Jeep Wrangler "Death Wobble" report prompts members of Congress to investigate

A local television news report on a so-called Jeep "death wobble" has led two members of the House of Representatives to write a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requesting more information about the situation, which they describe as a "serious safety issue." The three-page letter does not demand an investigation or recall, but asks the agency numerous questions regarding the problem and what is known about it. The original report aired on KGO-TV in San Francisco in February.

The two members of Congress describe the problem as "a powerful shaking of the steering wheel and front wheels after a driver hits road bumps at speed," affecting 2005-2010 model year Jeep Wranglers. The news report says NHTSA has received over 600 complaints about wobbling and vibrating in Jeep vehicles since 1995, "mostly Wranglers." Indeed, YouTube is rife with videos of shaking Wranglers, some of which we've gathered after the jump.

Chrysler issued the following statement regarding the accusations:

Chrysler Group vehicles meet or exceed every applicable government safety standard and have excellent safety records. All manufacturer vehicles equipped with a solid axle are susceptible to vibration and, if experienced, it can be corrected by performing minor maintenance items, such as properly balancing or changing the tires, or a front end alignment, installing a new steering dampener, or by tightening or replacing other loose or worn parts. In fact, most reported incidents – in all manufacturer vehicles equipped with or without a solid axle – are often linked to poorly installed or maintained after-market equipment, such as lift kits, oversized tires, etc. This is not a safety issue, and there are no injuries involving Chrysler Group vehicles related to this allegation. Indeed, the name you've given to this condition has no basis in fact.

While we're not so sure blaming the customer for improper maintenance is the right response, we will say that Wranglers and their antecedents are unique beasts, what with their solid axles and high centers of gravity. This is why they're so wonderful off road, and why those that choose to use them as daily drivers shouldn't expect them to behave exactly like every other vehicle they encounter on their commute. And of course if there is, indeed, a "serious safety issue" with the Wrangler, we would expect Chrysler to address it.

Click past the jump to read the full letter, watch the most recent news report, and see videos of Jeeps exhibiting the symptoms.

The video meant to be presented here is no longer available. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The video meant to be presented here is no longer available. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The video meant to be presented here is no longer available. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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March 19, 2012

The Honorable David Strickland, Administrator
NHTSA Headquarters
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
West Building
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Administrator Strickland,

We are writing to bring your attention to troubling reports that continue to surface concerning a vehicle safety risk many Jeep Wrangler owners refer to as the "Jeep Death Wobble."

In complaints circulated on the Internet, reported in the news, and filed with NHTSA's consumer complaint database, Jeep owners have described a powerful shaking of the steering wheel and front wheels after a driver hits road bumps at speed. The Jeep complaints span many models and years, with a preponderance associated with model year 2005-2010 Jeep Wranglers.

Despite the availability of Technical Service Bulletins (TSB) from the manufacturer to assist dealerships in diagnosing and repairing the problem, we understand that most Jeep owners have not been notified of the safety risk or the remedy.

To help us understand NHTSA's assessment of this issue, we request that you respond to the following questions:
(1) How many consumer complaints has NHTSA received related to "death wobble,"or underlying steering, suspension and powertrain problems in Jeep vehicles? Please provide a breakdown by model and model years.

(2) Has NHTSA's review of Early Warning Reporting (EWR) data identified concerns regarding steering, suspension and powertrain problems in model year 2005-2010 Jeep vehicles? Please explain the review and the concerns identified.

(3) Has NHTSA analyzed NASS and FARS data on rollovers or other crashes
involving model year 2005-2010 Jeep vehicles to determine whether accidents, injuries and deaths may have been triggered by a sudden loss of vehicle control because of"death wobble" or underlying steering, suspension and powertrain problems? Please explain that analysis.

(4) On NHTSA's website there are swnmaries of four Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) issued by Chrysler Group LLC that recommend a repair for Jeep Wranglers to address steering and linkage problems. Please provide a complete copy of these four TSBs as well as any others that concern steering, suspension, powertrain or other problems in Jeep vehicles that are potentially related.
(a) Does the agency agree that the repairs recommended in these TSBs can
prevent Jeep Wrangler "death wobble?" If not, what repairs does NHST A
believe are needed?
(b) How does NHTSA ensure that TSBs are disseminated and used effectively?
(c) With many Jeep vehicles affected by "death wobble" no longer under
warranty or soon subject to expiring warranties, how can NHTSA help ensure
Jeep owners have access to necessary repairs?
(d) How does NHTSA determine which TSBs are published or swnmarized on
NHTSA's website and how detailed such summaries should be?
(e) Does NHTSA require, or is it common practice for, manufacturers to maintain indexes of TSBs organized by category of model, model year and vehicle component? If so, why are such indexes not available on manufacturer or NHTSA websites so that consumers can identify TSBs on their vehicle?
(5) We are aware of at least one draft consumer satisfaction notification issued by Chrysler LLC, Customer Satisfaction Notification 134, encouraging owners of certain model year 2007-2010 Jeep Wranglers with right hand steering to visit a local dealership to replace the steering damper and mounting bracket.

(a) How does NHTSA determine whether a consumer service campaign or
consumer notification is necessary, or whether one undertaken by a company
is sufficient?
(b) There are few right hand steering vehicles in the United States.

(i) Is NHTSA aware of any customer satisfaction notifications and/or owner
notification letters addressing steering problems in Jeep Wranglers with
left hand steering or other Jeep models? If so, please provide them.
(ii) Is NHTSA aware of similar Jeep steering problems identified or
addressed by safety authorities in countries where right hand steering is
standard? Please explain.

(c) The notice indicates that repairs will be paid for or reimbursed by the
manufacturer. How does NHTSA determine whether a manufacturer is
required to reimburse owners or pay for a repair? Please provide any
guidance NHTSA offers to manufacturers.
(d) How does NHTSA ensure notification and/or reimbursement is provided
when manufacturer ownership changes, such as the transition of Jeep brand
ownership from DaimlerChrysler Motors Company LLC to Chrysler LLC, to
Chrysler Group LLC after the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.
Please provide any guidance NHTSA offers to manufacturers.

(6) Has NHTSA conducted an Issues Evaluation of"death wobble" in Jeep vehicles or any other review to determine whether to open an investigation? Please provide copies of any such evaluation. Does the agency believe a safety recall or consumer service campaign for affected Jeep models is warranted?

The Jeep "death wobble" is a serious safety issue that must be evaluated by NHTSA. It is also representative of the problems involving lack of transparency and access to reliable repairs that are present in other safety and defect cases. We look forward to your response to the questions
we've raised and to working with you to better assist and protect impacted vehicle owners.

Please provide the information requested in writing no later than April 2, 2012. If you have any questions regarding this request, contact Blake Hutnick with Rep. Eshoo's Office at (202) 225-8104 or Michelle Ash with the Energy and Commerce Committee Staff at (202)226-3400.


Anna G Eshoo
Member of Congress

Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Member, Energy and Commerce Committee

Jeep Wrangler Information

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