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You are in the Subaru Legacy & Outback
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Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Wagon
#8137 of 8641 wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done
Oct 07, 2009 (6:26 am)
I've recently put a ton of $ into my I have a 2001 Subaru outback wagon (4cyl, 5spd) and have some re-occurring problems that Iím trying to determine whether are tire related. At present, I have tires that have uneven tread wear but still have 4-5.5 32índs left on them. My tire tread depths are as follows (measured outer/inner depth in 32índs of an inch): | 4.0/4.5 | 4.5/5.0 | 4.5/5.0 | 5.0/5.5 |
Symptoms: Briefly, it feels like my care wobbles at low speeds; at speeds >50mph I feel a shake in the steering wheel; at speeds >35-40 steering wheel shakes when breaking; my car pulls hard (1-2-seconds could be off the road when not holding wheel) to left or right depending on how the tires are rotated.
Iíve had the following work done in the last 2,000 miles:
- new center differential $$$
- replaced right-front axle, ball joint
- 4-wheel alignment and balancing (rear camber off -0.9 | see Post No. 8136)
- new rotors (pads replaced ~4,000 miles ago and rotors were turned at same time. However the rotors still sounded like something was dragging and it turned out (supposedly) that the rotors were warped, so I replaced them. However, I suddenly have the same symptoms that I did 2,000 miles ago before replacing rotors)
As stated earlier I'm trying to determine whatís going on here and whether:
(a) my tires are causing my symptoms and need to be replaced,
(b) my current tires will ruin my new center differential and need to be replaced,
(c) I got a set of bad rotors and they should be replaced at no charge (shop says I must have hit a puddle and warped them after 2K miles), or
(d) I need to continually keep dumping $$ into my car (which I canít afford) to fix something further that hasnít been caught.
I greatly appreciate your advice!!!
#8138 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [krall]
Oct 07, 2009 (7:59 am)
You said the tires are worn unevenly, how old are they?
A lot of times the tread will last a long time but that doesn't mean the rubber hasn't aged beyond its useful life.
I had some Nitto tires that lasted forever and still had tread left in them, but what was a quiet tire for the first 40k miles because obnixiously loud after that. I swapped them out for a set of Falkens and the ride was so much more quiet it wasn't even funny. The Nittos had tread left but they were done.
#8139 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [ateixeira]
Oct 07, 2009 (9:24 am)
The tires are 3.5 years old and have about 49,000 miles on them. I thought I've felt a tread-shift for about 15,000 miles, but the tire shop hasn't been able to find one.
Any thoughts about whether I need new tires; affect on diff; wheel shimmy, etc? Thanks again.
#8140 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [krall]
Oct 07, 2009 (10:13 am)
In my experience, anything is adjustable.... given the proper persuasion! But, of more concern, is that this problem is occurring with relative suddenness. It usually takes something occurring, such as (memorable) contact with a stationary object, work performed (such as replacing shocks, ball joints, tie rods, etc), or similar in order to foul an alignment, especially camber and in the rear wheels, no less!
Vibration at speed may be more due to a poorly balanced tire than anything else; have you addressed that, using a high-quality machine such as a Hunter balancer?
Strong vibration when brakes are applied tends to point toward a warped rotor, but it can also be caused by uneven braking (as in left side grabs harder than right) combined with worn ball joints, tie rods, or steering linkages. You can usually feel the difference in the steering wheel - warped rotors usually cause a vibration through the steering column, but do not cause any pulling either left or right. Uneven braking or worn parts will cause a strong pull to one side or a fast, strong, alternating pull left and right (so, it feels like a vibration, but it causes the wheel to move right and left).
I don't buy the "deep puddle" theory. I have driven through many a puddle with no ill rotor effects, so unless the rotor is junk or they were super-heated for some reason, a puddle is not going to warp them. I put 220,000 miles on the original rotors of my '96 Outback and they were still as true on that day as they were nearly 12 years and 220,000 miles prior. Have you adjusted the lug nuts to ensure there is an appropriate, and evenly applied, level of torque? Over-tightening, especially when unevenly done, can warp rotors.
Based on the information you supplied regarding individual tire tread depth, I do not think the tires on the car are causing differential damage.
#8141 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [krall]
Oct 07, 2009 (11:32 am)
Have the wheel bearings inspected since that was a common issue with Subarus that age. It could explain the shimmy, though most of the time you also hear it. Chunk-chunk-chunk-chunk, speed dependent pitch, is how I remember it.
Tires are relatively cheap. 49k miles is a lot, I think. I've only owned one set of tires that ever lasted that long, and guess what? It was those Nittos that were making all that noise.
Check the bearings first, but if they're OK I'd get new tires.
#8142 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [krall]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
Oct 07, 2009 (11:45 am)
this is a long shot, but if your mechanic replaced your axle with rebuilt ones from China, that can explain vibration problems. Many of these units are out of phase--simply not well-balanced.
My Subaru guy refuses to install them anymore.
#8143 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [Mr_Shiftright]
Oct 07, 2009 (12:37 pm)
Thanks to all that have chimed in! I'll answer a few questions raised in responses and go from there.
In response to xwesx (No. 8140)
The tire shop says that "there is no factory adjustment for rear camber", so they never attempted to adjust it even though the camber was at -0.9, -1.0. It looks like -0.9 is the threshold b/w acceptable and unacceptable camber according to their graphics.
*-* Are they correct that rear camber can not be adjusted? If not, what to do? *-*
I did have the tires balanced, but I donít know what machine they used. All they do is tires, so I figure itís a good machineÖ (I can hear you laughing)
Thanks for the excellent clarification regarding the types of shake/vibration I could feel in the wheel when braking. After thinking about it more, when braking I feel a fast, strong, alternating pull left and right. That said, the car veers hard to the left of right, depending on how the tires are rotated and when braking, that doesnít change Ė it simply pulls to the same side it did prior to applying the brake.
*-* Given that the direction of pull changes with tire rotation, do you think that this is a tire issue or part failure or something that was not tightened during alignment? The pull began immediately following the last alignment, however the wheel alternating left/right when braking only began recently *-*
In response to ateixeira (No. 8141).
I assume the wheel bearings are fine given all the work Iíve had done recently on axel, ball joint etc. But will check. I appreciate the advice.
In response to Mr Shiftright (No. 8142).
Yes it was an after market axle, prob. China made. The first axle they put only lasted 1-week. Not sure if this axle is beginning to go, but thereís not clunking when I back up with the wheel cut all the way, and have had it checked twice recently (by pulling on it with the car up).
*-*How would I check this myself, or if I brought it back to the shop, what would I ask them to do? *-*
Again, thanks to everyone here, but unfortunately the work was done by different shops, so Iím not sure where to go first. The work went: axle | then differential/ball joint, etc | then alignment/balancing. Who should I bring the car back to first. Thanks again!!
#8144 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [krall]
Oct 07, 2009 (12:58 pm)
Some of what you've posted sounds a little like the problem I am having with my 2001 Outback (I haven't had a chance to put it up on blocks as suggested above yet, but will do so this weekend). Saying that, I loosened and re-torqued the lug nuts on all 4 tires and, for the time being, the wobbling has gone away. Although I would think something else is wrong leading to the wobble, my mechanic said he did not think anything was wrong with the suspension on two separate occasions and started wondering about lug nut torque. I have the steering wheel pulling back and forth at all speeds and merely speeds up the faster I go, but like I said above, after the lug nuts were re-torqued, the wobbling went away (almost completely). I'm just curious if that makes absolutely any difference on your '01, and if that sounds like any specific problem to anybody. I do not feel the car pulling one way or the other, or making any noise, so could a wheel bearing go bad and not make any noise or make the car pull to one side or the other? My problem has been going on (as stated previously, somewhat intermittantly) for over 10k miles now.
#8145 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [krall]
Oct 07, 2009 (1:44 pm)
(I can hear you laughing)
Hahahaha; I swear that I did not start laughing until I read that bit....!
But, point taken. I was thinking that perhaps there was a significant out-of-balance issue, but I doubt this is the case. Mediocre machines/technique may result in large lead balancing weights on the rims and subtle vibration at high speeds, but nothing like you are experiencing.
You say ball joint(s?) were replaced! Both of the fronts? If that is the case, and you have the side to side movement without a change in "pull" direction, your brakes likely are grabbing evenly, but you may have some play in the tie rods. This all started happening immediately after the last alignment? How about toe-in? Toe-in means the front tires point toward one another a little, sorta like this: /-----\ in order to track the road properly. If that is not adequate, those tires could be grabbing all sorts of funky and it may not be consistent, especially if there is play in suspension joints that allows the pressure to be relieved through movement in one (or more!) joints. It could pull left for a while, then shift right after you turn a corner or negotiate a curve, then go back again after the next maneuver. Normally an alignment shop checks the condition of things like tie rods, ball joints, etc., because worn suspension components means an alignment is not going to help. But, if the shop is just after the quick buck, who knows?
What a headache!
#8146 of 8641 Re: wheel shakes at speed and during breaking - ton of work already done [xwesx]
Oct 07, 2009 (3:01 pm)
Doing a little research on rear camber, the information I find is that the rear control arm is the primary candidate for adjusting the camber, but is not adjustable from the factory. Now, this is where my "anything is adjustable" comment came in, because I adjusted the fork on my old van in order to adjust the caster (which was "non-adjustable") on the driver side. Essentially, it involved a torch, sledgehammer, and colorful language. I bent the fork just enough to pull the caster into spec. But, it was not the most graceful or scientific approach. Similarly, I suspect the rear control arm could be "manipulated" to decrease the negative camber on the rear.
So, here are a few things that could cause the caster to be out of spec: if the negative caster is too little, it may be due to worn rear control arm bushings. The bushing are replaceable. If too great, it could be due to a weak spring or a bent strut.
The control arms are also replaceable, and you could put an adjustable control arm in there. The one I was looking at a few minutes ago was Perrin, I think, and a pair was something like $250.
Another suggestion, that I gleaned from NASIOC, is that if the car is not quite tracking properly, the rear subframe could be slightly shifted from square in relation to the chassis of the vehicle. There are, apparently, four bolts that attach the subframe to the chassis, and those can be loosened to allow for adjustment of the system (by a professional!). Also mentioned were camber bolts, that could be fitted retroactively, in order to adjust the wheel assembly's relationship to the strut. This was suggested only if the integrity of all other parts in the rear suspension were verified to be in good order.