— A Jeep Wrangler “death wobble” lawsuit alleges 2015-2018 SUVs are equipped with defective steering dampers and components that cause violent front-end vibrations.
According to the lawsuit, the "death wobble" is the "seemingly uncontrollable side-to-side shaking of a Jeep’s front-end steering components and – by extension – its steering wheel." The lawsuit doesn't say the vibrations cause front-end failure, but "simulates sudden front end failure."
While FCA and other automakers say this can be a common occurrence with solid front axles in combination with worn or damaged components, the lawsuit alleges the Wrangler axles and damping systems were defectively designed from the beginning.
Attorneys who filed the proposed class action lawsuit want Fiat Chrysler (FCA) to buy back all 2015-2018 Jeep Wranglers in the U.S. and give drivers compensation for an alleged loss of value and depreciation of the SUVs.
Attorneys also say FCA should reimburse owners for expenses paid to third parties for work performed related to the vibrations. In addition, the plaintiff wants the automaker to give customers temporary replacement vehicles, and Chrysler should pay damages for allegedly putting members of the public at risk.
FCA says the vibrations are easily corrected by simply slowing down and all functions of the vehicles remain active. In addition, although Wrangler drivers call it a "death" wobble, no deaths have ever been attributed to the condition.
The lawsuit was filed by New Jersey plaintiff Clair Reynolds who owns a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport she purchased in July 2018. By December 2018, she returned the Wrangler to the dealership because the Jeep allegedly began to experience the wobble.
The dealer allegedly kept the Wrangler for about two weeks to replace the steering damper. But Reynolds claims the alleged death wobble returned a few days later.
The Wrangler was taken back to the dealership in February 2019 and again the steering damper was allegedly replaced, with the technician noting the Jeep was “test drove on highway for 19 miles inspected on lift everything working as designed.” But the plaintiff claims the wobble returned within days.
In March, the plaintiff allegedly wrote to FCA and informed the automaker about the alleged problems, telling Chrysler the issue could likely “cause death or serious bodily injury.” Reynolds says she gave FCA one last chance to repair the alleged problems or else she would demand a refund.
According to the plaintiff, attorneys for Chrysler contacted her and told her to drop the Wrangler off at the dealership for repairs. But Reynolds says she was told by the dealership that no loaner vehicle was available. However, she would be put on a waiting list until a loaner was available.
The plaintiff says FCA's attorneys contacted her on April 5 informing her she had not dropped off the vehicle immediately as originally requested. She was also informed that Chrysler's written warranty doesn't provide for rental or loaner vehicles.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff again returned the Jeep Wrangler to the dealer and complained about the so-called death wobble, so a dealer representative allegedly left the plaintiff a voicemail.
"On April 12, 2019, a representative from Johnson Jeep left a voicemail for Plaintiff, indicating that she test drove the vehicle and that the Jeep’s 'Death Wobble' 'is trying to kill [her] again and I’m sure you as well…'"
The steering damper was allegedly replaced for the third time and technicians noted the “vehicle [was] operating as designed at this time.”
Plaintiff Reynolds says FCA never told her about the wobble and never warned her about what to do if it occurs. She also claims she wouldn't have purchased the Wrangler if she would have known what she knows now.
The lawsuit references a 2012 media story in California that led two California politicians to contact NHTSA about the so-called Wrangler death wobble.
Federal safety regulators looked into the matter and determined the vibrations didn't even cause drivers to wander out of their travel lanes. NHTSA also determined 2005-2010 Wrangler drivers who experienced the vibrations found them "disconcerting," but safety regulators found no evidence of drivers losing control of the Wranglers.
In addition, federal safety regulators referenced previous investigations into the same vibration issues in vehicles from Ford but determined there was no evidence that recalls were necessary.
The plaintiff claims there is evidence Chrysler knew about the Jeep Wrangler vibrations based on a technical service bulletin (TSB 02-003-10) sent to dealerships in 2010 related to 2007-2009 Jeep Wranglers.
Although those model years are not included in the lawsuit, the bulletin told dealer technicians to replace the steering dampers and brackets if Wrangler drivers complained about vibrations on rough surfaces.
The Jeep Wrangler death wobble lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan - Clair Reynolds, et al., v. FCA US, LLC.
FCA isn't the first automaker sued for front-end vibrations which earned the label, "death wobble." Five days ago a proposed class action lawsuit was filed against Ford over claims F-250 and F-350 trucks suffer from "death wobbles."
CarComplaints.com has owner-reported complaints about Jeep Wranglers.