FCA sued over Jeep Wrangler 'death wobble'

The lawsuit involves 2015-2018 Jeep Wranglers.

A Jeep Wrangler owner accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in a federal lawsuit of ignoring an alleged safety issue with the vehicle’s steering system.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of Clair Reynolds, a New Jersey resident, alleges a “defectively designed and/or manufactured front axle and damping system” causes the steering wheel to shake violently at highway speeds or when “encountering road variations.” It called the phenomenon a “death wobble.”

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit and involving 2015-2018 Wranglers is seeking class-action status. It does not mention any fatalities or injuries to the plaintiff or other Jeep Wrangler owners but claims FCA knew about the issue and did not warn prospective owners.

“FCA US has not been served with this lawsuit and cannot comment on its allegations at this time,” FCA said in a statement. “However, we note that any manufacturer vehicle equipped with a solid axle can experience steering system vibration and, if experienced, it is routinely corrected. Steering, braking and throttle function remain.”

A spokesman for FCA said “there are no known fatalities or injuries associated with this phenomenon.”

FCA said reports of steering system vibration have been linked to poorly installed or maintained aftermarket equipment, damaged or worn steering components and incorrect tire pressure.

In 2008, NHTSA investigated Ford Motor Co. 2005-07 model year F-250 and F-350 Super Duty 4×4 pickups after receiving complaints of steering wheel oscillations. The investigation closed after testing showed only vehicles with under-inflated or damaged tires experienced such an event.

A Jeep Wrangler owner in Tennessee complained to NHTSA in November 2017 that he experienced a so-called “death wobble” after having his vehicle serviced at a dealership.

“I was driving on the interstate, hit a bump and the steering wheel began to pound and shake uncontrollably,” he wrote. “It felt like the front tires were shaking back and forth fast. I almost lost control of the Jeep. I pulled over four lanes of traffic to the side to assess the issue.”

The Wrangler owner said the dealership told him they could not fix the issue and he would have a two- to three-week wait for an appointment.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks damages for owners, including FCA buying back the affected vehicles, and calls for the company to issue a recall.

“While this lawsuit is not the first time we have seen complaints about this incredibly scary design flaw in Jeep Wranglers, the sheer volume of consumers raising the alarm should be taken very seriously by FCA,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “There’s clearly a problem with the 2018 Wranglers that FCA needs to address on behalf of its owners and everyone else on the road.”

NHTSA did not respond to a call seeking comment on the matter.

Reynolds’ attorney, Powell Miller, did not return a call seeking further comment.

The Detroit News reported the lawsuit on Wednesday.

“FCA sued over alleged Jeep Wrangler steering issues” was originally posted at Automotive News on 6/14/19.

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