Congress inquires about Jeep Wrangler death wobble

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Jeep Wrangler

Congress is inquiring about reports of "death wobbles" in Jeep Wrangler SUVs. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

There is a condition sometimes called a “death wobble,” which means a vehicle shakes after hitting a bump at high speed. Various people are reporting it on late model Jeep Wranglers and Congress has asked the NHTSA about the phenomenon.

Wobbling Jeeps gets attention of Congress

Cynics may proclaim otherwise, but members of Congress do listen to their constituents. Representatives Anna Eshoo and Henry Waxman of California have written a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after hearing of complaints of a dangerous problem that exists in Jeep Wrangler SUVs, according to AutoBlog. The legislators learned of the issuefrom news reported by KGO-TV, an ABC affiliate in San Francisco.

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KGO, according to an article on the station’s website, aired an investigative report about two people experiencing a “wobbling” at highway speeds. Otherwise known as a “speed wobble” or “death wobble,” the phenomenon occurs when a vehicle begins to shake nearly uncontrollably at speed after hitting even a moderate bump on the road which normally wouldn’t affect any other vehicle. Station employees have noted it on their own Jeeps. It is usually correctable by braking.

Not an official probe

It isn’t an official probe, but rather two concerned representatives asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration what information the NHTSA has available and what, if anything, can be done about a “death wobble” in Jeep Wranglers.

However, as KGO and AutoBlog point out, many Jeep owners have filmed it happening and posted it to YouTube. KGO reports the NHTSA has about 600 complaints of wobble in Jeeps dating back to 1995 and five reported injuries.

Chrysler, parent of Jeep, told KGO that “the name … has no basis in fact,” given that no deaths have occurred because of the wobble. Chrylser also points out that vehicles with a solid axle are prone to vibrations, which is preventable with regular maintenance of suspension components and tire rotation.

Lift kits could be culprit

Chrysler also points out that vehicles that are the most prone to the phenomenon are those with “poorly installed or maintained after-market equipment” such as larger tires and lift kits, which many Jeep owners install.

An article on Popular Mechanics features a writer discussing a 1964 Jeep J200, which he purchased with a lift kit having been installed by the previous owner. The writer encountered the “death wobble” after hitting some pot holes. After tightening the fasteners in some suspension components, he reported not encountering the problem again.

KGO quotes a mechanic as saying that “death wobbles” are often caused by the track bar, a front suspension component involved in the lateral travel of the front wheels during steering, also called a Panhard bar. An aftermarket off-road parts manufacturer, KevinsOffRoad.com, similarly says “death wobble” is often caused by the track bar and “slop” in the front suspension and steering system. The site notes that Jeeps are especially susceptible to the issue.

Video of death wobble

Sources

AutoBlog

KGO/ABC Local

Popular Mechanics

Kevin’s Off Road: http://www.kevinsoffroad.com/how-to-fix-your-own-death-wobble/

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