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My 2005 Mazda 3 with 73K miles (roughly 20K on the tires) on it starts to make a sound, just like your washing machine does when all of the clothes go to one side and its still spinning, when I get to 50 MPH. When I increase to 60 MPH or higher, it not only makes the sound, but it starts to resonate. What is the problem?

UPDATE: I went to get the tires rotated and balanced, and they did that for me. And since then, the sounds I hear and vibration I feel have gone down ten-fold, but it is still there. Is there anything else that could cause this?

REFERENCE: For anyone else that comes later and wants to know where or what to look for when looking for their wheel weights (other than the ones Bob has already shown in his answer).

Picture of wheel weights

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Most likely caused by either throwing a wheel weight or if you recently had to lock the brakes, which would cause the tires to wear unevenly. –  jp2code Jul 10 '12 at 16:13
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Take it back, tell them you still have a vibration, have them recheck the balance. –  Larry Jul 16 '12 at 5:07
    
Nice picture: it looks an awful lot like one of the weights (one of those little squares) has pulled loose. It looks like there's still some remnants of adhesive left behind. –  Bob Cross Jul 16 '12 at 13:36
    
You are definitely right that the adhesive shows that there at least used to be a wheel weight there, but this is post-rotate and balance, so maybe they had to take one (or two) of them off. They told me of some other work that they think needs to be done, but I wanted to double check them by seeing if people here came to the same conclusion after hearing that the rotate and balance didn't solve the whole issue. What else could cause all this problem? –  tarheel Jul 16 '12 at 15:04
    
@BobCross: Before balancing a new tire, they will remove all the old weights. I've never been to a place that cleaned off the old weight adhesive. –  TMN Jul 23 '12 at 17:43

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think you threw a wheel weight.

Let's consider this quote from the great Wikipedia:

When the wheel rotates, asymmetries of mass may cause it to hop or wobble, which can cause ride disturbances, usually vertical and lateral vibrations. It can also result in a wobbling of the steering wheel or of the entire vehicle. The ride disturbance, due to unbalance, usually increases with speed. Vehicle suspensions can become excited by unbalance forces when the speed of the wheel reaches a point that its rotating frequency equals the suspension’s resonant frequency.

What has most likely happened is that one of the little weights placed around the rim of the wheel has been lost. If you visually inspect your wheels, you'll likely see several of these:

Tire weight made of Zinc

You will also likely see a shiny spot on the wheel where one of the weights used to be.

If this is the problem, it is a straightforward process for a tire shop to rebalance the wheels. This can be made even simpler if you can tell them which wheel is problematic.

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Another possible reason could be carwash. If rims were not properly washed the dirt/mud could have remained on the inner side and caused said disbalance. –  Krom Stern Jul 11 '12 at 11:48
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@KromStern, it's not impossible that seriously dirty wheels would become unbalanced but it is somewhat unlikely. You'd have to have a fairly dense concentrated mass. I would also expect that sort of thing to give an obviously rough ride at much lower speeds and get progressively worse. The "resonate" word used by the OP makes me think there's a missing wheel weight. –  Bob Cross Jul 11 '12 at 12:12
    
I do believe this solved my main issue (the one that I could hear initially), but turns out there was a second issue that was hiding (with a lower volume symptom). The shop I took it to claims that the rear wheel bearings/hub assembly need replacement. I may follow up with a separate question about that issue later. –  tarheel Jul 18 '12 at 3:47

I'll start by checking tire balancing and alignment. Then after you can start investigating some others causes (like suspension).

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How would I check to see if it is the suspension? –  tarheel Jul 16 '12 at 1:39

If it's still like that after balancing, there's a chance of debris in the tyre (perhaps water).

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I concur that it might be something in the tire. –  Ehryk Jul 21 '12 at 0:54

It could be a wheel bearing. When they get worn they don't control the wheel and axle as tightly as they are supposed to, so they can "orbit" or move around within the bearing. My A4 has done this (apparently it's a common failure point on that model), the noise and vibration increase pretty linearly with speed. At first it sounds like a noisy muffler, but if you don't get it fixed eventually it starts sounding like there's a helicopter in your trunk.

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If all remedies fail check the wheel rim for dents and have it repaired, sometimes heat and hammer does it in a few minutes.

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1. Read the comments under the posters Question, balance is suggested here. 2. NEVER use the "heat and hammer" method, this technique offers zero precision, and could usually not do anything about a vibration, but could bend a steel back to the point where the wheel could make contact with the tire and hold air. Some mechanics will still offer to “hammer out” bent aluminum wheels. Never, never allow anyone to hammer out your aluminum wheels. as the most likely outcome is a cracked or destroyed wheel. Even if the wheel does not crack, the alloy will be damaged. –  cinelli May 17 at 19:22

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