FCA Issues Fix for Infamous Jeep Wrangler ‘Death Wobble’ Following Class Action Lawsuit
The fix involves a service bulletin that will fit a new steering stabilizer to customers' cars free of charge.
Jeep claims to have a fix in the works for the infamous “death wobble” front end issue commonly associated with the Wrangler off-roader. The automaker was put in the spotlight after a slew of Jeep Wrangler owners teamed up to file a federal lawsuit against Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, citing the “death wobble” as a serious safety issue.
Those with Jeeps are no stranger to the phenomenon but if you’ve never heard of it before, the “death wobble” describes an unexpected, sudden, and often dramatic steering wobble in the front axle that causes a complete loss of steering control. You can see what it looks like in the following video:
Basically, any significant road imperfection could trigger the problem at any given time while driving. For years, however, it’s been a known characteristic for Jeep Wranglers, mainly if front suspension and steering components are worn from age and wear, or if the front-end alignment is off. The risk of the “death wobble” is even greater because many Jeep Wranglers are often pushed to their limits off-road, accelerating the wear of those items.
To try and quell the problem from the get-go, FCA is pitching that it’ll begin installing a new steering damper, or a stabilizer to address the steering vibration issues.
Despite the lawsuit, FCA maintains that it’s not a safety problem. FCA also says they don’t know of any fatalities or injuries from the issue. But many owners are saying the complete opposite, that the “death wobble” is indeed a massive safety issue and the stabilizer is just a “Band-Aid on a broken leg” fix for what they believe is a defective design.
“No, I would not blame it on manufacturing," Mark Chernoby, FCA’s chief technical compliance officer, told The Detroit Free Press. "It was a combination of design and manufacturing process."
But even though the focus of the “death wobble” is on the Jeep Wrangler, it’s not exclusive to FCA’s halo model. The phenomenon is possible in any vehicle with a solid front live-axle. That’s due to the simplistic design of both the axle and its steering system.
“If you bang it with that frequency it’ll just sit there and keep going forever. It won’t slow down, it won’t dissipate, and that’s essentially what we’re talking about here with the vibration in the new Wrangler,” Chernoby continued. "When you hit a bump in the road, if everything is just right, this suspension can set off that resonance and what we started seeing is as soon as it got cold this past fall, early winter, we started seeing complaints."
Of the complaints filed against FCA for the issue, the owners represent only 2 percent of the 370,000 new Wranglers manufactured as of June.
Customers will receive a letter in the mail for the campaign and will receive the new steering damper free of charge as if it were a service bulletin, rather than a safety recall.