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I have a 2013 Nissan Maxima that experiences steering wheel vibrations at around 110 KPH. If I go faster, it stops. I don't feel anything at all under 100 KPH. This started happening after I had a wheel bearing replaced on one of the front wheels, which may or may not be coincidence.

Tech told me it was my wheels out of balance. Got my wheels rebalanced, but still had the issue.

Then they told me it was a shifted belt and that my wheels were worn. Had all 4 tires replaced with brand new ones, yet the vibration is still there, just as bad as it was before.

Now, talking to them over the phone, they're telling me it could be a drive shaft or a CV joint.

I'm honestly at my wits end here. I need to take hours off work every time I have to visit the mechanic, and I can't keep throwing money at this with the tech just guessing at what the issue is. Things are tough as is. To make things worse, they took it for a test drive once and came back telling me that they didn't feel anything. That is just too much for me to handle. I know my car and I don't need anyone to tell me that things are "normal" or that I'm "just imagining it".

With my rant aside, can someone please help me figure out what this is? I don't think I can rely on the techs to figure it out themselves.

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  • Only at a certain speed is rather puzzling. Any noises or other symptoms?
    – findwindow
    Jun 22 at 22:10
  • Did they re-balance the wheels after fitting the new tires? Does the vibration happen on all roads at that one speed? Do you get any wobble when you are braking?
    – HandyHowie
    Jun 23 at 5:35

2 Answers 2

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My guess is that is vibrating at all speeds but at 110 kph it's finding a resonant frequency that is making it noticeable.

I'm not a big believer in coincidence so your comment about this starting after having the wheel bearing changed is notable to me. It could be a bad bearing or it could have been installed improperly, or perhaps something else was disturbed or damaged during that work.

It also sounds like the other common possibilities, out-of-balance wheels or bad tires have been addressed.

So the next thing, apart from the wheel bearing, or perhaps the OTHER wheel bearing that didn't get replace, might be the CV joints or perhaps another suspension component, ball joint, tie rod end, bushing, etc. Any of these being worn or damaged could be the cause.

My advice is to take it to a shop that specializes in suspension work vs. a general purpose shop. They should be able to properly diagnose and correct the issue rather than just throwing new parts at it until it's fixed.

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Two aphorisms to live by when dealing with car repairs, both enshrined by Ron Ananian:

  1. NEW means Never Ever Worked. NEW doesn't mean GOOD.
  2. Diagnose, diagnose, diagnose. Then repair.

You need a better mechanic. One whose diagnostic repertoire is not limited to educated guessing and throwing parts at a problem and hoping they fix it. But you have to be willing to pay for diagnosis -- as much diagnosis as it takes for the mechanic to know for sure that the repair will fix the problem. A competent diagnostic mechanic should be willing to state that if you give them leeway to perform a full diagnosis and pay for it, they will guarantee that the repair will solve your problem. Anything less and you're dealing with a parts-changer. So pose that question when you interview a new mechanic: Will you guarantee that after diagnosis and repair, my problem will be fixed or it's on you? You may end up spending more for repairs by such a mechanic, but you won't be going back again and again for the same issue.

Regarding your vibration: A new bearing can be bad. Brand new tires can be defective. Wheels said to be balanced can be poorly balanced. So assume nothing.

It's easy to find out if it's the wheels / tires or not, so you have a starting point. And if you can change a tire, it will cost you nothing. Put the front tires on the rear and the rear on the front. (Keep left on left and right on right.) Take it for a test drive. If the vibration is gone, there was something wrong with a front tire. If you can still sense a vibration but not in the steering wheel, there was something wrong with a front tire. If the vibration in the steering wheel is exactly the same, the tires or wheels are not the cause.

If the above indicates that it's a tire or wheel problem, then once again swap the tires either on the left or right side, not both. The change or lack of change will tell you which side is bad.

Some of the possible causes of vibration in the steering wheel at a specific speed:

  • One or more tires is out of balance or has defective belts
  • One or more wheels is out of round due to impact
  • One or more alloy wheels has been warped by over-torquing the lugs with an air impact wrench
  • Bad wheel bearing
  • Bad CV joint
  • Bad half-shaft
  • Bad steering damper
  • Worn struts / shocks
  • Worn ball joints
  • Worn tie rod ends
  • Worn steering rack or steering box
  • Worn rubber bushings

Each of the above (and more) has a specific diagnostic procedure that is easily performed by a competent mechanic. An experienced mechanic will know what to check first to repair your car as expediently as possible, if you're willing to pay for diagnosis.

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  • While I agree with most of what you have to say here, your list of possible causes is off base. Most of these can cause steering wheel vibration while driving, but will cause it at most any speed, not at one specific speed. Even defective belts in a tire will cause vibration and varying speeds and not one specifically. There is only one thing on your list which particularly points to something which can cause a vibration only at a specific speed, and that's tires out of balance. Jun 23 at 10:54
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Thanks for that. When there's a vibration that's most noticeable at one particular speed, it is always due to a resonance. Resonance depends on mass, frequency, a "spring constant" and damping. Out of balance tires may be the only single defect on the list that would cause vibration at one particular speed, but other defects in combination can do the same. For example, combine a warped but balanced alloy wheel, a worn rubber bushing and a bad steering damper, and you get resonance at one particular speed. Methodical diagnosis is the key to untangling all this for a fix.
    – MTA
    Jun 23 at 13:26
  • Sure, but that's not what your answer reads. Your assessment that any of those which falls under a single specific speed is off base. Any of those and when in combination with another can cause vibration, but you'll almost always find it doing it at many different speeds or all the time, not at a specific speed. Again, I agree with "methodical diagnosis", but your list is skewed. Jun 23 at 13:33
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Feel free to edit for clarity if you think the answer can be improved. It's a list of things the mechanic has to consider, so I think it's fine as-is but I trust your judgment on editing.
    – MTA
    Jun 23 at 13:41

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