steering wheel wobble - all speeds
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  1. #1
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    steering wheel wobble - all speeds

    I have a '98 Passat two wheel drive. I have done a search and found a lot of posts about this issue, but they do not address the specifics of my car as as I see them.

    I noticed that when I turned sharply at low speeds I felt a sort-of left to right pusing of the steering wheel. Did not happen any other time. Recently it has begun to happen while driving normally, at nearly all speeds. It is less bothersome at sustained higher speeds. The car tends to pull to the right.

    I had the right wheel off the other day. I can see no play in the tie rod end. I put a jack under the front control arm and found no play in the ball joint. Short of paying a mechanic to figure it out, what does anyone think is wrong?

    The car has 197k on it. All 8 arms where replaced at about 70k by my brother.

    Help Please - need to drive 3 hours away very soon....

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  3. #2
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    A wheel wobble at certain speeds is usually balance; a wheel wobble at any speed, particularly low speeds, could be a bent wheel. You might need to take it in and have the wheels balanced; and have them look for either a bent wheel or a faulty tire.

  4. #3
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    Swap the front wheels side to side to see if it changes sides ... you could also have a tire separating .... if it did move to the other side then you know its not suspension.

  5. #4
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    I will note that when I set the car back down it did not wobble at first. Kind of leads me to suspect the control arm bushing or bushings...

    I will swap the front and back tires and see what comes of that as well.

  6. #5
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    Lots of possibilities when it comes to vibration issues.

    Could be axles or bearings, but you should be getting a clicking or grinding noise with those. Also, failing motor/snub mounts could be an issue. Did you ever get an alignment after replacing the control arms/tie rods? It's possible that it's just a bit out of whack, which could certainly cause some pulling left/right or vibrations. Also double-check your tire pressures and check for any abnormal wear to the tread on your tires. This would help indicate an issue as well.

    If all of the mechanical possibilities check out ok, then I'd start leaning towards alignment issues.

    Worst case senario/most expensive would be a failing steering rack that needs replacement.

  7. #6
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    My brother had the work done at a dealership in MD, so all required work was done at that time. The front motor mount is worn. Don't know about the others. My experiment with the wheels would seem to indicate that the rack and tie rod ends are fine, as are the ball joints. I began to suspect tires, but am now leaning to the bushings. The tires are worn out, but I think they are because of the suspension. I can't get the car up far enough in my driveway to pry on the bushings properly to check for play. Now that I think about it, sometimes I hear strange noises when going over bumps - my Supra had all 4 lower bushings go bad, only it tracked just fine until you hit a road imperfection.

    Tuffy shops here abouts will do a free inspection in the hopes of getting your business; I may avail myself of that

  8. #7
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    what kind of noises? from my experience, most of the components seem to have their own little sounds that can indicate wear or failure. if you can pinpoint the area the sound is coming from + give a little description of how it sounds/feels, it might help us narrow things down a bit.

    ex: my upper strut mounts are worn, so when i go over bumps i get a squeak/chirp sound coming from the upper wheel-well area (almost sounds like it comes from behind the dash). also, when i jack it up, the mounts will groan a bit.

    ball joints clunk, axles click, bearings grind, brake pads can rattle without the spring clips properly installed, etc.

    i just did the front mount on my car (snub mount). the oem one was looking like an old, decomposed nerf ball. after the new one, my ride smooth out a bit more and i'm getting back a little bit of lost power from the harder shifting and flexing the engine had to do to compensate for the old mount.

    another thing that has helped rid me of some unwanted vibrations was to remove the sway bar completely. this is only recommended if you're lowered, as the lower center of gravity and stiffer suspension more than makes up for the need of the sway bar. it helps correct some of the understeer inherent to our cars, and for me, it helped reduce some vibrations i felt i was getting from a set of remanned axles. now, i know this isn't a proper fix for possible axle issues, but i've replaced them twice already, and they don't click, so i'm hoping it was just a bit of stress from the sway bar tension and bad snub mount that they couldn't quite handle. after the snub replacement, i noticed that the front end was noticeably quieter and smoother on the road. like i said, it might just be a band-aid for me, but it's worth a little experimenting. it seems to me, that with an aging passat, lowering it puts a lot of added stress on the old oem parts, and it takes a bit of upgrading/replacing and alteration to help keep things more comfortable.

  9. #8
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    Thanks for the detail. I need to do that mount, but I am not sure that has anything to do with the steering issue. My car pulls to the right and the steering wheel jerks back and forth at all speeds (more when slow or not under a load). I believe that when I do the mount the binding shifter problem will mostly go away. How hard is that job, by the way? It looks like the mount is on the charger pipe for the intercooler.....

    Anyway, I hear a clunk when going over a bump such as a driveway apron or roll-face curb and gutter. I do not feel it much at all, but I can hear it. No clicking or grinding.

  10. #9
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    for the clunking, check all of the components, not just the ball joints. even the sway bar link bushings. my old ones before i did the upgraded control arm replacement "looked" ok, but when we took a crowbar to it, you could see where the bushings were beginning to separate from the links. the rear bushings of the upper & lower control arms could have a similar issue.

    the pulling could be an alignment issue as i said earlier. if it's off after being done previously, then it could be an issue with a tie rod. i got a kit from fcp groton to replace all of the control arms. it came with a complete set of hd inner/outer tie rod ends, and a set of "upgraged" outer tie rods. i used the upgraded outers for about a month before the passenger side completely separated on me... so much for being "upgraded". they managed to completely pull apart at the joint where the threaded shaft inserts into the end with the ball joint housing. I swapped both sides out with the hd inner/outer set and all has been ok since.

    the snub is a pain in the ass. i tried to do it the "easy" way on my v6... using an allen bit to get to the bolts from underneath, but it took more time to work the bolts out than it was worth. We ended up pulling the front end assembly out a bit to give us more room to work with proper tools. if you now your way around the front end, then it shouldn't take more that 1-2 hours to do. the mount itself is inexpensive, but the labor is a bit annoying. i had the new mount for a few months before finally deciding to stop procrastinating, and it was well worth the efforts/frustration. look for the write-ups around here. should be easy to find with a quick search for "v6 snub mount".

  11. #10
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    Mine is actually a 4 cylinder gas model; is the snub easier on that engine?

  12. #11
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    No. I've read that the v6 "can" be easier by not having to mess with the front end, but it ended up taking more time to figure out how to manuever around things with the right tools than if we had just moved the front end out a bit. In order to get the best amount of space to work with things, the process is the same on both engine types.

  13. #12
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    What about bad control arms?

  14. #13
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    I had some issues with a car that liked to sway a lot at any speed. Not sure what fixed it but I replaced the TRE's with S4 solid TREs, upper control arms from FCP, and changed out the old style sway bar links with the newer style. I had so much play in the ball joints on the sway bar links it was ridiculous. If you haven't gone to the newer style sway bar links, It makes a HUGE difference. I don't have a swaying, floaty front end anymore and the steering wheel is more solid by a factor of 10 in comparison to the old. If you changed only the arms and didn't touch the sway bar links... you're wrong Change them to the newer

  15. #14
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    Well, now I can actually sense that the right front wheel is wobbling! I just parked the thing and fixed my MK III Supra. Needed to do that anyway.

    I was looking at the kits that include all the necessary components to replace everything on the front suspension. I have seen several on Ebay from between $150 to $250. Most of the ones I have seen on other sites have been significantly higher. What are the best kits to get for less money?

  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by wambus View Post
    Well, now I can actually sense that the right front wheel is wobbling! ?
    Have you chabged out just the wheel to eliminate that possibility? Put on the spare or swap it to the back.

  17. #16
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    I just replaced my front left wheel bearing. It made a wobbling feel that I could detect through the steering wheel, especially in hard corners and the sound was a wob, wob, wob....when my right bearing went out it sounded like a B-17 and no feel through the streering. Go figure.

  18. #17
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    The wobble I feel is definitely the wheel itself! People were looking at me oddly - wonder if they can see it...

    Inside of right front tier is down into the steel belts; just noticed...

    I will double check the suspension - look closer at rear ball joint and make sure I need this work. I already checked the front ball (did not realize I was not checking the rear) and tie rod end.

    I ask the question again; what is best suspension kit for least money? I am looking at factory trim only, no lowering or other tricking out. I see them from between 150 and 200 (for all 8 arms, ties rod ends, sway bar links and bolts), then some that are much more. Don't want to buy junk but don't want to break the bank on only part of what is wrong with the car.

  19. #18
    Moderate Moderator Steve in Chicago's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wambus View Post
    Inside of right front tier is down to the steel belts.
    That tire is trash. Chances are, something is causing the un-uniform tire wear.

    Suspects include...
    Wheel bearings
    Control arms
    tie-rod ends
    alignment

    FCP Groton is offering a discount on control arm kits. Call them up and see what sort of price they'll offer you.

    Official: FCP Groton Control Arm Kit

    VWVortex.com - FCP Groton Upper 4 Piece Control Arm Kit Group Buy Special

  20. #19
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    Is it at all possible that a bad rack could cause one tire to wobble and wear unevenly? I have the car up on jacks and can't find a loose or worn part. I have an arm kit in hand and am preparing to replace everything; just want to make sure?

  21. #20
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    How would I tell if the rack is bad? I really have no idea. Could a bad rack wear out one tire only? Can't find any threads on this topic - tried several times to search for rack or other related words and statements...

  22. #21
    PZ
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    The rack would have excess play in it or leak if it is bad. Did you ever have the car aligned?

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