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99 Nissan Almera 1.6L MTX. Basically, at speeds between 20kph to at least 80kph there is a low frequency wobble in the steering wheel. Seems like frequency increases very slightly with speed, but it always stays just a wobble and never turns into a vibration.

I'm not really sure when it started, but it's fairly recently. The front wheel bearings are newish as are the shocks and brakes, all replaced maybe 3000 kilometers ago. The car passed inspection about a month ago and they do a pretty thorough check of steering components for any kind of play and also check basic alignment. I did a visual inspection of the tires for anything unusual and also ran my hands along the surface and didn't come up with anything that stood out.

The only work that's been done recently was I replaced the high pressure hose for the steering pump. Reservoir has enough fluid in it.

I have had to slam on the brakes a few times recently, but didn't notice any flat spots on the tires.

So any ideas would be helpful.

EDIT August 17th, 2018

Well, just went for the annual inspection, and they said there is too much free play in the wheel bearings, and in the steering linkage, either the tie rod or tie rod end.

The only thing is that the bearings, shocks and brakes were all replaced together less than 8000 km / 5000 miles ago.

Could a loose tie rod make the bearings fail that quick? I'm suspicious that the wheel bearings are fine ( they make no noise at all ) and the problem is elsewhere...

EDIT August 19th, 2018

Well, after inspecting everything myself, it turns out that the tie rod and bearings are both fine. I found a loose axle nut, which mimics both of those symptoms since the affected wheel will have free play in both the 6-12 plane, and the 3-9 plane.

Just have to get it on the highway to see if that also solves the wobble problem, buy my guess is that it will.

  • I'm not an expert, but from my recent encounter, get your front axle checked. Maybe the harmonic dampener is not able to keep up with the axle rotations. – Numair Aidroos Nov 28 '17 at 9:46
  • @NumairAidroos You're familiar with this model? Those fat round rubber things on the axles are harmonic balancers? – Robert S. Barnes Nov 28 '17 at 15:46
  • Are the tyres free of deformities? Does the wobble persist if you swap the from tires to the back and vice versa? – Caius Jard Nov 28 '17 at 20:17
  • @CaiusJard I ran my hands over the road surface and visually inspected the tires and couldn't find anything unusual, although I'm not a professional. – Robert S. Barnes Nov 29 '17 at 7:16
  • Were any tyres replaced? Do the new ones have a different tread pattern? Are they correctly inflated? Do both front wheels rotate smoothly without any rubbing from the brakes? Is the tracking well adjusted? Are you noticing any unusual tyre wear such as one edge of the blocks that make up the tread gaining a sharp tip (sharks tooth)? Does the steering and straight line behaviour of the car seem different to before, different depending on the road surface type, or different in wet vs dry weather? Does turning on full lock make any unusual road noise/motion on a hard surface with loose gravel? – Caius Jard Nov 29 '17 at 10:58
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The act of repacking a shock absorber typically requires it to be unbolted from the wheel hub knuckle at the shocker’s bottom end. During this process, if the tie rod is not removed it’s ball joint can become damaged. If it is removed, it has to be done up again. Either of these can contribute to an inspection finding it to be loose or having excess free play

Wheel bearings are typically normal roller bearings that are pressed into the hub knuckle or they’re conical and require tighetinng to a specific torque if they’re to perform flawlessly for hundreds of thousands of miles. If a normal bearing is hammered in rather than pressed it can end up damaged or misaligned and his contributes to premature wear. Incorrectly torqued conical bearings can fail within just a few miles Noise isn’t always present on a failed bearing, and bearings that have too much free play may not make an audible noise in the car over other road and engine noises. The test for a failed bearing around my way is relatively subjective: the tester grabs the top and bottom of the wheel and gives it a wiggle

I doubt a loose tie rod end would vastly contribute to bearing failure; tyre wear yes, but the shear forces a bearing is subject to during cornering would be greater than hose imposed by a slight wheel misalignment, and cars seem to cope fine with corners.. though the USA does seem to have far fewer corners than other places in the world :)

  • This car has ball bearings. So based on what you're saying, the fact that the wobble started just about 2000 - 3000 km after the shocks, bearings and brakes were done, and now after another 5000 km the inspection is saying the bearing ( s ) are bad would point to either the bearing being bad out of the box, or the bearings being improperly installed? In relation to the wobble between 20 - 80km/h, are you addressing that in this answer? – Robert S. Barnes Aug 18 '18 at 18:03
  • To my mind, the original question as to the cause of the wobble had been answered by your edit. I understood your new question as essentially "how can this damage to the track rod/bearing have been caused?" - this is a question with a more definite and limited set of answers than "why does my steering wobble?" – Caius Jard Aug 19 '18 at 7:22
  • In terms of bad-out-of-the-box bearings, I think it's less likely than improper installation but it cannot be ruled out on the information given – Caius Jard Aug 19 '18 at 7:25
  • I inspected everything myself today, and it turns out both the tie rod and the bearings are fine. The problem was a loose axle nut. – Robert S. Barnes Aug 19 '18 at 12:32
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OK, so I finally confirmed the problem was a loose axle nut. The loose nut made the wheel wobble at certain speeds, and made it look like there was free play in the bearings and the tie rod.

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