What is the “Death Wobble” in Cars, and Can You Sue For It?

Experiencing a Death Wobble

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: March 10, 2024 12:45pm CDT

Experiencing a Death Wobble

Motor vehicles are extraordinary inventions that revolutionized travel, though some growing pains were involved.

Ultimately, motor vehicles became almost essential for modern society, with virtually everyone having a car, truck, or motorcycle.

Unfortunately, for all the advantages motor vehicles offer the public, they are remarkably fragile.

Most are correctly designed to withstand collisions while protecting the driver from the bulk of the damage, but not all vehicles meet the same standards.

There are thousands of motor vehicles from different carmakers with different models and functions.

Still, even with this variety, all motor vehicles share some commonalities, such as requiring maintenance and repairs to remain road ready.

However, the problem is that expected maintenance and repairs are insufficient when the car you buy is inherently flawed and sold with a significant defect.

Some types of defects are more common than others, with some tied to specific brands or models.

For this article, we focus on a major car accident-causing defect: the death wobble.

In the motor vehicle world, a mechanical safety issue called the “death wobble” can impact a vehicle’s performance and reliability.

Operating a car with a death wobble makes driving at highway speeds increasingly risky, raising the chance of getting into a severe or even fatal car accident crash.

Death Wobble

Considering the risk associated with death wobbles, it is understandable that people might feel angry and panicked when their vehicle develops the issue.

When motor vehicle owners find themselves in a situation where their new car has a death wobble, they may need to consider taking legal action against the vendors of their cars.

Unfortunately, the legal options for a car with a death wobble are not well-known since civil law has many aspects, and accidents caused by wobbles are less common than the average rear-end car accident.

To get started, let’s define what a death wobble is before we move into discussing whether it is possible to file a lawsuit over a death wobble.

What Is a Death Wobble?

death wobble is a phenomenon you can experience while driving a motor vehicle in which it begins to shake violently and might cause you to lose control at any moment.

Most Common In Jeeps and Other 4x4s

Death wobbles are significantly more likely to manifest in certain types of vehicles, such as in a 4×4 (four-wheel drive), truck, or Jeep, due to these vehicles having specific suspension components:

The solid front axle and a steering drag link parallel to a track bar make 4x4s and Jeeps susceptible to death wobbles.

In contrast, the more commonly owned vehicle types: sedans, SUVs, and coupes, are less likely to develop this dangerous mechanical issue, which makes it correspondingly low risk for most people (It is entirely possible for non-4×4 cars to experience a death wobble, as is the case with the Kia Soul CUV).

From a mechanical standpoint, different factors can worsen the issue, like problems with control arms, improper alignment, or unbalanced wheels and tires.

Death wobbles can be life-threatening at high speeds and cause you to lose control of the vehicle, leading to a potentially fatal collision.

As mentioned, death wobbles are only likely to manifest in certain vehicles, primarily trucks and 4x4s.

When it does, the steering wheel will begin to shake rapidly from side to side, forcing you to hold onto the wheel tightly to try and regain control.

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

A Vehicle Death Wobble

The phenomenon often occurs when vehicles operating over 40 miles per hour drive over a pothole or collide curb stopper in a parking lot.

The effects are not necessarily immediate, so it can seem a death wobble is occurring seemingly out of nowhere, making it a very frightening situation and almost impossible to operate your vehicle safely.

Is Death Wobble Dangerous?

Yes, death wobbles are extremely dangerous and could easily cause you to veer out of your lane and into someone else’s path and get into a car crash and suffer severe and potentially fatal injury types.

Can Steering Stabilizer Fix death wobble?

No, installing a steering stabilizer is nothing more than a band-aid, and it doesn’t fix the root of the problem, causing the death wobble of the affected vehicles.

It’s important to note that steering stabilizers and steering dampers are precisely the same type of car part.

How To Diagnose Death Wobble?

Routine maintenance and inspection is the best way to diagnose and prevent death wobble before it becomes life-threatening.

When a death wobble does happen, properly handling it can make all the difference in whether you survive the event.

The sooner you realize it is happening, the more time you will have to react, regain control, and get the vehicle repaired.

Unfortunately, death wobbles can cause distress and panic as we try to steer through the situation.

Therefore, one of the most important details you can know about them is how to handle the situation to minimize the chances of injury or death.

Handling a Death Wobble

How to Handle Death Wobble?

The following instructions can help you handle a death wobble and maximize your odds of survival.

  1. The first step is getting a solid grip on the steering wheel (Don’t release it until after your vehicle is parked.). Make sure your grip on the wheel is as tight as possible to avoid losing control in the middle of your corrective attempt.
  2. The second step is to continue holding on tightly to the wheel and slow your car down by letting off the gas and, as gently as possible, tilting the steering wheel to safely pull over to the right side of the road.
    You should be careful to avoid the inclination to jerk the steering wheel over to the next lane or slam on the brakes, as it will increase the chance of you losing control of the car or colliding with another driver.
    Any actions that cause a significant and quick change to your car’s velocity can cause it to flip and further endanger your life.
  3. The third step is to safely park your car as far as possible on the side of the road to avoid getting rear-ended by cars that do not realize you are stopped.
  4. The fourth step is to turn on the parking brake and turn off the ignition.
  5. The fifth step is to turn on your car’s hazard lights to notify drivers approaching from the rear that your car is parked and not moving, so they should slow down and stay clear of you.
  6. The sixth step, which is especially important when you are on the right shoulder on the highway, is initially to stay buckled and not exit the vehicle, even to put flares behind your car.
    You should only exit the vehicle (through the passenger’s side doors) if there is somewhere you and your fellow passengers can stand off the highway, such as grass separating the two directions on a multi-lane interstate highway.
  7. The seventh step is to use your cell phone to call for roadside assistance to come pick you up and tow your car away. For instance, many people sign up as a member of AAA so they can call for roadside assistance.
    AAA contracts with local mechanics and car repair shops throughout the United States to provide roadside assistance to their members, regardless of location.
    Some bank issued credit cards offer roadside assistance similar to AAA as a benefit, with the phone number on the card’s backside.
    Some of the more advanced car companies, like Tesla, allow you to request help from their phone app. In all likelihood, these services recommend towing your car to the mechanic shop for inspection and repair.

Ultimately, the best possible solution when experiencing a death wobble is to attempt to pull off to the side of the road slowly.

Following these steps is essential to surviving a death wobble, especially on a highway. Deviating from these instructions could result in a car accident, pedestrian accident, injury, or death.

After you are safe and your car gets towed to the car repair shop, the vehicle will be inspected to determine what is causing the death wobble and ultimately get repaired.

What Causes a Death Wobble?

Considering the death wobble is mainly limited to offroad vehicles like 4x4s and Jeeps, the problem is most commonly caused by parts loosening in these vehicles’ steering and front-end suspension systems.

However, identifying what particular internal components are damaged or loose as the cause of a specific death wobble is not always easy to identify.

Jeep Wrangler
Express Legal Funding is not affiliated with, connected to, or associated with Stellantis or Jeep.

Can a Bad Alignment Cause Death Wobble?

Yes, misalignment can result from several different types of mechanical issues in Jeep-like offroad vehicles, which include the following:

  • Loosening due to ball joints wearing out
  • Loosening of the steering joints
  • Bad tie rods in the steering system
  • Loosening of the trackbar bolts
  • Loose steering box
  • Broken or damaged drag linkage (critical steering component in Jeeps)

Can Tires Cause Death Wobble?

Yes, although worn-out or broken internal components are the most common culprit, unbalanced tires and low tire pressure can also cause death wobble culprits. The following types of tire issues are associated with a car’s violent shaking:

Tire issues that cause death wobbles:

  • Wheel misalignment
  • Tire imbalance issues
  • Worn out tires
  • Incorrect tire pressure (more likely an issue when driving at highway speeds)

Repairing a Death Wobble

Important Fact for Jeep owners: Replacing your Jeep’s front suspension damper (shock absorber) will not fix the issue causing death wobble.

Loosened parts resulting from normal wear and tear are to be expected, which is why routine maintenance is the best way to mitigate the risk of death wobble.

What Causes Motorcycle Death Wobble?

Motorcycles can also have death wobble, which can be caused by a rider making a handling error or by parts of the motorcycle coming loose. Collisions involving a motorcycle death wobble is extra dangerous due to the unenclosed nature of two-wheel vehicles.

Can Death Wobble Happen When Hitting Bump?

Yes, when you are driving at higher speeds (starting at around 40 miles per hour) and hit a bump or pothole or collide with a curb, it can cause a death wobble.

That is because sudden bumps in the road can damage and bend a vehicle’s front suspension and steering components, which are needed to keep from shaking.

While most death wobbles are caused by wear and tear to vehicle components, it is not unheard of for cars to have the issue despite being brand new and never getting damaged from a bump in the road, etc.

A car hitting bump in the road

When a car dealership sells you a car with improperly installed or misaligned components, you can experience the same death wobble effect as a worn down and damaged car part.

Even when the misaligned components are insufficient to cause the wobble outright, they can cause or exacerbate other issues that damage the vehicle.

As a result, the odds of death wobble significantly increase when you buy a defective car.

When the dealer from whom we purchase sells a faulty vehicle and endangers our lives, it is understandable to be upset and want compensation for the potential losses.

The question of the hour is: can you sue for a death wobble?

Can You Sue For a Death Wobble?

Yes, you can sue a death wobble, particularly by filing a civil suit against the manufacturer or dealership that sold you the car.

However, this will not be the case if the death wobble results from normal wear and tear or your driving over a pothole, as both instances are not the fault of a carmaker or auto dealer.

Normal wear and tear is an inescapable part of owning and driving a motor vehicle, so the threat of a death wobble will always be a potential issue, no matter how sturdy or how off-road-ready a car is.

Frequent use, especially while driving on rugged terrain and boulders, hastens the breaking of parts.

Maintenance Is the Owner’s Responsibility

The cost of maintenance and car repairs falls on the owner when the parts wear down at an expected rate of time, meaning not unusually fast.

New Car Death Wobble

However, the situation changes when a new car has a death wobble.

The situation is different if the death wobble was present in an otherwise brand-new vehicle that the dealer failed to inform you about.

Dealership Selling a Car

Given the danger of a death wobble, a dealer knowingly selling a vehicle with a potentially lethal flaw is illegal unless the buyer is informed first.

Granted, you should be wary about purchasing a vehicle prone to death wobbles and focus on intact vehicles when buying a new or pre-owned car.

If the dealership attempts to sell you a faulty vehicle without informing you or offering repairs, the fault will be theirs if it is discovered or causes a car accident later. They are liable for the danger it presents.

Ultimately, this means that when a vehicle with a death wobble is sold, and the driver is involved in an accident because of the flaw, they have grounds to sue the dealership or manufacturer.

Whether you are able to sue the dealership that sold the car, the manufacturer that made the car, or both will be determined by several factors. Read on to learn more about your legal options.

Death Wobble Lawsuit Against Car Dealership

One scenario in which the vehicle owner can file a claim against the dealership is if the vehicle was sold as being certified pre-owned but, in fact, had not been adequately inspected, even though the dealer billed it as such.

Still, evidence is needed to prove fault and hold them responsible, which is easier said than done.

Personal Injury and Lemon Law Firms Can Help Prove Fault

The critical nature of establishing liability with evidence is what makes hiring a personal injury or lemon law attorney so advisable.

Important Fact for Consumers: Lemon laws are laws that protect consumers by allowing them to get reimbursement and compensation for defective products and goods that do not meet the standard of quality by repeatedly failing.

Does Lemon Law Apply To Used Cars?

Yes, lemon laws apply to used cars and are often associated with dishonest used car dealerships selling customers “a lemon,” a car that fails too early. For instance, odometer tampering, an illegal and deceptive practice, is covered by lemon laws.

Lemon Laws

Lawyers and their staff can help gather evidence by leveraging the legal system, which is crucial to proving fault in lemon law and personal injury lawsuits, which makes the cost of hiring no win no fee injury lawyers more than worth it.

Without a law firm’s help, your chance of receiving a favorable settlement or court award for a death wobble accident diminishes greatly.

Warranty Lawsuit Against Automaker 

One instance where you may need to take legal action against the car manufacturer, even if the death wobble is caused by normal wear and tear, is when they do not honor a valid warranty.

If your vehicle develops a death wobble caused by regular use, the automaker can be held responsible for paying for the cost of the repairs.

However, it must still be covered by an active warranty (i.e., the original or extended warranty).

However, when the warranty has expired, whether due to time or amount of miles driven, the repair or reimbursement is no longer the manufacturer’s obligation.

Instead, you, the vehicle’s owner, must pay for or finance the repair independently.

Pursuing a lawsuit against an automaker can force them to compensate for the repairs they should have paid for under the warranty terms.

Filing a lawsuit over a death wobble is only possible when someone else is responsible for the flaw or the repairs.

If you are injured because of the issue, the lawsuit becomes a more pressing option designed to help you recover from your injuries.

The question becomes a matter of liability since only someone else’s negligence causing the death wobble or allowing you to operate a flawed vehicle is grounds for a lawsuit.

In these circumstances, you might have a valid case worth litigating.

Fortunately, there is an established precedent for your being able to sue for reimbursement on a large scale:

Class Action Lawsuit For Jeep Wrangler Death Wobble

Is there a lawsuit against Recently, Jeep owners sued the automaker FCA US (Fiat Chrysler) in a class action lawsuit for the Jeep death wobble. The two affected 4×4 models are the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator.

Gladiator Jeep
Express Legal Funding is not affiliated with, connected to, or associated with Stellantis or Jeep.

The Jeep death wobble issue dates back much further than the class action lawsuit itself.

There were complaints reporting the Jeep death wobble issue to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) as early as 1995.

Both Ford and Fiat Chrysler have faced similar lawsuits, including FCA US (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) issuing several recalls on Dodge Ram trucks.

Much of the initial news reporting on the Jeep Wrangler case was handled by the Detroit Free Press (the fourth-largest newspaper in Michigan).

Ford Super Duty Death Wobble

The Ford Super Duty has also been subject to death wobble complaints and class action lawsuits.

Even though there is no ongoing class action lawsuit, plaintiffs can file individually against Ford to be compensated for their loss.

Death wobble lawsuits are increasingly crucial for victims who have suffered harm due to a death wobble car accident.

So it always makes sense to contact a lawyer for a free initial consultation to evaluate your case if you were in a car accident caused by a death wobble.

They will help you explore your legal options.

Closing Statements On Death Wobble Car Accidents

In summary, operating a car with a death wobble can be extremely dangerous and cause you to crash.

The fact that the issue is limited to certain types of vehicles means it is not overly widespread, but the cases that crop up are harrowing for the victims.

Fortunately, situations in which someone else’s negligence (or gross negligence, i.e., the automaker knew about the issue and covered it up) caused the death wobble means there is a potential for a lawsuit.

Regardless of how it happens, there is always the risk of being severely injured (or even dying) when you get in a car accident.

Although the injuries can be the same (i.e. whiplash, nerve damage, and associated ear ringing), unlike most car accidents, death wobble accidents are not caused by distracted driving.

So the problem is that your situation might not be someone else’s fault and is merely a result of general wear and tear.

If you have a valid case, filing a lawsuit can help you recover from the financial losses of the problem.

Filing a Lawsuit

Still, even if you get into a death wobble car accident that is no one else’s fault does not mean you cannot file a lawsuit to get compensation for the cost of the medical care you needed because of the accident.

If you have car insurance, you may need to sue your own insurer if they refuse to accept liability to pay for all of your expenses resulting from the accident (medical care, loss of wages, car damage, etc.).

Pre-settlement Funding For Death Wobble Crash Accidents

We at Express Legal Funding understand this reality, and in general, when you have to file a car accident lawsuit, you have already suffered having to pay for unexpected costs, such as medical treatment and car repairs.

Understandably it can quickly lead to you being financially overwhelmed and in debt as you must simultaneously pay for extra medical treatment on top of regular bills and expenses.

The daily cost of living (currently compounded by high inflation) will persist despite any suffering you might have experienced.

Companies in automakers and insurance companies are both part of their respective trillion-dollar industries and do what they can to avoid acknowledging your financial circumstances and why you being able to file a lawsuit is so critical.

However, until a lawsuit is won or a settlement is signed, you will be on the hook to pay for your bills. That can easily make you feel that time is not on your side and that you want to settle for less than you deserve.

The good news is we can offer our pre-settlement legal funding service for situations like these to help injured people address their daily expenses.

It can be what you need to be able to see your case to the end, which means it improves your chances of receiving the maximum compensation you deserve.

This is the opposite of what happens if you can’t afford to wait for the case to be resolved.

That’s because when you are forced to settle too early, you settle for less. The defendant will do what they can to make this happen, as it is best for them, but not you. The less they have to compensate you, the more money their company gets to keep in its coffers.

Helping to prevent this financial hardship-causing situation is another way lawsuit funding can make a critical difference.

It’s why we do what we can to help you stay afloat financially while allowing your attorney to have the time they need to fight your case until the end.

So if you need financial help now and not only after your case ends, give us a call anytime, 24/7, to learn more and apply for pre-settlement funding on your injury case.

(Missouri consumers: Please note that the type of pre-settlement financing we can provide to injured and damaged claimants in Missouri are recourse loans.

Therefore, they are not risk-free cash advances contingent upon potential monies from a settlement or jury-awarded proceeds of a claim.

Pre-settlement loans and car accident loans in states like Missouri are recourse loans and must, technically, by law, be repaid. Express Legal Funding-Missouri, LLC is a loan company licensed to give these loans in MO.)

About the Author

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Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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