Feb 2, 2024

Breaking Down the Jeep Wrangler “Death Wobble”

Breaking Down the Jeep Wrangler “Death Wobble” - jeep

Thousands of Jeep drivers have described their experience as "terrifying," noting their vehicles shaking violently while on the road. In a lawsuit filed in 2020, it was noted that approximately 192,000 Jeep vehicle owners suffered from defects that manifested in what is known as the "death wobble." The first reported death wobble case was reported in 1995. Unlike the name would suggest, the death wobble occurring in Jeep vehicles has not led to deaths on the road. However, drivers are warned to take caution; while there has yet to be a reported death connected to the death wobble, it does not make the vehicle defect any less dangerous. 

 

What Causes the Jeep’s “Death Wobble” Issue?

The "death wobble," as it has come to be called, typically occurs when an affected vehicle driving at highway speeds, roughly 60-70 mph, hits a dump in the road, which causes the vehicle's steering wheel, wheels, and tires, and suspension to vibrate or shake. During the shaking, the experience from the driver's seat may feel like they have lost control of the vehicle, while from the outside, the wheels appear to shake "violently." Jeep vehicle owners are highly encouraged to head into their local Jeep dealership in order to have their vehicle inspected and, if necessary, repaired if they suspect their Jeep has exhibited any death wobble symptoms.

 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Under Investigation by the NHTSA

While FCA has continued to issue recalls for the Jeep vehicles, the manufacturer now faces multiple lawsuits claiming it fails to adequately deal with the vehicle's issues. The lawsuits, as well as a letter received on October 24, 2018, petitioning for an investigation into the model year (MY) 2018 'JL' Jeep Wrangler vehicles, prompted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to initiate an investigation into the FCA death wobble affecting 2018 to 2019 Jeep Wranglers. In the letter, the petitioner described a broad list of frame weld deficiencies located at a variety of locations on the frame assembly, including:

  • Porous welds
  • Excessive slag
  • Lack of weld penetration
  • Over penetration of welds, 
  • Overweld or weld drip
  • Weld splash

On November 16, 2018, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened a Defect Petition (DP18-004) to evaluate whether to grant or deny the petition. Then, on March 8, 2019, ODI sent an Information Request letter to FCA requesting information on frame weld-related issues on all MY 2018-2019 Jeep Wrangler 'JL' vehicles. Based on ODI's review of the applicable materials, NHTSA has decided to grant the petition. During the review, the ODI identified various reports and references to frame welded component detachments that were outside of the scope of NHTSA Recall No. 18V-675

The investigation found the information provided by FCA did not adequately address whether frame weld quality deficiencies compromised the structural integrity of its vehicles, which could pose an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety. Along with other issues relating to steering-related defects and the alleged defects' relation to weld quality, on September 16, 2019, the petition was granted. Since the opening of the investigation, FCA has addressed the following concerns:

  • Steering looseness due to material choice in the steering box internal components: FCA released an updated part with an internal component material less sensitive to temperature variances.
  • Steering wobble or shimmy due to a manufacturing and design deficiency in the steering damper: FCA released a part via Customer Satisfaction Notification (CSN) V41 in June 2019, which implemented supplier quality control improvements and design changes due to the presence of air in the base valve which degraded damping performance.
  • Steering stiction, or loss of power steering, due to an underpowered steering pump calibration that occurred at highway speeds during cold weather: FCA released CSN Y95, which corrected this issue via a software update, addressing the issue related to an underpowered steering pump.

The investigation by the NHTSA was conducted from September 16, 2019–October 29, 2023. While the investigation is now closed, the NHTSA holds the right to take additional action if warranted by future circumstances. This isn't the first time the vehicle company has had to recall their vehicles due to frame-related issues. In October 2018, Jeep was forced to recall its fourth-generation Wrangler due to some of its SUVs suffering from problems with their brackets. 

According to the report, the brackets could separate from the front part of the frame, where it was welded, causing the driver to lose control. Roughly 18,000 vehicles were repaired during that campaign (NHTSA Recall No. 18V-675). Vehicle owners of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe have also experienced the death wobble. FCA has tried to shake off its sole connection to the death wobble; in 2019, FCA’s then chief technical compliance officer, Mark Chernoby, said the vibration was not unique to Wrangler vehicles and could happen with any solid front axle vehicle. Chernoby described the underlying issue as “resonance,” comparable to hitting a tuning fork.

Jeep owners who notice their vehicles exhibit the death wobble can still contact FCA to receive the appropriate vehicle repairs. For more information on how to submit your vehicle for repairs, contact your local Fiat Chrysler or Jeep dealership.

 

How You May Be Entitled to Financial Compensation

In one of the recalls issued by the FCA, which affected the 2018 to 2019 Jeep Wranglers, vehicle owners would be eligible to receive a new steering damper, a part also known as a stabilizer, to address the steering wheel vibration reported by some owners after their vehicles hit a bump at highway speeds. However, customers who have received the "fix" claim that the Fiat Chrysler death wobble fixes missed the mark, as customers who had their steering dampers replaced reported that they'd experienced the death wobble within months of the repair. 

If you have experienced a loss of vehicle control or have been in an accident due to the Jeep death wobbles, you may be entitled to recover compensation. Under the California state law, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as the Lemon Law, your purchased or leased vehicle is protected so long as it is still under warranty. California’s Lemon Law requires manufacturers to take responsibility for their problematic and defective vehicles and provide owners access to the following: 

  • Adequate repair facilities
  • Vehicle repairs under warranty
  • Offer a replacement or refund the purchase of the vehicle if they’re unable to mend the issue
  • Cover the costs/fees of the customer’s attorney

In the case that the manufacturer has deliberately violated the California Lemon Law, customers may be eligible to recover civil damages up to two times the cost of the vehicle. Vehicle owners who believe their Jeep has become too dangerous to drive due to death wobble issues or other suspension defects should not wait to seek help. 

Working with an attorney can help you understand your options after your Jeep has experienced the death wobble. Your attorney will guide you through the legal process and ensure you have the best case moving forward to recover the financial compensation you and your loved ones deserve. For more information, we highly encourage you to contact our attorneys today by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form

 

Contact a Morgan & Morgan Class Action Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a Jeep death wobble, you can rely on an injury attorney to help guide you through not only the physical recovery process but also the legal recovery. Were you involved in an accident due to the Jeep death wobble? If so, don’t wait to seek help from a Morgan & Morgan attorney. Victims can contact us today by completing our free, no-obligation case evaluation form.