A class action lawsuit has been filed in Michigan over issues related to the phenomenon known as “Death Wobble”. “Death Wobble” occurs when oscillations of the front suspension exceeded the dampening forces of the system. An example of how this can occur is when the right front wheel contacts ripples in the asphalt along a highway shoulder causing the right wheel to bounce repeatedly while the left does not. The repeated motion creates a wave of energy that works its way through the suspension to the steering linkage causes the system to get out of balance and the steering wheel begins to shake. The only way to calm the increased amplitude is to slow the vehicle down and allow it to settle. The situation can be unsettling, frightening, and can cause people to overreact and have an accident.
To be clear, this is not a Jeep problem specifically. All solid front axle vehicles can have this issue and it’s well known to occasionally occur on Heavy Duty pickups from all brands over the years. For instance, the previous generation Ford Super Duty pickups have many complaints regarding this issue. Unfortunately, the problem is inherited in the design of the suspension/driveline system but many times it is relieved by changes in geometry or using various steering damper designs.
The class action lawsuits allege that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is knowingly producing a dangerous product and specifically notes that 265 complaints regarding steering issues have been registered with the NHTSA on the 2018 Jeep Wrangler (JL). The lawsuit also notes the previous recall that was issued of the 2018/2019 Jeep Wrangler (JL) for faulty welds on the connection between the frame and suspension components as further proof of negligence.
The lawsuit does identify that not just identify the newer JL models in the suit, but it identifies 2015 to 2018 Jeep Wrangler (JK) models as well. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Claire Reynolds, a New Jersey resident who owns a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport 4×4. The claim accuses the company of offering drivers a “Band-Aid” fix with replacing the steering damper if the vehicle is under warranty.
It is still very early on in the process and reports coming from FCA is that they have not been directly served with this lawsuit at the time of this writing. The law firm involved in this suit has won previous cases against Chrysler, GM, Honda, Mitsubishi, Hyundai/Kia, and Mercedes so it will be very interesting to see how this situation progresses. Unfortunately, lawsuits like this could lead to design changes in ways that many Jeep enthusiasts do not want. While we respect that some people may have issues with their Jeeps, the oscillation typically only occur under specific circumstances and can sometimes be avoided by changing driving style or speed. But, with a vehicle as popular as the Wrangler, not all owners understand the dynamics of the vehicle and the basis of the design. This is unfortunate as the Wrangler is a purpose-built vehicle but some owners expect it to drive and behave like an average car.
MoparInsiders will continue to report on the status of this lawsuit as it progresses.