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Discussion Starter #1
I am making this bump-like thread to summarize this thread http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/66-problems-maintenance/44251-relentless-steering-wheel-shimmy.html in case folks don't want to read through 7 pages. I am hoping someone will come up with something I haven't tried yet and maybe even save me the hassle and expense of getting a new/salvaged steering rack. Try your luck. ;)

Car History: 2000 Outback 2.5L H4 4 speed automatic with 156K miles. Inherited after it sat in a field for 3 years, with no maintenance during that time and very little if any before then. Was in a fender bender. Front sway bar was broken but may not be due to the accident. Body shop friend pointed out the even consistency of the body lines and no evidence of unibody (frame) damage. No service records. "Drove hard and put away wet."

Problem: Intermittent and inconsistent steering wheel shimmy from none to slight to a bit concerning at speeds of 65 MPH or higher. Practically non-existent on turns and seems to subside when taking foot off of gas (not braking) or accelerating without downshifting, and seems less prevalent after driving 10 miles or so (warmed up? - which swapped this condition withing the last month or so - was worse when warmed up before...). Doesn't last more than a couple of miles and doesn't depend on the road surface (wet, dry, smooth, bumpy, or same piece of daily route). Only happens about 25-33% of the time driving over 65 MPH. Car tracks straight as an arrow with hands off wheel during shimmy and non-shimmy. Stops straight with no pull to either side. Cannot feel shimmy in butt, touching dash etc., in brake pedal, gas pedal, or passenger report from back seats. I can nearly eliminate it with two handed "white knuckle death grip" when it is doing the minor shimmy.

List of stuff tried that hasn't worked yet:
(* indicates work that was done but have little or nothing to do with problem) - Passed MD inspection when work done.
1. All new boots
2. 4 new tires - balanced several times including road-force balancing
3. New front pads and rotors
4. New rear caliper pins, pads, and rotors
5. New front struts
6. New battery*
7. New alternator*
8. Salvaged (new to me) power steering pump
9. New serpentine belts
10. New windshield*
11. Greased steering rack when re-booting
12. Four wheel alignment - double checked yesterday
13. New OEM (dealership installed) front axles incl. CV joints of course - swapped right to left, replaced right "just in case"
14. New front anti-sway bar
15. New rear anti-sway bar links
16. Checked ball joints/outer tie rod ends - OK
17. Figure a bad rim/wheel would be consistently wobbly?
18. Tires rotated
19. No evidence of bad wheel bearings (no hot hubs, no typical noise, or wiggling tires when jacked up)
20. Steering column passes visual inspection and very little free play - U-joint moved normally - greased even though it didn't need it (desperate to try anything by that point)
21. Not sure how to check motor mounts - she shudders a bit when stopped and running with brakes applied in DRIVE and smooths out when shifted to NEUTRAL or PARK - mounts were inspected less than a yr ago for state inspection though
22. Liquid filled rear bushings on "A" shaped transverse suspension link not leaking
23. Lock to lock donuts in both directions, so do not suspect torque bind
24. Front diff fluid clean and between F and L marks
25. Power steering fluid changed and happy pink
26. Trans fluid changed - as much as 3 empty and refills will do - forgot to do new OEM filter - doh!
27. Goodyear guy inspected drive shaft and U joint while it was on the lift - he let me watch and seemed to know what he was doing - I wouldn't know the difference though
28. CRAMMED steering wheel up against dash and locked
29. Took cover of of steering column in cabin and saw nothing obvious

Wow, you've read this far? Now the part I hope I am wrong about (but probably not). Yesterday had her on the jack stands, wheels off, and threatened teenage daughter #2 with no iPad privileges as a coercion to turn the steering wheel while I listened to the rack. Subtle tell-tale "cla-clunk" from the tie rod under the boot. I also noticed fluid (probably PS) leaking near the line that goes into the top of the rack. I saw this before and hoped it was oil seeping down from the valve cover gasket. Not so sure now. BUT PS fluid level in reservoir not going down. SO very slow leak if any. I popped off the driver's side boot (easier removing than putting that SOB back on!) to have a look at the end and listen more closely. When I pressed down on the tie rod the clunk was more noticeable. I used synthetic marine grease and replaced the boot.

I can't afford a rack now - paying $30K for daughter #1 to go to school. Final plee: Can anyone think of anything else before I start looking for a rack with which to run up another credit card bill? :(
 

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I am making this bump-like thread to summarize this thread http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/66-problems-maintenance/44251-relentless-steering-wheel-shimmy.html in case folks don't want to read through 7 pages. I am hoping someone will come up with something I haven't tried yet and maybe even save me the hassle and expense of getting a new/salvaged steering rack. Try your luck. ;)

Car History: 2000 Outback 2.5L H4 4 speed automatic with 156K miles. Inherited after it sat in a field for 3 years, with no maintenance during that time and very little if any before then. Was in a fender bender. Front sway bar was broken but may not be due to the accident. Body shop friend pointed out the even consistency of the body lines and no evidence of unibody (frame) damage. No service records. "Drove hard and put away wet."

Problem: Intermittent and inconsistent steering wheel shimmy from none to slight to a bit concerning at speeds of 65 MPH or higher. Practically non-existent on turns and seems to subside when taking foot off of gas (not braking) or accelerating without downshifting, and seems less prevalent after driving 10 miles or so (warmed up? - which swapped this condition withing the last month or so - was worse when warmed up before...). Doesn't last more than a couple of miles and doesn't depend on the road surface (wet, dry, smooth, bumpy, or same piece of daily route). Only happens about 25-33% of the time driving over 65 MPH. Car tracks straight as an arrow with hands off wheel during shimmy and non-shimmy. Stops straight with no pull to either side. Cannot feel shimmy in butt, touching dash etc., in brake pedal, gas pedal, or passenger report from back seats. I can nearly eliminate it with two handed "white knuckle death grip" when it is doing the minor shimmy.

List of stuff tried that hasn't worked yet:
(* indicates work that was done but have little or nothing to do with problem) - Passed MD inspection when work done.
1. All new boots
2. 4 new tires - balanced several times including road-force balancing
3. New front pads and rotors
4. New rear caliper pins, pads, and rotors
5. New front struts
6. New battery*
7. New alternator*
8. Salvaged (new to me) power steering pump
9. New serpentine belts
10. New windshield*
11. Greased steering rack when re-booting
12. Four wheel alignment - double checked yesterday
13. New OEM (dealership installed) front axles incl. CV joints of course - swapped right to left, replaced right "just in case"
14. New front anti-sway bar
15. New rear anti-sway bar links
16. Checked ball joints/outer tie rod ends - OK
17. Figure a bad rim/wheel would be consistently wobbly?
18. Tires rotated
19. No evidence of bad wheel bearings (no hot hubs, no typical noise, or wiggling tires when jacked up)
20. Steering column passes visual inspection and very little free play - U-joint moved normally - greased even though it didn't need it (desperate to try anything by that point)
21. Not sure how to check motor mounts - she shudders a bit when stopped and running with brakes applied in DRIVE and smooths out when shifted to NEUTRAL or PARK - mounts were inspected less than a yr ago for state inspection though
22. Liquid filled rear bushings on "A" shaped transverse suspension link not leaking
23. Lock to lock donuts in both directions, so do not suspect torque bind
24. Front diff fluid clean and between F and L marks
25. Power steering fluid changed and happy pink
26. Trans fluid changed - as much as 3 empty and refills will do - forgot to do new OEM filter - doh!
27. Goodyear guy inspected drive shaft and U joint while it was on the lift - he let me watch and seemed to know what he was doing - I wouldn't know the difference though
28. CRAMMED steering wheel up against dash and locked
29. Took cover of of steering column in cabin and saw nothing obvious

Wow, you've read this far? Now the part I hope I am wrong about (but probably not). Yesterday had her on the jack stands, wheels off, and threatened teenage daughter #2 with no iPad privileges as a coercion to turn the steering wheel while I listened to the rack. Subtle tell-tale "cla-clunk" from the tie rod under the boot. I also noticed fluid (probably PS) leaking near the line that goes into the top of the rack. I saw this before and hoped it was oil seeping down from the valve cover gasket. Not so sure now. BUT PS fluid level in reservoir not going down. SO very slow leak if any. I popped off the driver's side boot (easier removing than putting that SOB back on!) to have a look at the end and listen more closely. When I pressed down on the tie rod the clunk was more noticeable. I used synthetic marine grease and replaced the boot.

I can't afford a rack now - paying $30K for daughter #1 to go to school. Final plee: Can anyone think of anything else before I start looking for a rack with which to run up another credit card bill? :(
I had a 2001 I was not kind to at at 180,000 miles it was shake free and pretty decent still.

#1 Old worn out parts either deal with it or start replacing the old worn out parts.

As for the kid and College - talk to your financial planner LOL. If you haven't socked away college funds since they were little - your Financial planner will suggest that you pay for some of the schooling and suggest your child take loans out. The primary reason for this financial approach is that your child assuming they aren't doing Arts program will have a life time of career and money making ahead of them to pay off loans "Within reason ;-)" while your nearing the end of your carreer ie working life and don't have years and years to recover from 30K a year in school costs.

Sucks!!!!! Given those of us who want to pay for all of our kids college feel like its a MUST DO! However the numbers game never lies. I had to do a little family intervention between a distant Uncle and his three grown kids who kept demanding that he pay for their 2nd and 3rd college degree's. The Basics of it he couldn't say NO and his kids thought money grew on trees.

I sat down with all 4 of them - showed the kids that their Dad had to get his brother ie my dad to co-sign for him just to open a checking account the week prior- and that if the kids did not want their dad living with them VERY SOON - They needed to stop asking him for Money! HA HA -- I was never that close to the kids regarding cousins - they hated me even more after the meeting. However they apparently got the message given their dad no longer cuts checks on a weekly basis to them and can now afford to rent a small condo for him self. ;-)

Good luck!!! I might need a distant family member to tell my kids one day to stop asking DAD for money. LOL Though I hope not
 

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17. Figure a bad rim/wheel would be consistently wobbly?

yeah, wondering about run-out. Also, some bad threads on a wheel stud or cracked/bad lug-nut.


(just more brainstorming)
 

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Sounds like it could be the rack if the tie rods are OK - maybe a bit (about 1/2 of the p/s tank level) of "Lucas P/S fix" sludge will help take up some of the slack in the rack...?...

Don't use too much of this @ once as it is SUPER THICK - basically pink vasoline.

I suggest this only because I've seen the "Lucas transmission fix" Pink vasoline help folks with slipping transmissions quite a few times.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I had a 2001 I was not kind to at at 180,000 miles it was shake free and pretty decent still.
Some guys have all the luck
#1 Old worn out parts either deal with it or start replacing the old worn out parts.
See numbers 1 to 15 above.
As for the kid and College - talk to your financial planner LOL. If you haven't socked away college funds since they were little - your Financial planner will suggest that you pay for some of the schooling and suggest your child take loans out. The primary reason for this financial approach is that your child assuming they aren't doing Arts program will have a life time of career and money making ahead of them to pay off loans "Within reason ;-)" while your nearing the end of your carreer ie working life and don't have years and years to recover from 30K a year in school costs.
She's got a trust fund for college we can't touch until she's 18. The $30K is for an arts high school, dance lessons, and summer intensives to become a professional ballerina. Here's one of the competitions she is doing this year: Youth America Grand Prix She has several scholarships, but we fall in the gap between those who don't make enough and those that make just a bit too much.

I'm really just trying to figure out this frustrating problem with my car. I have a Suburban that I'd rather not drive unless the Subaru is down, or my wife sometimes let me drive her 2011 Sonata. Funny, I'm paying for half of it but don't get to drive it half the time. lol
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Sounds like it could be the rack if the tie rods are OK - maybe a bit (about 1/2 of the p/s tank level) of "Lucas P/S fix" sludge will help take up some of the slack in the rack...?
Thanks for the suggestion. I usually shy away from the "miracle in a bottle" solutions, but this sounds like the right situation to give it try. Anyone else here had any experience with Lucas P/S fix?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
wondering about runout
The tech who used the Hunter GSP9700 Road Force Balancing machine told me one of the wheels was a little out of spec, so we put it on the driver's side rear. Could this cause steering wheel shimmy? The two front ones are supposed to be within specs (~.2 mm?). Maybe I'll get a dial meter and check them myself. Any suggestions on how to stably mount the meter while the car is jacked up?

A new wheel is cheaper or at least easier than a rack.
 

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The tech who used the Hunter GSP9700 Road Force Balancing machine told me one of the wheels was a little out of spec, so we put it on the driver's side rear. Could this cause steering wheel shimmy? The two front ones are supposed to be within specs (~.2 mm?). Maybe I'll get a dial meter and check them myself. Any suggestions on how to stably mount the meter while the car is jacked up?

A new wheel is cheaper or at least easier than a rack.
there are magnetic bases to hold an indicator. Dunno if it might scratch the paint though.


I'm running out of ideas and forgetting what's been tried.

It shimmies if you 'coast' too right? not just under power?

And, braking, either heavily or lightly - change the symptom any?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I ordered this SHARS 2 PC PRO MAGNETIC BASE & 0-1" DIAL INDICATOR .001" SET FINE ADJUSTMENT | eBay and read where one guy used an old rotor as a stable platform for the magnetic base. I'll try that.

I reviewed the old thread and my notes and made a pretty comprehensive list of what's been tried at the top of this thread.

It shimmies under power, coasting, cruise-control, and light braking. I tried heavy braking and it got a bit worse.

I'll check the lugs and studs when I get a chance to check the runout later this week. It would seem funny after all of the posts and everything we've tried, if it came back to something as obvious as a wheel. Even though I am checking things off as I go, I sometimes suspect one of the tests applied could have been slightly inaccurate. I'll let you know what I find. Otherwise, I'll live with it until I can do the rack.
 

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17. Figure a bad rim/wheel would be consistently wobbly?

yeah, wondering about run-out. Also, some bad threads on a wheel stud or cracked/bad lug-nut.


(just more brainstorming)
That's what I thought on first read. But I'm sure they checked the run-out with the wheel off the car.

OP, Have you grabbed the wheel with the tire mounted to the hub but off the ground and shaken it front to back and top to bottom? Felt for movement? results?

Sorry if this has been answered already....
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Yup, I checked again last weekend with the tires on and again with them off - double checking tie rod ends/ball joints. Very solid.

I order a dial indicator with a magnetic base and will check the rim runout when it arrives. The car sat for three years, so I replaced the tires. I'm wondering if a. The previous owner's fender bender warped a rim and the Goodyear guy did not catch it. or b. Just sitting for so long has an effect on alloy wheels - unlikely, but the only stupid question is the one unasked - or any question from my wife about whether her pants make her look fat. lol
 

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maybe I'm not thinking right, but my guts tell me, the farther from the hub a 'problem' is that could cause this shimmy, the more likely it would diminish with heavy braking. Like, something with the rack or tie rods, or with a strut mount' the forces and 'dynamics' under braking would cause all the tolerances in the various connections and moving parts to shift to the other extreme of their (limited) clearances/range-of-movement.

I'm betting you might even feel this in reverse. This just seems like it's at the wheel(s).

I guess it's impractical to rent or borrow 4 wheels to try.
 

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I tried heavy braking and it got a bit worse.
OK, could you do a 'heavy braking' test a few times on pavement, then compare the same test on dirt or gravel? Seems like if the severity of the 'shimmy' is diminished on dirt or gravel, we may be able to implicate tires and wheels(maybe the rack ?). If it feels the same, it 'may' point to brakes, rotors, hubs, other 'stuff' unrelated to 'steering'.

trying to differentiate from 'steering' system vs 'run-out/vibration' problem.

I dunno, kinda hard to explain.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I'll start looking for the right times and roads to do the braking tests on and let you know how they turn out. It makes sense that any loose stuff would get crammed against solid stuff when heavy braking occurs and therefore stop vibrating. Newton's first law applies here. The outside force is the brakes.

I'm betting you might even feel this in reverse. This just seems like it's at the wheel(s).
I'll also start looking for a place where I can go backwards at 65 MPH. Just kidding, of course.

I'm going to move whichever wheels have the least runout to the front and see if that helps. Still waiting the gauge and stand.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Runout tests

I finally got around to using my new dial indicator for the runout tests on the wheels.

SideRunout.jpg TopRunout.jpg

If you can see the line graphs, they show the relative runout between the four wheels. The flatter the line, the less runout, and the better the wheel. The dotted lines represent the front wheels. It is pretty obvious that the right front wheel was the worst. Surprisingly, the back left wheel was the best. Two tire shops I went to recommended putting that wheel in the back because it required more weight than the other three. I rotated front to back on both sides based on my findings and went for a test drive. AND... There was still a much smaller and shorter lived shimmy. But some shimmy none the less.

I had the opportunity to brake from 70 mph down to about 50 mph today and wasn't able to tell if the shimmy was reduced by the hard braking or just because I was going under 65 mph. I'll look for more suitable roads and times to test. If this test does not tell me something pretty conclusive, like a bad strut cap or more likely the rack, then I am just going to live with the intermittent high speed shimmy. My wife and children are beginning to worry about me like Nash in A Beautiful Mind. lol After all, Its an old car.
 

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Now that you have that base line recheck the left front, with the best wheel installed, and see if it still has that runout issue. Maybe the problem isn't with the wheel.

.
 

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Now that you have that base line recheck the left front, with the best wheel installed, and see if it still has that runout issue. Maybe the problem isn't with the wheel.

.

^^^good idea. Those graphs have all the accumulated errors from hubs, rotors, AND wheels. Heck, even dismounting rotors and/or wheels and rotating them 2 studs, might change the curves.

are there any published limits for run-out?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Maybe the problem isn't with the wheel.
Correct. Rechecked the wheels and front right was still off. Left was fine So it is something in the front right suspension. I took a test drive and leaned over to the passenger (right) side and felt vibration during shimmy there when I felt none on driver's side. Please see the stuff I have tried on page 1 of this post and let me know what I should check or re-check.
 
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