Vibrations while driving, regardless of their intensity and shape, have the most obvious effect of reducing driving comfort. Anyone who has had this problem knows that there is nothing more irritating than a malfunction of this kind. When it is difficult to determine the causes of vibrations, the inconvenience turns into a serious problem, for example when selling – because no one will buy a car in which everything shakes.
Two types of vibration
Vibrations can be divided into two types: steering wheel vibrations and whole car vibrations. If the vibrations are at the front, they are absorbed by the shock absorbers, and partly by the steering system. This does not mean that it will not be felt, as vibration will then occur at the steering wheel point.
On the other hand, if the vibrations are intense enough, or come from the rear axle, they are transmitted to the entire body, and possibly to the steering system. One type of vibration does not always have the same cause as another, but often the causes are common. It is best to look for them from the beginning and on the lowest (cheapest) “line of resistance”. Sometimes it’s better to spend more time diagnosing and removing little things, instead of replacing expensive parts.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the possible reasons your steering wheel is vibrating.
1. Poor wheels balance
The most common cause of vibration is poorly balanced wheels. Unfortunately, professionals have different approaches to this topic, and it is very rare for them to clean the rim and tire before mounting and balancing, which can be one of the vibrating causes. They can also balance with an accuracy of 5 grams, while the tread obviously has a pebble of similar weight. However, we don’t have much of an impact on the effects of their work unless we watch them all the time. It’s exactly why we should stick to those mechanics who have a good reputation, and with who we already have a good experience working. Visit here to read more about alignment, balancing, and other tire issues.
Improperly balanced wheels cause vibrations on both the steering wheel and the entire car. Ultimately, there is usually something wrong with the rear wheels, as the steering system is able to dampen much of the vibration from the front wheels. Remember to wash your wheels thoroughly after driving off-road, especially in mud that sticks, and after drying it can affect your balance.
2. Bad tires
While retaining the rims, it is also worth considering the condition of the tires. And it’s not just about them being dirty from the road, it’s also about the condition they are in. Although the tire design has little effect on vibration, the vibration itself has a very clear effect on the tire design. The cause is more frequent damage to the internal structure of the tire or the visible bulge (balloon), especially on the tread, in the shoulder (between the tread and the side), or on the side itself.
Uncovering a fragment of the sidewall of the tire after balancing, usually does not affect the vibration. If the tire has a bulge, vibrations can be felt throughout the car on smooth roads, both at high and low speeds (30-40 km / h). In the event of damage to the inner structure of the tire, vibrations can already be damped in the steering system, and sometimes the shock absorbers will mitigate the effects, which will go unnoticed at first.
Interestingly, the practice also shows that tires that have been flat for a long time can cause vibrations, even if they are in excellent condition and balanced. It happens that even tires that have been inflated on the rims and stored properly, can vibrate immediately after installation. This is especially felt by car users who feel all kinds of vibrations. Therefore, it is worth rebalancing the wheels, even after a few tens of kilometers.
3. Bent rims
Another culprit for vibration could be a bent rim. This is especially true of aluminum rims which, although usually harder than steel, will not always be visible. Steel rims are relatively soft but are most commonly used with high-profile rubbers that absorb shock perfectly. The edge of the rim can be bent in a variety of ways, but the greatest vibrations will occur on the oval edge. In this case, only repair or replacement remains, and the feelings while driving will be analogous to a damaged tire.
4. Badly placed wheel
This can also be caused by a badly placed wheel. It happens that non-original rims have a larger central hole than the factory one. As a result, instead of leaning on the hub flange, the rim “hangs” only on the screws. Although it appears to be rigidly mounted, loads are not transmitted to the center of the wheel, which can cause vibration.
Either way, this is not the way to set the wheels. Special centering rings solve the problem. However, it is worth paying attention to the presence of rings after each disassembly and assembly of the wheels. Sometimes a mechanic can lose the ring or forget it and leave it on the balancing machine. It is best to inform them about the possible presence of such rings before starting work.
5. Wheel bearings
Very rarely, wheel bearings can be the cause of vibration. Vibration usually does not affect the “airiness” of the bearing, and a worn bearing does not give this type of signal. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that loose parts can be a cause of this issue.
As you can see, “innocent” vibrations can cause an avalanche of small, escalating failures, which will further amplify the vibrations. It is worth bearing this fact in mind and trying to eliminate the problem in the beginning. One more reason to find a reliable mechanic who is able to predict or assume what can be the cause of the problem.