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  • Writer's pictureAlex Maltese

What Causes Motorcycle Death Wobble? | Learn How to Prevent It

The motorcycle death wobble (aka tank slapper or head shaker) is a terrifying experience for any rider. It's a violent, uncontrollable wobble that happens when the front wheel is out of sync with the handlebars and starts to move from side to side.

This can happen at any speed, and if not corrected, it can lead to a crash, injuring the rider, or even worse, causing death.

One of the most common causes of motorcycle death wobble is incorrect tire pressure. If the front tire is over-inflated or the rear tire is under-inflated, it can cause the motorcycle to become unstable at high speeds. Properly maintaining wheel pressure is critical to preventing a motorcycle death wobble. The Law Office of Carl Maltese can answer questions like, "What is the Death Wobble?"

What Causes Motorcycle Death Wobble?

What Causes Motorcycle Death Wobble?

There are various reasons why a motorcycle can experience death wobble, but the most common one is rider error.

An inexperienced biker can cause the vehicle to wobble if they move their body or shift their weight too much while riding. Some of the most common causes of death wobbles include the following:

  • Poor riding skills

  • Incorrect pressure

  • Uneven weight distribution

  • Aggressive movements

  • Sudden braking

Additionally, high-speed wobbles can be caused by the front tire's uneven wear and tear, imbalanced wheels, or a stiff steering damper. Harley Davidson motorcycles with rubber-mounted bushes are prone to experience death wobbles, primarily due to excessive speeding or incorrect tire pressure.

What Is a Steering Damper?


The motorcycle death wobble is a phenomenon that occurs at high speeds. It's when the bike's front wheel starts to shake uncontrollably, making it difficult for the rider to keep the vehicle in a straight line.

This high-speed wobble or head shake is caused by a combination of factors, including incorrect pressure, uneven weight distribution, bad wheel bearings, poor rear suspension, or worn-out tires.

Even the most experienced riders can experience a motorcycle death wobble. That's why it's important for bikers to have a steering dampener installed.

In a nutshell, this is essentially a shock absorber for the handlebars of a motorcycle that helps to keep the springs in their normal resting position. It works by providing resistance to movements in the front tire and therefore reduces the likelihood of a death wobble.

However, it is important to note that a steering damper that is too stiff can be just as dangerous as no dampener at all.

In this case, a motorcycle with a stiff dampener will have no mobility and can cause the rider to lose control of the vehicle.

The best approach is to have a dampener that strikes a balance between being too soft and too stiff. It should be adjusted to allow some movement but not enough to cause a death wobble on the front wheel.

The Dangers of Worn-out Steering Head Bearings

Worn-out steering head bearings can pose serious dangers to riders and other individuals on the road.

Any rider experiencing the warning signs of a motorcycle wobble should immediately get their front brake and bearings checked by a professional. Worn-out steering bearings can cause various issues, such as high-speed wobble, unwanted resistance, and even cause the rear wheel to stop suddenly - leading to accidents.

Additionally, old steering bearings can cause tire wear. When the bearings are worn out, the motorcycle handlebars may be hard to maneuver, leading to irregular riding patterns. This can cause the tires to wear unevenly, which can be dangerous, especially when riding on wet or slippery roads.

Common Injuries Sustained in Motorcycle Death Wobble Cases

Riding a bike on the highway can be exhilarating, but it can also be dangerous. One of the most terrifying experiences for any rider is experiencing a "death wobble."

These are sudden, high-speed oscillations or vibrations of a motorcycle's front and rear wheels that can cause riders to lose control of their bike and suffer serious injuries. It can even lead them to counter-steering out of panic, but this technique rarely works.

In short, the tank slapper victim can suffer from severe cuts and bruises, broken bones, and other serious injuries that require immediate medical attention. These can result in long-term medical bills, lost wages, and an inability to enjoy life to the fullest.

People shouldn't believe that death wobbles only occur at high speeds. They can happen just as quickly at lower speeds too. This is why bikers should ensure all mechanical problems with their vehicles are given regular maintenance checks. Contact The Law Office of Carl Maltese can answer questions like, "What is a major cause of death in motorcycle accidents?"

Seeking Help from a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Seeking Help from a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Motorcyclists love the freedom of the open road, but with that liberating feeling comes the risk of accidents. One particularly scary phenomenon is the death wobble or tank slapper.

Bikers who have never experienced this should consider themselves lucky. However, those who have suffered cause of this malfunction know how it can quickly turn a fun ride into a terrifying one.

Although the causes of death wobbles can vary, one thing is certain: it is critical for the rider to lean back, slow down, and calmly seek help. This includes immediately contacting an attorney.

The lawyer can help the victim navigate the legal process and deal with the insurance company on their behalf. They can also determine if the biker is eligible for compensation for their injuries, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

On top of that, qualified wrongful death lawyers in Long Island can also help identify the cause of the death wobble. If it was due to negligent driving by another driver, the attorney could help the plaintiff hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions.

Similarly, if it was because of a mechanical malfunction or manufacturer defect, the client's attorney can help them pursue legal action against the manufacturer.

Final Words

Ensuring correct tire pressure, proper handling of the motorcycle, and regular maintenance of the bike's rear wheel can prevent a death wobble, but it can still happen at certain speeds.

Most riders experience a death wobble at highway speeds (70 mph or more), which is a scary experience. Any mechanical issue that affects the motorcycle's momentum can cause a head shaker, even at lower speeds, seemingly for no reason.

Motorcyclists are often victims of distracted, reckless, or impaired motorists who fail to pay attention to their surroundings. This can result in catastrophic injuries or death.

An experienced attorney can make sure the victims' rights are protected and they get the compensation they truly deserve.


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