Suspension puzzle

2010 Ford E 350 passenger van. Over 200,000 miles extremely well maintained. Got a problem when hitting bumps in the road. When I hit bumps the steering wheel jerks and control issues concern me. It reminds me of Jeeps death wobble. I looked over the suspension everything was tight. Upper lower ball joints, inner and outers center links sway bar links all good. The front sway bar link bushings were definitely bad, so I put in premium ones. Took it for a test drive and I think it might even be worse. Probably not. The only thing I found is both left side shocks oscillate and need replaced. Can bad shocks create these conditions? shocks

[quote=“tcmichnorth, post:1, topic:143658”]
I looked over the suspension everything was tight. Upper lower ball joints, inner and outers center links sway bar links all good
[/quote]I kind of doubt that, given the mileage

Please define “looked over the suspension”

Please define “everything was tight”

It could very well be you and I don’t check things the same way

Shock absorbers are called “dampers” in other regions of the world. They should be soaking up those oscillations

By chance, does this van have a steering damper . . . ?

Jackstands under suspension and pryed at bottom of tire looking for joint movement. Squeezed center links and tie rods with monster channel locks. No play. With wheels on ground, had the wife turn steering wheel back and forth, no slop. I can tell the linkage has been replaced before. The vehicle bounces up and down too many times after I bounce the vehicle. That wouldn’t happen with good shocks. It is not equipped with a steering damper.

If you have 200K on the shocks they are more than worn out and probably dangerous to drive . They are what keep the tires planted to the road .

What does squeezing the center link and tie rods accomplish?

These are great trucks. I assume you have factory stock wheels?

Shocks can cause serious stability problems, but probably aren’t your main culprit. I’d replace all on that axle’s shocks and pull/test the rear units. Sometimes shocks can lose fluid and be “limp”… other times can freeze or get stiff. If you combine, it can cause serious problems.

For the basics, I’d check all the components in the “steering kit”… maybe even pay $300 for the kit and install… followed by an alignment, of course. While you are at the task, maybe pull and inspect the wheel bearings.

Oh, here’s a video on your problem.

BTW, Death Wobble was one thing Ford doesn’t deal with. They’ve told some customers the super duty was not designed to go 65. (Bull puckey.)

An expert on the PU models:

I squeeze the joints to see if there is any up and down travel of the ball in the socket.

You need 4 new shocks. Replace them, if there’s still a problem take it to a good shop and have them check it out.

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Every single joint in the suspension adds damping in the form of friction to the truck as it moves. Add the shock damping to that and the ride feels pretty good.

200k miles later, even if there is no slop in the joints, there is very little friction in them so even IF the shocks are still good, the truck feels sloppy. If they are worn out, and these are, the effect is doubly bad.

Replacement shocks always have more damping than factory parts to compensate.

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There are new parts on the suspension. Even though I got no slop I do remember at least one of the joints turned easy. I think I will change shocks first as @texases recommended because they are known bad. Then will do a closer look at joints. Thank you

I didn’t mean this to be a bad thing… low friction is OK, slop is not.

But brand new joints are fairly stiff and that friction adds to the overall shock damping that controls the bumps. If that friction goes away, you can add it back in new shocks. Replacement shocks, even from the dealer, have additional damping built into them for just that reason.

I never knew this, thanks. I always wondered why, when I’d change shocks years ago, the car didn’t ride as smoothly afterwards.

Well, in the old days it wasn’t for that reason. Sometimes it was because we’d forgotten how rough it was new, other times because aftermarkets were just an approximation of the factory shocks… one size fits all. When you bought dealer shocks, they were usually the same wimpy ones that came new.

In the last 30 years, most mfgrs seem to do a much better job at selecting proper shocks, instead of “Well, these worked on our Impala, should work on a Buick.”

Manufacturers don’t “choose” shocks, they tune them. They have teams of engineers that work with shock suppliers to change internal parts to get the ride they want the vehicle to have. Each vehicle, each option package, each engine. A single car model may have 3 different front and rear dampers available based on the various option packages. I know this because I used to BE one of those engineers.

Consumers want firmer rides and better roll and pitch control than they did 30 years ago so vehicles are not so floppy - I for one applaud that!

And 30 years ago there was an even greater proliferation of shock “packages” since most options for American cars “free-floated” and were not just part of 2 or 3 major option groups. Take, for instance, the 1980 GM X-cars, Citation, Skylark, Omega, Phoenix or 4 GM divisions. Each car came with a 4 or V6, manual or automatic, 2 door and 4 door. Each had a “Heavy Duty” suspension option package and Chevy and Pontiac had “Sport” suspensions. 4 divisions x 2 engines x 2 suspensions x 2 body styles x front and rear shocks = at least 64 different part numbers released just for 1980. This is because Pontiac can NOT have their cars ride like Buicks, or Chevys or Olds. All divisions did the very same thing for shared platform cars. Delco Products, the division that made shocks and struts, was a GM division so we agreed to this silliness. Did the same things for Chrysler and other car makers we sold shocks to.

The service parts available at the GM parts counter were 2 front struts, 2 rear shocks so they didn’t have to stock so many part numbers. They were the stiffest set for the regular suspension and the stiffest set for the HD suspension, usually Pontiac parts.

Yep… I agree… except for the GM shocks. Our dealer carried
several shock “packages”… but a majority of cars all got the
same (high, medium, low cost) shock. Of course, I’m going on
pre-80 service. I have avoided GM since then. I think he’s about
my age, so when he says “old cars”, that’s what I’m thinking of.

  Yes, by "selecting" I meant exactly that. It's no longer, "Well,

we’ll stock the same shocks for a 60 Chevy as our 75 Olds"
mentality. On my car, there are at least 4 different suspension
packages that were installed, from city driving to track
performance, even before their custom division got in the mix.
Each package has it’s own level of custom shocks. The factory
designed each differently, then selects the total package for the

I used to select cars based on how smooth a ride they had. Up until the 1980’s, that usually meant medium price cars (Chrysler or Olds), with 126" wheelbase, RWD, and a big V8. Those cars rode as smooth as silk when new. Whenever I changed shocks, whether they were Monroematic, or some i got at the dealer, the ride always worsened.

No agreement needed. What I posted is the truth because that is exactly how I released for service. If you went to your dealer and checked out replacement part numbers for the Chevy, it was the same as the replacement for the Olds, the Pontiac and the Buick. There may have been 2 or 3 choices for the Chevy but those same choices were there for the other 3 divisions.

We also back-dated shocks as well. If that 1970 Caprice shock fit a 1965 Buick 225 the 225 shock was dropped and the '70 Caprice was substituted as long as the damping levels were close or more.

Monroe, Gabriel and others did the exact same thing with their product line. Very often the fit didn’t even have to be that close +/- an inch in length, damping levels be damned, the top and bottom mounts fit so that’s the part in the catalog.

Shocks are so much better these days. I remember the old Monroe
shocks… always a favorite of mine. They were such an improvement
on the $19 shocks the factory put on. I don’t remember harshness,
just a smoother ride. Of course, that was the days when shocks
might last 50K miles.

Not much of a puzzle after all. I screwed up when checking ball joints. When I initially checked them I was alone and when prying up on wheel I wasn’t exerting enough pressure. I was prying and looking at same time. My son came over this weekend and got to prying real good to over come the weight of the wheel and found sloppy ball joints. Bad diagnosis on my part. Replacing all four joints and shocks this week.