By on March 28, 2013

Lance writes:

Hey Sajeev,

A long time (since roughtly 2006ish) TTAC reader, I thought you might be able to help me out a bit, or point me in the right direction. My car (2007 Honda Civic Si Sedan, 17300 miles when bought used off lease, now currently around 39000 miles) vibrates terribly at highway speed. Starts around 55mph, continues to increase until about 80-85 where it begins to smooth out again.

Oddly, the vibration seemed (at the time, about a year ago or so) to have cropped up “overnight” (I don’t drive on the highway often, maybe once or twice a month) and at the time I hadn’t had the car up to those speeds in quite some time, probably about 3 weeks or so. I certainly didn’t recall any vibration the previous trip I took with any highway speeds, but there sure was one obvious then, and it’s gotten a little bit worse since I first noticed it. I’ve been living with it ever since, but I’m getting fed up.

The vibration is not felt in the steering wheel (aside from the steering wheel being a part of the interior of the car, the wheel dosn’t shake side to side or anything like that), it is felt throughout the entire interior of the car as if the vehicle is sitting in a giant paint shaker. Riding in the car at highway speeds feels as if the car was built with the purpose of being a mobile massage chair. As I can’t really drive everywhere at speeds in excess of 80mph, I’d like to find the cause.

The car was aligned and the wheels balanced shortly after I first detected the issue. Of course, the honda guys told me they couldn’t guarantee a balance on aftermarket wheels (which came with the car when I got it, cheapie 18″ ICW racing wheels shod with brand new cheapie Fierce tires if it helps to know the makes/models). They did get the alignment right, the car did and still does track straight down the road as long as the road is smooth and flat and the steering wheel isn’t doing it’s tick/pulse thing (more on that below). I thought the balance would be the problem, but after that didn’t correct the issue I began inspecting the tires for wear patterns and was flabbergasted by what I found.

The wear pattern doesn’t look like any normal sort of wear that I’ve ever seen. It certainly doesn’t look like anything listed in the following image. The closest thing it resembles is an order of cupping, maybe with a side of camber wear… but it’s on both inside and outside edges, and the worn spots extend for about 6 to 8 inches or so, and do not always match up with a worn spot on the opposite side of the tire. If anything, they’re offset from each other a little, side to side. All 4 tires are worn in this manner to some degree. I don’t currently have any photos, the wear is hard to see in person because it’s spread out over a large area. The only way to tell is to notice that some of the shallower grooves in the tread disappear for a few inches before reappearing. Can’t really feel it by running my hand over the tire either. Very, very weird.

The car drives straight, handles fine. Nothing about the handling or alignment causes me concern from a driving-the-car perspective, but the weird tire wear must be caused by something.

That bit about the steering “tick”: The steering wheel has a little bit of a pulse, or tick to the right every so often at highway speed, but that is unrelated to the vibration, and it doesn’t always seem to be present. Minor annoyance, sometimes I don’t even notice it.

The only other thing of note: My family lives in the country, and visiting them means about 15 miles of unpaved road driving at the end of a 4 hour drive. When I first had the car I took that section pretty slow, but even 35-40ish mph was still a pretty hard hit on the tires in a couple places (an embedded chunk of rock I couldnt see which I hit with the tires on the passenger side, and an entrance onto a bridge that all 4 tires hit, which was VERY rough, enough to make me concerned that I might have damaged tires, wheels, even suspension parts, but the honda guys said everything looked ship-shape aside from the alignment. My dad thinks I may have shifted belts in the tires since they’re pretty cheap things and who knows how well they’re really made. My research online tells me this probably isn’t much of an issue but that’s why I’m writing to you!

If you have any ideas what might be the problem, I’d be glad to hear it. I’m thinking of putting lighter rims and new tires on shortly just to have a reprieve from driving a giant red massage chair on wheels. I’d hate to put new stuff on just to wear them out and be shakin’ shakin’ in 6 months or so though.

Help me Sajeev, you might be my only hope!

Sajeev answers:

I could be your only hope?  No pressure there! Anyway, I think one (or more) of your wheels is out-of-round. It sounds like you hit enough bumps/potholes/sinkholes to do two things:

  1. Damage the suspension enough to cause a wear item to prematurely wear and eat up the tire tread in that funny manner.
  2. Bend your crappy, cheapie wheel.

Aftermarket wheels are such a hit or miss, but you often get what you pay for.  The photo above is my Fox Body 1988 Mercury Cougar XR-7.  I shelved my factory 15×7″ turbine wheels (same as the Mustang GT of the era) because they were impossible to clean, needed refinishing, and are so outdated that I could no longer buy a decent summer tire for it.  And the way I drive, I want summer tires!

So I upgraded to 1993 Cobra style wheel, reproductions (probably) from China.  At 17×8.5″ these Rimz are a huge upgrade from stock but with a factory look: they get compliments all the time , even if people regularly say that I need to “modernize” to a different wheel.  I wanted a period correct restomod upgrade, and I got it.  Case closed? Not. These Rimz are stupid heavy, I don’t even want to know the increase in unsprung weight.  Even worse, they occasionally wobble on certain wavy roads and certain speeds…immediately after I did the wheel swap.

So my Cougar has the same problem as your Civic! Wheel balance? Nope. High quality, brand name summer tires?  Not helping. Numerous suspension checks with plenty of new parts?  No dice.

I gave up.  The Cougar looks awesome (to me) and I love the extra grip, and I’m not super concerned with the occasional wobble, because I know exactly where its coming from.  If this was a track car, I’d either get new Rimz or have a wheel shop professionally machine them to perfection.  If that’s even possible!  Is it possible?

Well, now that I’ve thoroughly confused myself, off to you Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

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70 Comments on “Piston Slap: To Love, To Hate Aftermarket Rimz...”


  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    You could try a Hunter Roadforce balance. This is the common fix for miatas with the 60-80mph shimmy.

  • avatar
    autojim

    While it could well be cheap rims that are out of round, dollars to donuts those wheels aren’t hub-centric.

    They’re thus not mounted to the car centered on the axle centerline. Getting non-hub-centric wheels bolted up straight is not impossible, but is somewhat more involved than your average tire-shop jockey is going to do.

    Mount wheel. HAND TIGHTEN (as in, use your hands on the socket/extension, don’t use a ratchet handle or breaker bar. If you exceed 5 ft-lbs of torque, you’re using too much) each lug nut, then go back and loosen/hand-tighten each one again, one at a time. THEN you can tighten to torque spec.

    Of course, now that your tires are worn funky, you’ll have to replace them.

    Long term: buy hub-centric wheels or at the least, wheels with *metal* (not plastic) hub centering rings that can bridge any gap between the “universal” wheel hub hole size and the actual hub on your car.

    • 0 avatar
      elloh7

      Ding ding ding! We have a winner. (apparently)

      I’m the original submitter of this question, and the replacement wheels/tires (of OEM size, though not OEM brand/make) I put on about 3 months after this was submitted came from tirerack with hub centering rings. The original wheels did not have them. I’ve seen no further issues since early August when I made the swap, new tires are wearing as expected.

      • 0 avatar

        Woa, I had no idea. I thought one buys wheels that match the diameter of the hub and that’s it.

        I came from a country where they did balancing on the spot. E.g. you put the wheel on, start-tighten to spec, the _then_ balance it, right on the vehicle. This way you balance out what’s out of balance in your wheel hub too. In America they made wheels that fit so well that one can balance them away from the car, bolt them on, and they fit right on. Astonishing!

        Of course to learn about the existence of centering rings now is a letdown. So uncool!

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          What happens is that various cars have different hub bore sizes (sometimes on the same car!), so the aftermarket makes a wheel with a large hub bore and relies on hub rings to make up the difference. Some places like Tirerack are good about adding the rings to suit your car; some places aren’t.

          One note of caution: riding around without the rings will weaken and eventually break the wheel studs. Don’t be too surprised if a stud breaks the next time you have the wheels on or off.

          • 0 avatar
            elloh7

            I checked them over last time I had the wheels off, just a week or so ago to put them back on / when removing the snow/winter wheels + tires. Everything looks good at the time and I torqued them to spec.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Balancing tires on the wheels, bolted on to the car is, if you’ll pardon my saying so, old technology. I’m 64 and I remember watching tires get balanced this way on my father’s car when I was a kid. Modern, off-car balancing machines have the ability to balance wheels laterally as well as “vertically” and are generally far superior. Of course, you have to have a wheel that fits correctly on the car, or all of this for nothing, as the OP found.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            It may be old fashioned, but that is the only way to balance the entire rotating assembly. The further from the center of the hub you go, the more profound the out-of-balance effect is. On modern vehicles, the hub assembly and brake rotor are made to tight tolerances, so any very minor out of balance problem with those parts likely will not present a problem. However, sometimes there will be a manufacturing problem or just a stacking of all the out of balance parts that add in a negative manner. This is often the cause of those rare “I’ve balanced the tires but the high speed vibration remains”. This is why a balance job with the wheels on the cars can often solve those hard to fix cases of the shimmies. Just remember to index the wheel to the hub in case you have to remove the wheel. Otherwise you end up with another out of balance condition.

            Your dad’s comment about a shifted belt has merit too, especially considering your gravel road. I had a belt shift on a Goodyear Invicta GL on my old K car because I was told not to rotate tires on FWD cars. After near 110K on a rear tire, the belt shifted and the car shook really bad. The problem crept up almost immediately…

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        You may not have a winner…

        Usually when you see cupping in a tire it is because the shocks (or struts) have worn out and no longer dampen the vertical forces as the tire bounces along the pavement. The tire begins to develop a “hop” which forms small cups in the tread. This causes the hop to get worse, which causes the cups to get deeper, and on and on.

        With new freshly balanced tires and wheels you eliminated the initial source of much of the “hop.” However, if your struts/shocks are bad it will come back and wreck your new tires since once a tire cups there is no saving it. In my business I buy lots of tires at $500 a pop so I have seen this problem many times before.

        Do yourself a favor and get your struts/shocks checked just to be safe.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Yeah, depending upon how long the OP drove with the wheels in this condition, he could have stressed the dickens out of the shocks/struts.

          • 0 avatar
            elloh7

            I’d say I drove roughly 3 months that way, very little of which was actually much over 45mph, mostly street-commute to work and back (less than 2 miles). I’ve experienced failing shocks before and this isn’t currently exhibiting any of those symptoms, but it was one of the first things I was concerned about when I noticed the odd wear on the old set of tires.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Those Fierce tires are crap and wear like that. Normally I would agree with you, but seeing this happen on those regularly, I know it’s the tires. You get what you pay for with tires. I don’t know why people cheap out when it comes to tires. It is the most important part of the drive train, suspension, brakes, etc.. because they are the only thing that touches the road. And it’s not like the cheapo tires are that much cheaper than something decent.Ina a 225/45R17 for example you can get a Fusion UHP for $79 each or a Pirelli PZero Rosso for $95 each. But 9 out of 10 people would get the cheap crap Fusions.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      +1000!

      Not being hub-centric is the #1 ‘secret’ problem with most aftermarket rims, and it is borderline criminal that the tire stores will not even inform you about the optional centering rings (which they almost never even have in stock) which will correct the problem if they are made and sized properly.

      That’s why I’m a stickler for OEM rims (even if from a different year) that tightly center on the hubs. It really does make a difference! Of course, this tight fit on the hub can drive those in the rust belt crazy trying to get the wheel separated from the hub – for that, a very light coat of anti-sieze paste around the hub is recommended.

  • avatar
    jco

    i’m also slightly suspecting that at least one tire may have shifted belts

    cheap tires and the wear pattern were strong indicators for me

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      +1 Given they are cheap tires and the mileage; this is probably it.

      I would replace all four tires because of wear; and not be surprised that the shaking also goes away. Monitor tire wear to see if the wear pattern comes back; which might indicate a problem with the wheels themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      The intermittent balancing problem my or may not be related to a shifting belt in the tire but I suspect that its more related to the cause autojim pointed out. More than likely the wheel is a universal design using lugs designed for a hub centric wheel.

      A shifting belt should show some additional signs since its essentially delaminating inside the tire (like pulling or really bad wear if its bad enough). In any event if the belts are moving in the tire(s) that is a sure reason to replace them as a really bad tire failure can’t be far off (not the explody kind mind you, but more of a tread separates from the carcass and beats the hell out of the inner fender, fender and suspension kind of really bad failure).

      • 0 avatar
        elloh7

        Original submitter of the question here. I believe autojim was correct, the new set of wheels/tires I put on a few months after I submitted the question came with hub centering rings and I’ve seen no further issues since August when I made the swap.

  • avatar
    otter

    It is a bit of a guessing game, but if it is a vertical shake, tire factors are the first thing I’d look at. With cheapie tires, they could have a lot of radial runout and a large radial harmonic vibration, or you could have one or more with broken belts, but it’s hard to tell much with such an apparently wide range of road speed that it happens over. If you have the ability do to so, the easiest way to get a yes/no on the tires and wheels is to find a stock set to swap with and do an A vs. B. Then you know it either lives in the wheel/tire units or it lives in the rest of the driveline. My bet is the tires. One thing you can do with what you have is rotate them to see if this changes the results any.

  • avatar
    ToxicSludge

    Buy a set of used stock rims,some quality tires and call it good.It’s hardly rocket surgery and a lot less dangerous to you,your passengers and to other people on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      gessvt

      This. I suspect the rapid wear of 3 wheel bearings on one of my cars was because of the increased diameter and weight of the 18″ cheapie wheels I used for a couple summers. The fact that they were also not hub-centric adds to my theory.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Trash the wheels before it’s too late. Your suspension will thank you for it. I put fancy wheels on a 2002 once, they looked awesome, drove around the block, went back to the garage and swapped them back to the steelies. The fancy ones didn’t have proper seating surfaces around the bolts so the wheels never self-centered.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      As pointed out above, wheels center around the hub and not the lugs. You need the proper hub centric rings to keep it properly centered. The lugs just hold them on. The lugs do not “self center” the wheels.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    If you have parts of the tire the tread is already worn smooth, then simple, buy new tires. If that doesn’t fix it, then swap the new tires to some factory rims.

    Or do it all at once. There’s a lot of ifs in this one, but either way the tires sound like crap and need replaced anyways. I can’t see this being a hub-bearing issue or anything mechanical (suspension, or otherwise) related. Could just be the el-cheapo tires naturally wore funny, because they’re cheap tires, and a new set will set you fine.

  • avatar
    bartonlong

    In my days changing tires (how I paid for about half of college) we would occasionally get someone in who didn’t want ugly wheel weights on the outside of his(always a guy)shiny, heavy, rims (did i mention these where always huge, heavy rims?) making it impossible to balance the wheels for anything above 50 mph. So do you have rims that don’t have any way to mount balancing weights on the outside and inside edge of the rim? A (very)skilled balancer can usually do an okay job with sticky weights mounted as close as possible to the outside of the rim it isn’t the same as a dynamic balance with weights on both edges of the rim. Also most tires come with marks on the sidewall that show high and low spots to align with the hole in the rim for the valve stem. On those rims without a way to mount weights on both sides it is good to really pay attention to those marks (and most tire places don’t). Last time I went to sears (and I aint going back) i had to show the teenage technician how to operate the balancing machine and align the marks-he had no idea how to use the machine to its potential.

    Also-cheap rims and cheap tires may equal cannot balance at all. Also it is possible you got a bad batch of tires-that wear pattern would scream to me out of round tires from either manufacturing defect or maybe a few curb checks? Also inflation pressure changes can (minutely) change balance as can the amount and equalness of torque on the lug nuts.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Some of the 4×4 guys I know have put airsoft pellets inside the tire with some success but these are offroad oriented rigs that only see the street on the way to the trail generally. Not sure how something like that would work on a vehicle that sees higher speeds.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Huge fan of the 87-88 Cougar. Those wheels look great on it. I always kind of wanted that body with the drivetrain from a Turbo Coupe of the same vintage. Just out of curiosity Sajeev, will the MN-12 wheels fit those cars or are they 4 lug?

    I had a couple cars with aftermarket lug-centric rims and I never got the shimmy out. I went so far as to throw some Steelies from a Tundra on my Land Cruiser to get rid of the shake until I could step up to some higher quality aftermarket but the Steelies just look right on it so they stay.

    Is there something from Honda that might be available at a junk yard that would fit? Like some Acura rims or something? When it comes to rims I like the quality and look of OEM even if it is from a different model so long as all the critical measurements are the same. But wheels are such an individual taste thing.

    • 0 avatar
      doctorv8

      MN12s are 5 lug, unlike Sajeev’s Fox Cougar. However, they have a unique smaller 4.25″ bolt pattern, unlike the 4.5″ pattern on Fox Lincolns/SN95s/S197s/Panthers.

  • avatar
    71charger_fan

    When I wanted new wheels for my Shelby Charger, I was amazed at how hard it was to find a set that wasn’t made in China. I did find what I think were the last four OZ Racing Chrono HTs in my size in the country. I wanted a fifth for the spare and in three years of searching, still haven’t found one. If anyone has a line on a 15×7 4-100 et37 oz crono ht, I’d love to know.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Buy a set of either OEM rims or good quality aftermarket rims that are known to fit the Honda properly (hub-centric too). Then get a set of good tires. It will be a different car, you will love it, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have good tires, and you have never even experienced your car with them yet.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I’ve had success with the Elbrus brand of aluminum rims from Tirerack. As far as I can tell, it’s their house brand, but I’ve had no issues with vibration.

    I bought them because I was fed up with the winter traction of my Michelin Pilot Alpin PA2′s and wanted to upgrade to the X-Ice XI2′s. I found out that nobody makes steel rims that fit my car, and I was nursing my OEM rims with peeling chromed beads (which was a Piston Slap column once, of which I took the successful advice of gooping the beads). The fact that I could buy tires and rims over the Internet for what it would cost me to buy the tires alone in Canada sealed the deal.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      I forgot to mention the Elbrus wheels are hubcentric. I wasn’t sure at the time of this post, but verified it when I did my own tire rotation to all-seasons a couple of weeks ago.

  • avatar
    noxioux

    Broken belts in the tires, for sure.

    A lot of careless tire jocks out there over-inflate and under-lubricate tires when mounting them. I’ve had a handful over the years. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that’s what happened here.

    It’s a real slap in the face, because it usually doesn’t show right away, the wear pattern is always wonky, and by the time you figure it out, there’s little or no chance you can pin it back on the tire shop.

    • 0 avatar
      noxioux

      Apologies for repeating the dollars to donuts thing. . . totally unintentional.

      BTW, by over-inflating the tires on mounting, they pop the strands in those steel belts. The whole belt doesn’t break, but with a bunch of loose/broken strands in there, it causes all kinds of hell. Not sure if that was clear or not.

      • 0 avatar
        elloh7

        I’d not heard of problems due to over-inflation while mounting. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for anything weird like that in the future, though how you’d know for sure I don’t know.

        • 0 avatar
          noxioux

          It’s next to impossible, unless you can look over their shoulder (which I have done). Not a great solution.

          The only real solution is to find a shop that knows better, and will take care of it if their jocks make a mistake.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    I am unfortunately very experienced in this field.

    The best option I have found is to stay away from aftermarket wheels unless they are true forged wheels which are actually worth paying the money to refinish if they are worn out aesthetically.

    BEST option is to find OEM wheels that match the size, diameter, offset that you are seeking. The best example of this are the wheels Nissan rolled out between 2003-2012 on a range of their Infiniti and Nissan models. Many of them are RAYS wheels and can be easily found in 18inch and 19inch sizes for under $1,000 with tires in the classifieds.

    As an aside, I have found that Mazda 3′s look best with the RX-8 18 inch wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Those RAYS are definitely high quality forged wheels.

      People buy a lot of cheapo aftermarket wheels. Sometimes you only get a rougher ride than you need, as OP stated, and sometimes you try to use them on a track, and they fail. There are high quality aftermarket wheels available, but a lot of people go for flash instead of quality and cheap out.

      Cheap tires or cheap wheels = avoid that crap, when buying a used car for me. Usually that means they are too cheap to do a lot of things right, and they may have damaged the car by doing things cheaply rather than correctly.

      Another common cheap-out tactic is ramshackle lowering jobs, but let’s not add more topics.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    Slightly OT, but Sajeev take note. I was perusing the List of Craig and these caught my eye: http://detroit.craigslist.org/mcb/pts/3685086197.html

    I think all you’d need is different rotor caps to account for the offset difference, and then you could bask in the light(ness).

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Dump the aftermarket wheels, get steelies, paint them black and get a set of baby moons.

    Problem solved!

  • avatar

    I once broke a belt on a rear tire on a minivan. I was driving from Detroit to Bay City and the knocking (it was way worse than a vibration) was so bad that I was sure that something mechanical was broken. On the north side of Flint I stopped at a place that did brakes and tires, sure that it was going to be a very expensive repair, and I was happy to get away with just having to pay top retail for a tire.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    Totally off-topic, Sajeev, but I never realized until seeing your photo how much the ’88 Cougar rear quarter resembles that of the mid-eighties Regal. The roofline of course is completely distinctive (not better, in my opinion – sorry). I trust it remains reliable for you.

    • 0 avatar

      Not off topic, since I do the Vellum Venom thing: the Regal has no contour in that area, the Cougar’s sheetmetal is complex while the rear glass is seriously concave (or is that convex?) It may not be a boat-tail Riv, but the 87-88 Cougar has so much more to offer than the half-baked Regal. (IMO – Sorry)

      Reliable? Sort of. It’s too old and modified to be super trustworthy, but so far so good.

      • 0 avatar
        alexndr333

        As someone once said, “I plan to live forever. So far, so good.” The Regal was certainly more angular (over-baked?) and the Cougar has more rounded contours, so I’ll concede its greater complexity. But, what do I know? I just turned in a CTS-V coupe (end of lease), which you had more bad to talk about than good.

        Keep writing.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Find someone else getting ready to make the same mistake the previous driver of your car did and buy their factory wheels. Put the best tires on them you can afford. Driving a good car with cheap tires and wheels is ridiculous, since tires are the single biggest determinant of ride and handling, and they need to be on round, centered wheels to do their jobs. Leave this stuff to people that drive cars equal to Chinese wheels and Korean tires.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    As someone who works at a gawdawful corporate tire/oil change shop as a basic tech, I see this time and time again.

    I’ll explain my theory with an anecdote.

    We have a customer that comes in like clockwork every month. E39 BMW 528i, lots of miles. Has aftermarket (replica) M5 wheels, chrome plating peeling off, complaining of vibration at highway speed. Every time, we balance his wheels out to zero (hey, it’s our job) and let him know that to avoid vibration, he needs hub centering rings!

    If the bore of your cheapie aftermarket wheels is larger than the bore of the hub, then the lug nuts are holding the wheel on both vertically and horizontally, which they’re not meant to do – they’re just there to hold the wheel to the hub, not locate the wheel. I’m guessing your wheels are a universal five-lug pattern (meaning two bolt patterns) and have a really large center bore to accomodate a number of different fitments. You can get balances and alignments and road force balancing as much as you want, but you’ll still get the shakes without hubcentric rings. Hit up tire rack, it’s less than a $20 investement and should solve your problem.

    OH, and ditch those gawdawful Fierce Instinct VR’s. They ALL leak from the beads, they chop like crazy, and they have less grip than a butter-coated penguin. (Yes, I work at Just Tires.) Yours sound completely done – get Eagle GT’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Mrb00st

      and after actually reading the comments, I see I’m not the only one with this theory. Still, i would say swap some ricer for his stock wheels (which I’m sure are lighter and look better.) Or get some Acura TL wheels, etc.

      Also, Fierce Instincts are notorious for balancing terribly.

      • 0 avatar
        AFX

        “Also, Fierce Instincts are notorious for balancing terribly.”

        That’s probably due to the owners mounting LED valve caps on them, or the Spokey Dokeys slapping up and down as the wheel rotates.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Maybe old Big-3 cars were less sensitive, but I recall back during my time working in a speed shop how all the aftermarket wheels (Cragar, ET, Western, Appliance)were not only lug-centric but not even bolt circle specific. The mounting holes were slotted so Ford and Mopars with 4 1/2″ bolt circles used the inside and GM used the outside. The excess hole was covered up with thick shanks and big washers. Never heard a complaint about vibration.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Domestic stuff was stud-centric for a long time, so the hub size didn’t matter. The last holdouts were pickup trucks, but I think even those went hub-centric within the last decade.

  • avatar
    AFX

    “The wear pattern doesn’t look like any normal sort of wear that I’ve ever seen. It certainly doesn’t look like anything listed in the following image. The closest thing it resembles is an order of cupping, maybe with a side of camber wear… but it’s on both inside and outside edges, and the worn spots extend for about 6 to 8 inches or so, and do not always match up with a worn spot on the opposite side of the tire. If anything, they’re offset from each other a little, side to side.”

    It’s a Civic Si fer cryin’ out loud !. The tire wear is probably due to some late night drifting competitions with it, and handbrake turns. Probably had some front axle hop during burnouts before drag racing it too.

    About 2 years ago I ordered a set of 4 Pirelli P4 all season tires for my car from Tire Rack. I got the tires delivered to my house, had them mounted locally, and right away I felt a vibration between 50-60mph in the left rear that wasn’t there before. I jacked up the left rear, spun the wheel by hand, and noticed the tire itself was out of true vertically by 1/4″. You could eyeball it and see the tire tread going up and down as it spun. I got myself a “Biopace” Pirelli, brand spankin’ new, straight off the boat from China. Who’da thunk it ?!.

    If you take most tires and spin them by hand on a car you can see that they’re not often 100% round even when new, and some have side-to-side lateral runout, or bulges or depressions in the sidewall.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tire_uniformity

    Most fun I ever had with bad tires was on my 1980 Corolla when I was too lazy to get the front end aligned. The inside edges of both front tires were worn down more than the outside edge, then I got the bright idea to rotate them to the back of the car. On the back of the car the tires would make the rear end of the car dance from side-to-side on any kind of grooved pavement or pavement worn with ruts by trucks.

  • avatar
    50merc

    A friend claims the only tires he can rely upon to be truly round are Michelins. Don’t know if that’s true.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I have had excellent experiences with both Michelins and Pirellis on ALL my vehicles. Both ride very well, handle competently, and wear nicely.

      They are more expensive to begin with, even from Discount Tire, Tire Rack and other wholesale outlets, but you get what you pay for.

      Worse brands I ever owned were Firestone, Firestone and Firestone, and OEM Goodyear and Uniroyal. Whatever money those companies invested in making their tires must have gone to pay their union employees instead of materials.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      I did contract IT work for Michelin, and spoke to many R&D engineers in North Carolina. While no one told any juicy trade secrets, several had mentioned how Uniroyal and BF Goodrich lacked many quality control processes before Michelin took them over. Michelin and the big brand name tire companies can afford the equipment and personnel, but not the little guys who don’t have enough economies of scale or margin to pass
      the cost onto the customer. In other words, you get what you pay for.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I’ve generally found that Michelins tend to be very high quality and generally worth it despite their expense. Engineers I know who have visited their factories have found their manufacturing and quality control to be superior to other tire manufacturers they have visited.

      I’ve had an okay experience with Pirellis (they were on a car I bought). Some people say they’ve gotten flat spots with Pirellis, but I didn’t have that experience. Replaced them with Continentals when they wore out, and no complaints so far.

      I’ve had one good experience with Goodyears (OEM fitment, oddly enough), but they did get replaced by Michelins. I also had one very bad experience with Goodyears (placed on my car accidentally, found them extremely poor for dry or wet traction within the first week, returned them for Michelins).

      Bridgestones, wouldn’t complain — they were OEM fitment that I planned to replace with Michelins (Pilot Super Sport) when they were done, although I would have taken a second look at Bridgestone Potenzas again.

      Wouldn’t buy anything cheaper than the above. Couldn’t bring myself to buy cheapo Toyos or cheapo Yokos, even though they were recommended on forums for one of my cars. Just can’t really bring myself to buy any cheapo tire. As I’ve mentioned — I’d avoid buying a car with cheap tires for fear that the owner was cheap about everything.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The key to Bridgestone is to do your research. They have the technology to make some of the very best tires in the world, particularly in the all season segment. They’re perfectly willing to make OEM tires for the worst companies to whatever spec is required though, which is what got them in trouble with the Exploder. Their Turnaza, Pole Position, and Blizzak tires are rather brilliant, but many of their OEM tires are not good. Michelin, on the other hand, makes plenty of tires that are completely indifferent in terms of performance, but they won’t make a single tire badly. Michelins aren’t vulnerable to noisy wear patterns, will rarely wear faster than they’re meant to, and are round. They don’t require much weight to balance and they make for happy owners in the non-enthusiast community. I hated Michelin before I got involved in the business, and then learned to love them quickly. They stink if you’re a serious driver, but they’re perfect for everyone else. The worst tires are Gooyears. I saw issues with new Goodyear tires that defy belief.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          I have found Michelins to be excellent, and high performance Goodyears to be superb as well. Goodyear also makes some low cost models, which I can understand from a business point of view, but sometimes this causes some to say “Goodyears suck” which is far from true. But considering how cheap many folks are when it comes time to buying tires, I would think it would be difficult to make a successful tire business without a pretty large range of inexpensive rubber.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Actually, that “cheap” Chinese-made rubber sold very well in the gas&sip where I live, until the USW-inspired penalty tax was levied on Chinese tires.

            Now you can get MasterCraft, Fisk, and Big O for a lot less money, even though many of those tires are made in a foreign country like Canada or Mexico, or in a non-union plant way down South of the Mason-Dixon line.

            A number of people from my area make the daily commute on US 54 and US 70 and putting on expensive rubber on a commuter just doesn’t make sense, even if you’re rolling in dough.

            A lot of people commute in their trucks as well but many of them just slap on a set of Big O no-names to get to and from. The factory OEM tires wear out just as fast as the “el cheapos”, and they cost more.

            I will say that Kumho tires gave a nice ride but wore like a pencil eraser. Yokohama tires give a very taut ride and a lot of feedback through the steering wheel. I had them both but prefer Michelins.

            So in the overall scheme of things, the individual driving the car has to decide what kind of ride/wear they want and buy accordingly. Maybe collector cars are different since they are rarely driven.

            I’m not a fan of GP All-weather tires because they are mediocre in all situations, never excelling in any one type of condition.

            Tire Rack and Discount Tire both have an excellent description of each tire they sell to help the buyer make that decision.

            In my area I use Winter Tires (Mud and Snow) during the snow months in the mountains if the weather requires it. Most of the year it is passenger-car tread for the smoother, quiet ride.

            For some it is cheaper to put two sets of “el cheapos” on their vehicle than it is to get one set of the name brand tires.

            If a driver takes care of their tires, keeps them properly inflated, then it becomes a matter of practicality, with cost being the deciding factor.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            ……A number of people from my area make the daily commute on US 54 and US 70 and putting on expensive rubber on a commuter just doesn’t make sense, even if you’re rolling in dough…..

            Have to say I couldn’t disagree more. High quality tires offer much better ride, grip, wet performance, braking ability, etc. What they Don’t offer is long tread life. US 70? Hope I don’t sound ignorant, but that is the highway through Colorado, the Eisenhower Tunnel, 6.5% grades, etc that I drive on when I make my annual ski trip? The road with run off areas for trucks with bad brakes? I can’t imagine commuting on the flat roads where I live with cheapo tires, let alone in areas like where you are. An avoided accident is worth any upfront price in tires and for that matter, suspension and brake work. I’m not rolling dough, but my 21 year old sable station car/winter rat is shod with Michelin MXV4 Energy tires – $500 cash at my local tire store.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I saw gruesome quality issues on even the most expensive Goodyear tires. Paying $250+ for a Goodyear is no guarantee that it will be round, won’t be shaved by the factory to correct a defect, or that it won’t shed mysterious coin shaped pieces of sidewall for no apparent reason. I used to be a GS-D3 evangelist, but seeing these tires before they’re installed and after they’ve ruined some customers’ lives was enough to make me consider some squishy-side-walled, wooden-treaded Michelins.

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    I don’t know how valid this will be but I had a similar experience with my beloved ’88 Prelude 4WS Si. For a car with scalpel precise handling the increasing vibration from 55 mph to 80 or so was driving me bonkers. I had the tires balanced and rebalanced to little effect. Finally the vibration wore out my shocks and I’d had enough. I took it to a shop in Florida that prepped cars for stock car racing and they examined the tires and … all four of my Falken tires were out of round. Why Sears didn’t catch this defect in the tires they sold me infuriates me … and I’m more upset with them than I am Falken for letting a batch of defective tires out of the factory.
    The shop in Florida had a brilliant solution: they shaved my tires until they were round. Sure that took 10′s of thousands of miles of tread off them but my car was a 100% vibration free magic carpet ride afterwards. Something to consider.
    A less profound solution I found for a Mercedes with four possibly not-quite-round rims was to have Discount Tires perform a “ride match” on it which worked a charm that regular balancing didn’t. Totally worth the added $$. http://www.discounttiredirect.com/direct/brochure/info/tmpInfoRoadForce.jsp

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      There is no way possible for Sears to have detected out of roundness. With enough weights added the tire will zero out on the balancer, it’s not like they have instruments to measure OOR like the shop you went to, and that’s not a service you get with any consumer-grade tire shop.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I’ve seen out-of-round tires on Sears balancing equipment. They’re quite apparent, no matter how much weight is applied. There are also limits on just how much weight they’re supposed to apply before rejecting a tire. Any out-of-round tire is highly likely to exceed that limit.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    My 87 T-Bird 3.8 had the optional aluminum 14 x7 4-lug, 10 hole wheels, not the 10 hole that was on the Mustang LX and GT but the wheel that was standard on the Elan version which was painted white to match the rest of the car. On mine it was brushed aluminum.

    I upgraded the tire size from 205/70-14 to 225/70-14 The car handled better, not that it didn’t handle fine already but the larger profile improved the grip.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    How about the tire itself? I don’t know if there were some kind of standards that tires must comply with in the States, but here in Indonesia I’ve had experience with (cheap, locally made) tires that vibrates at high speed, on brand new wheels. Changing to a better, more expensive tires solved that problem.

  • avatar

    I’m not so convinced the problem here is tires or wheels or suspension. El chepo tires could very well be to blame. Over inflating el chepo tires is even more likely to cause trouble. I, personally have delt with these issues on at least four occasions. Balancing never solved the fact that the tires were outa round.

    But from what I’ve read here, this could be a classic case of worn / outa balance CV shafts.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Sounds a lot like what my brother did to his E46 3-Series years ago when he decided the stock rims were too boring and swapped in a set of the cheapest, gaudiest looking things ever to come out of China. The car hasn’t driven right since, and in 5 years, he hasn’t been bothered to put the factory ones back on. I suspect they were just totally out of round to begin with and no amount of balancing is ever going to fix them.

  • avatar
    Lordbeezel

    Belts, belts all the way down. The giveaway is the pattern and the suddenness of the onset. Rims or struts may have contributed to shifting, but….belts.


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