Steering wheel wobble at low speeds
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  1. #1
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    Steering wheel wobble at low speeds

    My father's 2001 v6 (4-motion) passat wobbles the steering wheel back and forth when driving at very slow speeds <10mph. If you let go of the wheel, it will rock back and forth about an inch, and slowly steer itself to the right. At higher speeds it becomes felt as a vibration in the steering wheel.

    So far I have checked the suspension parts for looseness just by trying to move them with my hands. Everything seems okay to me. I jacked up both front wheels and checked for play side-to-side and up-and-down, again they seemed solid. I took off both front wheels and checked the drive shafts. Boots are in good condition but I did notice that you can rotate the outboard joint/hub/disc about 1/4 inch with the drive shaft held in place with locking pliers. I thought cv joints where not supposed to have any play in them at all? Could this be the cause of the problem? The car only has 25k miles...it's hard to believe both outboard cv joints have worn out internally. My other suspect is tie-rod ends, what is the best way to check those out?

    Any help would be appreciated.

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  3. #2
    PZ
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    You have a bent wheel or a bad tire. The disc is held in place by the lugs, so without them, you can rotate it. I doubt your problem is CV or axle related.

  4. #3
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    I rotated the tires (fronts to back and backs to front) and there was no change whatsoever...the steering wheel continues to pulse back and forth in exactly the same manner. I can't see the tires/rims being the problem..there should have been some change occuring. Thanks anyway..it was worth a try.

  5. #4
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    Does it do it when you break at low speeds? Cause that could be a rotor.

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayson13f View Post
    Does it do it when you break at low speeds? Cause that could be a rotor.
    Yup...could be a warped rotor.

    Try putting on a different set of wheels (if you have any). That's a quick way to see if that will affect the vibration. Your back wheels can have dents too. They usually are not visible to the eye.

  7. #6
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    Applying the brakes makes no difference..it still wobbles the steering. Unfortunately I have no other set of wheels to try. Thanks for the recommendations.

  8. #7
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    How are the tie rod ends? Lock the steering wheel and grab the tire on the sides. Try to move it side to side as if you are steering. It should not move at all. You may need to jack it up to do this if you are not really strong.

  9. #8
    PZ
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordBlatz View Post
    I rotated the tires (fronts to back and backs to front) and there was no change whatsoever...the steering wheel continues to pulse back and forth in exactly the same manner. I can't see the tires/rims being the problem..there should have been some change occuring. Thanks anyway..it was worth a try.
    You could have 2 or more bent wheels. I have seen it happen (to 15" steelies). If the wheels/tires and brakes are ruled out. Start checking the tie rod ends and control arms. CV joints should not make the wheel rock at low speeds, but can make it vibrate at higher speeds.

  10. #9
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    I have also had this happen to me before with high mileage tires. No obvious defects etc....... but when I changed the tires out the problem went away. If all 4 tires are same vintage / milage try your full size spare and see if it changes.

  11. #10
    Punches Dubs. True Story
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    Hell, I'd pay the $40 or whatever for my local tire shop to rotate and spin balance the tires. Based on the low speed wobble, I'd still be looking at a wheel that's out of round ...which would be identified by a balance.

  12. #11
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    Tire is most likely. CV joints and suspension components are way, way, way down the list. Few tires are actually round, and on cars with one out of round tire in a matched set of four, they're usually all unroundish.

  13. #12
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    Well the problem did turn out to be a tire. Had each tire put on a wheel balancer and one tire had a belt let go. Funny how rotating tires front to rear did not change the problem symptoms..that threw me off the trail for a while. In the future I'll try using the spare tire or a known good tire to help identify wheel/tire problems.

    Thanks to everyone for their helpful suggestions.

  14. #13
    PZ
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    Glad you got it fixed.

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