Computer users fear the "Blue Screen of Death," but Jeep drivers have their own, more expensive and terrifying concern. What is the Jeep Death Wobble? Can you prevent it? Does it happen to everyone? Despite the incredibly dramatic name, there are solutions for Death Wobble.
What Causes Jeep Death Wobble
Jeep Death Wobble is a terrifying experience because it happens suddenly and can feel like you're losing control. Sadly, this problem does significantly impact your ability to steer. The rapid shaking vibration from the front end often happens on the highway at full speed. The solid front axle design appears to be the culprit responsible for the Death Wobble. It's worth noting that the Wrangler is usually pinpointed as the model that has this issue. However, Jeeps aren't the only vehicles that have this problem. Any car, truck, or SUV with a solid front axle can encounter the wobble. Some companies have managed to keep it out of the news better. As Motor Biscuit points out, Fiat Chrysler calls it a 'vibration' which, at least keeps the name sounding less alarming. No company want's their vehicles to have something called a "death wobble." Ony the sheer dedication of Jeep aficionados and the popularity of models like the Wrangler, which won the 2019 SUV of the year award, keeps this from being a bigger media issue.
How To Handle Death Wobble On The Road
If you turn a corner or hit a bump and the front end of your car starts having a fit and shaking, you have the Death Wobble. The good news is that, as long as you keep a cool head, you and your vehicle will be fine. Decelerate and move over to the side of the road. Driving with a Death Wobble should be avoided. However, if you're forced to stay on the road, keep your speed under forty-five. The trigger point is somewhere between forty-five and fifty-five, so you should be temporarily alright if you keep it slow. According to 4x4 Training, you may be able to drive quickly through that trigger point, and maintaining speed above it should prevent the likelihood of it happening again.
How Common is Jeep Death Wobble
Since they call it the Jeep Death Wobble, you'd assume it happens to Jeeps all the time. Fortunately, you'd be very wrong. It seems fair to think with a class-action suit against the company that thousands of people have been hurt from the violent front end shaking. Again, that's not the case at all. There's no denying that the (not exclusive to Jeep) Death Wobble is dangerous. Losing even partial control of your front end is a serious issue. Perhaps it speaks to the quality of Jeep drivers that it doesn't result in more accidents. Ultimately there have been more than six hundred reports of JDW since 1995. That may seem like many reports, but it's not a lot when you look at how many Jeeps are on the road. In 2020 alone, over two hundred thousand new jeeps were sold. There are millions of them on the highways and off roading every day. Once you look at those numbers, it isn't hard to see that Death Wobble, while serious, isn't very common.
Is The Wobble Deadly
Alright, so the Death Wobble isn't common, but they call it that because it kills people or vehicles, right? Wrong. The so-called Death Wobble has killed exactly zero people. Although it has resulted in about five injuries, that is an incredibly minuscule number compared to how many people are in Jeeps at this moment, let alone each year. The Death Wobble doesn't even necessarily ruin your Jeep. It's a problem that needs fixing, but it's not a 'scrap the whole car, we can't use it,' level issue. No one wants to pay for expensive repairs, especially when they are from a known defect, but that's what your warranty and insurance are for. If your Jeep has never had a wobble issue, it could still happen. That said, there's no reason to worry excessively about it.
How to Fix Death Wobble in Jeeps
First, before you look at fixing the Death Wobble, start by not contributing to it. The long and short of this is that putting a lift kit on your vehicle makes the wobble more likely in Wranglers, Grand Cherokees, and Cherokees. Several factors can contribute to the problem, so general maintenance is crucial as well. Since the solid front axle, coil spring suspension, and track bar are the real culprit, installing better shocks can help. Absorbing the pressures that create the wobble seems likely to help you avoid it. Prevention won't stop every possible problem, but it can cut the chances significantly.
While it seems sensible, adding new steering stabilizers does not fix this issue. In fact, it is the wobble that messes with the stabilizers, not the other way around. You will need to repair any damage caused by Death Wobble, but don't mistake those repairs for the real issue. The Jeep company also came out with a solution in 2019 that involves a redesigned steering damper. The newer damper lets fluid return faster during compression cycles, but it doesn't completely prevent the problem. Replacing the track bar is one common fix. You may also need to look at your suspension and axle. Regardless of secondary issues, this is where the problems begin and what you'll need to repair to stop the wobble.
Jeep lovers are in a unique and devoted class of drivers. The idea that your beloved vehicle could hit a bump and suddenly die or kill you is pretty alarming, to say the least. Luckily that is an overdramatized and incorrect interpretation. Hopefully, it won't ever happen to you. Not very many Jeeps ever experience Death Wobble, but now you know what to do if your front end starts shaking. Keep in mind that the further you drive with the wobble, the more damage it can do to other vehicle parts.
Written by Benjamin Smith
Read more posts by Benjamin Smith