Front end shake that won't die - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums

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Old 04-16-2009, 09:41 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Front end shake that won't die

Hello, first I'd like to introduce myself as this is my first post here. I have a friend who has owned her 01 Outback for about one year now. I am helping her track down a front end vibration because I am a lot more knowledgable about cars and she is overwhelmed and frustrated with this issue.
About one month ago she mentioned the steering wheel was vibrating like crazy and when I drove it the wheel shook severly begining at 65mph and peaking at 70.
The wheel shook so badly it was apparent even to the passenger glancing over.
The brakes were replaced after the shaking started, seem to be unrelated to the steering wheel shakes. They do not vibrate when stopping. Next, within a few days we observed that her tires were worn really strangely and by looking at some online charts they appeared to be cupped.
She bought new tires and had them mounted and balanced. It didn't help much if any. She took them back to be rebalanced and checked for bad belts. No improvement. The shop mentioned that her lft front axle and steering rack were bad so she replaced the axle only. Not much if any improvement. So we're down to the steering rack. They also mentioned that one inner tie rod was bad also which of course is a part of a new rack. We have paused here because this is such an expensive fix and wanted to get some opinions on how likely this is to solve the problem and whether to get a reamnufactured one or pony up for the new factory part.

Your help is greatly appreciated. This is extremely aggrivating!

Thanks

Jon
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Old 04-16-2009, 09:48 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hi and welcome. You need to get it to someplace that knows how to troubleshoot. The entire suspension needs to be shaken down to look for loose/worn parts including ball joints, wheel bearings, bent wheels, blown/leaky struts, alignment, broken suspension spring, rusted strut mount, etc.

The inner tie rod ends are replaceable; you do not need a new steering rack to get inner tie rod end.
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Old 04-16-2009, 11:32 AM   #3 (permalink)
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What is the current mileage on your friend's Outback?

I know mine is at 171,000, and I believe the shocks and struts and most of the suspension parts are original as the are beyond dead. The alignment on my car is good and the tires are all wearing evenly, however it does exhibit a little shimmy in the steering wheel at highway speeds. I attribute this to the dead shocks.
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Old 04-16-2009, 02:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Most of those symptoms are typically indicative of a wheel balance problem.

My 2009 had the same exact problems after its accidental flight test that bent two steel wheels. (Alloys are MUCH harder to damage but it is possible.) The tire shop was able to temp-fix things by balancing the bent wheels out as best they could and moving them to the rear, and 2-3 weeks later I got two replacement steelies that fixed things completely.

The fact that your friends' car already had its wheels rebalanced has me stumped.
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Old 04-16-2009, 03:25 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Is there any noise associated with the shake?
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Old 04-16-2009, 03:56 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for all the replys. The car has about 148k miles on it. The steering rack is leaking fluid badly. No noise associated with the problem. She has only owned the car for about a year and 12k miles so we'll just assume that the shocks have never been replaced but the car rides fine and doesn't skip over bumps like totally worn out struts might do. They did rotate the tires from front to back with no improvement also. They also did an alignment and it made no difference plus it was barely even out before. Whenever a car of mine would vibrate I would first get the tires balanced or replaced if needed and replace any bad ball joints or tie rod ends. I've never had a problem beyond that and I've mostly owned older cars.
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Old 04-16-2009, 08:00 PM   #7 (permalink)
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If the steering rack's leaking fluid badly, get it replaced before she lets the fluid get too low and ends up destroying the PS pump, as well. Getting a complete rack, with tie rod ends, will take care of that problem as well.

Have the shop check the ball joints and all suspension bushings, too. Replace any that are bad when you do the rack, and then have an alignment done. Make sure the shop knows about the vibration issue, so they're paying close attention to things under there to find the cause and fix it in one trip. It very well could be just the bad tie rod causing the vibration, but there might be something else, too, so have them give it a good look-over.
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:22 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I had some corrosion buildup on the wheel surface that bolts to the hub.

Did not result in shaking as dramatic as you describe, but if the buildup is bad the wheel can go on off-center (if the crud is around the hub ring) but also not parallel to the hub surface.

The darn wheels would balance just fine, but then you put 'em on the car and they shook.

1st thing to check is for loose steering parts.


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Old 04-18-2009, 08:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Ok, we took the car in and had the steering rack replaced and it reduced the vibration dramatically. In fact I would say it is 90% gone and to scrutinize any extremely minor vibration that is left would be bordering OCD. I also noticed that all the steering slop is gone. I considered this one solved. Thanks for all your input.
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