Prevention & Causes of the Jeep ‘Death Wobble’

A primer on what it is, how to stop it, and how to fix it.


Jeep Wrangler Death Wobble
The Jeep Wrangler was notorious for death wobble, which was usually the result of a damaged or worn front suspension. [image: Shutterstock]

If you are a Jeep owner, you have probably heard stories about the Jeep death wobble. The sudden, violent shaking when you are driving the Jeep at fast speeds can occur, and understanding what causes Jeep’s death wobble can help you avoid the problem in the future. It is described as feeling as though the Jeep is shaking apart, and you will need to stop driving immediately if this occurs. Many Jeep models experience the death wobble, but it can be preventable if you take the time to look for problems and stay on top of routine maintenance.

What Causes The Dreaded Jeep Death Wobble?

The Jeep death wobble is more than simple alignment problems or from driving on a rough road. When you hit about 40 miles an hour, a Jeep experiencing the death wobble will be nearly impossible to control. It is important to slow down and pull over the Jeep if this occurs. The death wobble has to do with your suspension system and happens when you hit a large bump in the road with a poorly installed suspension system. If anything in your steering column is loose or damaged, this can cause a death wobble to occur. Poor wheel alignment, inadequate tire pressure, or a malfunctioning suspension system can contribute to the Jeep’s death wobble.

Jeep Models Prone To The Death Wobble

There have been recalls because of the Jeep death wobble throughout the years, mainly in the Jeep Wrangler. The 2012 Jeep Wrangler has experienced the most recalls, while the 2019 Jeep Wrangler has proven to be one of the safest in recent years. The 2021 Jeep Wrangler has had 5 recalls so far, according to the United States Department of Transportation, and 224 safety complaints from drivers. The Jeep Wrangler’s ability to provide a great off-road experience is why the Jeep Wrangler is also prone to problems with the death wobble. There are some precautions you can take to prevent the it from occurring. It is a phenomenon that can occur with any Jeep model but is more common with the Jeep Wrangler.

What to Do If & When It Occurs

If you are driving your Jeep, and it suddenly starts jerking uncontrollably, it’s important to get your Jeep back under control. Don’t hold the steering wheel tight, as this is not going to help you control the vehicle. Press on the brake slowly, while lightly holding onto the steering wheel. You want to maintain control of the Jeep if possible, and stop the Jeep by pulling off to the side of the road. It can be a scary experience, but you can get the vehicle to stop when you stay calm and focus on getting the Jeep to slow down. Don’t jerk the wheel. As your vehicle starts to slow down, this can cause the death wobble to stop completely. Get your Jeep into a safe area, and have your Jeep towed to the nearest mechanic if this occurs.

Death Wobble Prevention

If you are familiar with the mechanics of your Jeep, look underneath to check the axle bar. You want to be sure that the axle bar is not loose or damaged, as this is the biggest cause of the Jeep’s death wobble. Tighten all bolts using a wrench, or bring your Jeep to a mechanic to have the system checked out. Inspect the tie rods, and makes sure they move when you move the wheel. Ball joints should be inspected, as they connect your suspension system to the frame of the Jeep. If they are loose or faulty, you can experience the Jeep death wobble. 

When you love the off-road experience offered by the Jeep Wrangler, understand that good maintenance will be essential to preventing the Jeep’s death wobble. If it occurs, get your vehicle slowed down, and pull over safely. Pay attention to any problems with your Jeep, and get routine maintenance as scheduled. The Jeep death wobble is less common in newer models but occurs in Jeeps as new as 2021 at times.

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