TFL received several reports of “death wobble” from owners.
Recently, the Detroit Free Press reported that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had a fix for the Jeep Wrangler‘s vibration issue. It’s known as “death wobble”, where the front wheels shake violently under certain conditions, like hitting bumps a certain way at highway speeds. According to the report, FCA was to begin notifying customers of the fix Friday. Spokesperson Eric Mayne said FCA is still determining how many vehicles are affected.
To date, FCA contends the vibration is not a safety issue. Rather, the company notes the issue can occur with any solid front axle video. The problem has also sprung up with Ford F-250 and F-350 Super Duty pickups, as Automotive News points out. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into those trucks back in 2008. Now, FCA’s proposed fix for the Wrangler has not been classified as a recall yet, per recent reports. Instead, a company spokesperson said this is a “customer satisfaction note”, saying they may go to a dealer and replace their steering damper free of charge.
2019 Jeep Wranglers that haven’t been sold yet have already been receiving the new part.
Last year, we covered the story of an owner who reached out to us, sharing documentation of his experience. We also ran a poll in that post, as well as a poll in our December 2018 update post. In both polls, nearly 90 percent of you responded that you had problems with your Wrangler’s steering. 10 percent or less claimed their steering actually felt spot on in both 2018 and 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL models.
On top of anecdotal evidence from owners, some filed a lawsuit against FCA over the death wobble problem. Those owners insist the steering issues are a serious safety concern, despite FCA’s statements to the contrary. At this time, Fiat Chrysler representatives say the company is not aware of any deaths or injuries from the steering vibration issue.
Going by the Free Press report, though, it seems FCA will take steps to try and correct the issue. At least, that’s the case with certain affected Wranglers. According to Mark Chernoby, FCA’s chief technical compliance officer, the problem is not with defective parts, but “a combination of design and manufacturing process.” He likens the problem to a tuning fork, as the vibration comes about from resonance caused by hitting bumps at certain speeds in certain conditions.
‘Like a tuning fork’
Tuning forks vibrate under certain frequencies, and “if you bang it with that frequency, it’ll just sit there and keep going forever…and that’s essentially what we’re talking about here with the vibration in the new Wrangler. 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,” Chernoby said.
Wrangler owners will keenly point out that the vibration issue is not unique to Wrangler JL models. The pending class action lawsuit includes 2015 – 2018 Wrangler JKs as well. Naturally, the filing offers a different perspective on what originally caused the issue. “Jeep vehicles contain a defectively designed and/or manufactured front axle and damping system that causes the steering wheel to shake violently when operating at highway speeds after encountering common and expected road vibrations.”
FCA is reportedly seeking dismissal of the lawsuit. The NHTSA is also looking into the issues, and told the Free Press it would provide an update when it finishes its review. To date, there are 588 owner complaints on NHTSA’s website regarding steering issues on 2018 Jeep Wrangler models.
H/T to Detroit Free Press, Automotive News