A Jeep Wrangler owner accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in a lawsuit of ignoring an alleged safety issue particularly relating to the vehicle’s steering system. According to a Detroit News report, the class action lawsuit alleges a “death wobble” involving 2015-2018 Jeep Wranglers with a solid front axle that the suit says can cause the steering wheel to shake violently at highway speeds. The lawsuit, which was filed in Detroit’s U.S. District Court, alleges FCA had knowledge of this defect. But, it said, the automaker did not address it or warn drivers about it.
The issue with Solid Front Axle
FCA has said that it is not a safety issue and that the so-called “death wobble” can happen with any vehicle with a solid front axle such as the Wrangler. The lawsuit states this wobbling occurs because the solid front axle cannot absorb bumps and vibrations as efficiently as a vehicle with a front suspension that allows each wheel to move independently. It says the front suspension and steering can be jarred out of equilibrium. Drivers experience an uncontrollable side-to-side shaking of the Jeep’s front-end steering components and the wheel, the lawsuit states.
The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Claire Reynolds, a New Jersey resident who owns a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport 4×4, accusing the company of offering drivers a quick fix in the form of replacing the steering damper if the vehicle is under warranty. The lawsuit says the problem will ultimately return and can only be remedied by substantial revisions and repairs to the suspension. Reynolds says the damper was replaced three times in six months and the wobbling still occurred.
A Continuing Problem
Detroit News reports that drivers have been complaining about Jeep Wrangler steering problems to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for several years now. One Wrangler owner from Michigan said in his complaint that the front part of his vehicle was rattling so much that he thought his wheel had come off. Safety advocates have also been urging Congress to look into this issue since 2012.
The Center for Auto Safety wrote in a March 2012 letter to former NHTSA Administrator David Strickland saying that this issue is representative of “the problems involving lack of transparency and access to reliable repairs” that are commonly present in several auto defect cases. The lawsuit seeks monetary as well as punitive damages against FCA for putting drivers and members of the public at risk.