It's not a new problem in the Wrangler world, but it can certainly be frightening.
Apparently, new Jeep Wranglers still have some of the old not-so-welcome characteristics inherent in the off-roader’s design. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into complaints about the dreaded “death wobble” in the steering system that some drivers have reported. In short, the steering wheel begins to shake quite badly after hitting a bump at higher speeds. The shaking goes away once the Jeep slows down, but it can be a rather frightening situation for drivers – especially on a busy highway.
As mentioned, this isn’t uncharted territory for the Wrangler and to be honest, it’s not necessarily a Wrangler-specific issue. Any vehicle that uses a solid front axle can be susceptible to the wobble, especially those with modified suspensions or worn suspension components. The death wobble also isn’t quite as dramatic as the nickname makes it sound; no deaths have actually occurred as far as anyone knows, and while the shaking can become quite dramatic, it shouldn’t lead to a loss-of-control.
Gallery: 2018 Jeep Wrangler: First Drive
The Detroit Free Press did some legwork on the issue and found instances of the wobble with the Wrangler dating as far back as 1995. In the report, a spokesperson for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is quoted as calling the condition a “steering system vibration” and saying it “is not a widespread condition, nor is it a safety issue.” The spokesperson also reportedly said FCA believed the NHTSA had investigated and also determined it wasn’t a safety issue.
New Wranglers are being investigated for potential frame weld problems, but it’s believed that issue is unrelated to new reports of steering wheel shake. The NHTSA currently lists 305 complaints for the 2018 Jeep Wrangler, with 220 devoted just to steering. We didn’t look at every single complaint, but those we did see mentioned two problems – stiffness in the steering and the death wobble. The majority of those complaints also specifically stated the vehicle was stock and under 10,000 miles.