By Sepehr Daghighian
For years, CCA’s attorneys have heard complaints by Dodge, Ram, and Jeep customers about a disturbing suspension defect ominously dubbed the “Death Wobble.” While FCA US LLC (Dodge, Ram, and Jeep’s parent company) has attempted to address many of the customer concerns through a series of recalls and service bulletins, unfortunately for many FCA customers, this dangerous and terrifying defect remains unresolved. As recently as September of 2019, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) was reportedly investigating suspension defects in Jeep Wranglers, which result in the dreaded Death Wobble defects.
What is a Death Wobble?
The Death Wobble has been described as a mechanical defect that exists in the front end of vehicles, which results in a violent shaking or wobble that makes the vehicle hard to control. Drivers complain that at certain speeds or when the vehicle hits a bump in the road, the vehicle will suddenly start violently shaking or wobbling uncontrollably. Death Wobble typically occurs at speeds above 45 mph and in most cases requires a trigger like hitting a bump or a pothole. Drivers describe the condition as terrifying and a feeling as if the vehicle is out of control or falling apart.
With Death Wobble, drivers describe that it becomes extremely difficult to control the vehicle and that the only way to get it to stop is by slowing down.
What Causes Death Wobble defects?
Death Wobble is caused by loose, damaged, misaligned, or incorrectly designed steering parts, which begin to violently oscillate under certain conditions. Automotive engineers typically design vehicles with damping mechanisms that avoid harmonic oscillations. However, in certain vehicles and under certain conditions, violent oscillations are creating, resulting in the notorious Death Wobble.
Which FCA Vehicles Suffer from the Death Wobble?
Death Wobble has been reported in numerous FCA vehicles over the years. Most recently, the Death Wobble in 2015-2018 Jeep Wranglers have been the subject of increased scrutiny from media outlets and government agencies investigating FCA’s vehicles. On NHTSA’s website alone, the 2018 Jeep Wrangler features over 750 complaints by consumers for suspension issues. However, FCA’s difficulties with the Death Wobble didn’t begin in 2019 and didn’t begin with the Jeep Wrangler. Ram trucks dating back to 2003 suffered similar Death Wobble complaints, repairs, and recalls. In fact, in 2015, FCA agreed to pay NHTSA a $105-million fine (then, the largest fine ever from NHTSA), submit to three years of oversight of recalls, buy back half-a-million vehicles and offer financial incentives for repair of 1 million vehicles. In 2015, FCA admitted that it failed to timely notify its customers and timely fix its vehicles that suffered from a serious suspension defect. While numerous years makes and models of Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks suffered from suspension defects, NHTSA found that FCA did not act with sufficient urgency and diligence in remedying its customers’ defects.
Death Wobble in Dodge Ram Trucks
FCA’s recalls relating to suspension difficulties date back to its 2003 trucks. In February of 2009, FCA issued Recall H36, which addressed a defect in 2008-2009 Dodge Truck’s steering drag link inner joint, which could fracture under certain driving conditions. FCA’s recall admitted that the fracture could result in a loss of steering control and cause a crash without warning. The problems didn’t end there.
In May 2009, the recall was revised and expanded to include more vehicles, including the following:
- 2003-2004 (DR) Dodge Truck 4×4 (2500/3500 series)
- 2005 (DH) Dodge Truck 4×4 (2500/3500 series)
- 2006-2009 (DH) Dodge Truck 4×4 (2500/3500 series or 1500 Mega Cab)
- 2006-2009 (D1) Dodge Truck 4×4 (3500 series)
- 2007-2009 (DC) Dodge Truck (3500 series cab chassis)
The problems didn’t end there. In December 2013, FCA issued recalls N62 and N49, which attempted to address suspension concerns on the following trucks:
- 2008 (DH) Dodge RAM Truck (1500 series 4×4 Mega Cab)
- 2008 – 2009 (DH) Dodge RAM Truck (2500 / 3500 series 4×4)
- 2008 – 2009 (D1) Dodge RAM Truck (3500 series 4×4)
- 2010 – 2012 (D2) Dodge RAM Truck (3500 series 4×4)
- 2010 – 2012 (DJ) Dodge RAM Truck (2500 series 4×4)
- 2008 – 2010 (DC) Dodge RAM Truck (3500 Cab Chassis)
- 2011 – 2012 (DD) Dodge RAM Truck (3500 Cab Chassis)
- 2003 – 2004 (DR) Dodge RAM Truck (2500 & 3500 series 4×4)
- 2006 – 2008 (DH) Dodge RAM Truck (1500 series 4×4 Mega Cab)
- 2005 – 2008 (DH) Dodge RAM Truck (2500 series 4×4)
- 2005 (DH) Dodge RAM Truck (3500 series 4×4)
- 2006 – 2008 (D1) Dodge RAM Truck (3500 series 4×4)
- 2007 – 2008 (DC) Dodge RAM Truck (3500 Cab Chassis)
As mentioned above, in 2015, NHTSA found that FCA did not act with sufficient diligence in addressing customers’ dangerous suspension issues. Therefore, FCA was fined in excess of $105-million as a result of its failures. However, FCA’s problems with the Death Wobble didn’t end there.
Death Wobble in Jeep Wranglers
More recently, Jeep owners have complained extensively of suspension problems arising from their 2015-2018 Jeep Wranglers. Jeep owners, for example, have complained, “On the highway when I hit bridge seams or bumps the Jeep goes into a shaking pattern that makes it near to impossible to steer. You have to hit the brakes and slow down to about 40 MPH to get it to stop. Extremely dangerous and I fear the next bump will be the one to kill me.” Another Jeep owner described the Death Wobble as, “The car shakes uncontrollably when driving on the highway and after hitting a bump or imperfection in the road. I have had the problem fixed once before a few months ago.” Also, Jeep owners have complained that Jeep’s repair efforts are ineffective: “The jeep shakes uncontrollably at freeway speeds… This is my 3rd time taking the Jeep in for the same death wobble that FCA can’t seem to fix or doesn’t want to fix [it]. [Jeep has] already replaced my steering stabilizer 4 times which obviously does not fix the problem.”
CCA’s attorneys possess extensive experience in handling lemon law cases arising from suspension issues, including the FCA Death Wobble. If your truck has terrified you with its Death Wobble, has spent too much time in the shop, or remains unfixed, we invite you to call our experts for a free consultation: (833) LEMON-FIRM.