tie rod ends and have been driving it ever since. Still has the old worn out front end too…
Course a 50 Willys , with the flat head four can only go like 45 mph max lol
I had a Dodge that did that, too, but it was a 1971, and ALL the steering components were shot, not just one or two. This is the first I’ve heard of a modern vehicle performing the same horrific dance. Stacked tolerances- the dark underbelly of modern manufacturing technique.
“Stacked tolerances” that’s exactly the phrase I’ve been looking for. Because “craptacular” is insufficiently precise.