I-Team

Chrysler acknowledges Jeep "death wobble"

Thursday, August 09, 2012
, Chief Investigative Reporter
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Chrysler Thursday acknowledged a potentially dangerous problem in some of its Jeep brand vehicles, as first reported here by the ABC7 News I-Team. Chrysler issued a technical service bulletin to its dealers nationwide about what it calls a "steering shimmy issue." Some Jeep owners have nicknamed it the "death wobble."

The Chrysler announcement came in a "technical service bulletin." It said, "Vehicles equipped with a solid front axle may exhibit steering system vibration if the steering system is damaged or not properly maintained."

The bulletin is designed "...to assist dealers and repair facilities in the diagnosis and repair of this condition."

It is a scary experience -- a violent shaking in the front of the car that usually hits at highway speed when you make a turn or hit a bump. Videos posted on YouTube show how frequently it happens to some Jeep owners.

It has become so common that it has a nickname the "death wobble," because it is so jarring.

The I-Team's Dan Noyes has experienced the death wobble in his own 2007 Jeep Wrangler; so has an ABC7 News producer. The vehicle hits a bump at about 50 miles an hour and the steering wheel vibrates violently. Beneath the car, the wheels wobble. It only stops when the driver slows down.

The I-Team found hundreds of people had similar experiences. According to the complaint database of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, since 1995, there were more than 600 complaints about Jeeps wobbling or vibrating, mostly Wranglers since 1997.

No deaths have been reported, but at least five people report being injured.

Many drivers expressed frustration when Jeep dealers could not identify a specific problem.

Our report got the attention of South Bay Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Southern California Congressman Henry Waxman, D-Calif..

"If I owned one of these cars, I'd be terrified," Eshoo, D-Calif., said.

They pushed Chrysler to acknowledge the problem and advise consumers about how the problem could be fixed.

In a joint statement released Thursday, Eshoo said "Chrysler's decision to issue an official method of repair for this problem is the right thing to do for its customers and for the safety of others on the road."

Chrysler maintains that the front end shimmy is not a serious issue, saying Thursday in a statement that "All manufacturer vehicles equipped with a solid axle can experience steering system shimmy and, if experienced, it is routinely corrected."

Chrysler argues that most of the incidents are the result of modifications to a vehicle, damage or worn components or incorrect tire pressure.

The technical service bulletin issued by Jeep outlines just what dealers should be looking for when someone comes in complaining of front end shaking, including a detailed inspection of the steering controls and components as well as the tires.

This service bulletin does not mean that Chrysler will pay for the repairs. In fact, their spokesperson told ABC7 News owners will have to pay for the repairs because the shimmy occurs after parts wear out or if the Jeep is modified.

Written and produced by Ken Miguel

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
chrysler, driving, i-team, dan noyes
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