ATLANTA — It can be a terrifying experience. Your steering wheel is shaking so hard, you have no control of the vehicle.
It’s happening with thousands of popular pickup trucks.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray found so many owners have experienced it, it’s been given a name: “death wobble.”
Ford drivers are posting videos to YouTube, sharing their “death wobble” experiences.
“Prayer was all I had. I was, like, ‘Dear God, let me get through this,’” said Derek Spann, of Cedartown.
Spann said it happened with his 2018 Ford F-250.
Owners of Ford F-250s and Ford F-350s have been complaining about the wobble since 2005, and now there’s a class-action lawsuit against Ford.
Ford labels the trucks “Super Duty."
Many are used as work trucks for contractors, landscapers and construction workers -- or, as in Spann’s case, retirement vehicles used to pull recreational vehicles or boats across the country.
Spann’s cost $72,000.
“Safety was the main reason I bought this,” Spann said.
But a moment with his four grandchildren driving on I-20 changed everything.
“I could not control it. It was jerking all over the road,” Spann said.
Spann has been a tractor-trailer driver for decades. But stopping in the middle of the highway with a tractor-trailer behind him was his worst moment on the road.
“I was in tears because I knew what was behind me, what was barreling down on me,” Spann said.
Spann has taken his truck into the Ford dealership five different times. He said he’s had a variety of steering components replaced, including the steering rod and two steering stabilizers. He said after a few months the wobble returned.
“This is the kind of thing that would set it off. That kind of bouncing,” Spann said as he and Gray encountered a rough patch of road.
He's not alone.
A search at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration website shows more than 1,200 complaints that reference “death wobble." Gray found death wobble complaints on models as old as 2005.
“What we saw was this was happening to a lot of people and it was terrifying,” attorney David Wright told Gray.
Wright has filed a class-action lawsuit against Ford on behalf of F-250 and F-350 owners in the Southern District of California.
“Ford has known about this problem for a long time. If Ford can’t fix the problem it certainly needs to tell the potential buyers of its vehicle that this problem exits,” Wright said.
Over the years, Adam Richmond has seen so many trucks come in with death wobble at Southern Off-Road Specialists in Alpharetta, they have a special inspection process for it.
Richmond said what makes this so tough is there is not a one-size-fits-all-fix. That’s because finding which steering part is the source of the wobble can be trial and error. Ford has never issued a recall, putting owners on the hook for thousands of dollars in repair costs.
“Every single vehicle has a different combination of parts or pieces that ultimately contribute to or are directly responsible for death wobble,” Richmond said.
Finally last year, Ford instructed dealers to replace the steering damper in 2017 to 2019 model trucks -- if owners complain of death wobble. But Richmond says that’s just a Band-Aid.
“A steering damper or something to stop the shaking did not fix the shaking. So the root cause of the problem was not addressed,” Richmond said.
Spann has owned 30 Ford trucks. His father drove Fords, too. But he tells Gray this could be his last.
Most of the time, his F-250 sits, except for one chore.
“It’s a high-dollar garbage truck. I take my garbage off with it,” Spann said. “They need to pull these trucks off the road.”
Because of the pending litigation, Ford declined to comment.