1998 Toyota Corolla shaking steering wheel


Hi all,

I am new to this community, but I do love my Car Talk. I hope someone (!) can help me figure out what is wrong with Madeline, my beloved 1998 Toyota Corolla, who has been with me through thick and thin. She’s got about 110,000 miles racked up.

About 6 months ago, the steering wheel on Madeline started shaking. Not all the time, and only at speeds in excess of 60-65 mph. Eventually, as it got worse, I got sick of it and decided to see “local mechanic A.”

A said that he thought the problem was with the tire balancing. But A also told me after performing a balancing and rotation that it was against his policy to drive my car faster than 55 mph, so as far as he could tell (which was, to be honest, not very far), the car was fine.

Needless to say, this did NOT solve the problem. So I went to mechanic B.

B said that the problem was that the calipers on the breaks had rusted up and were applying consistent pressure on the breaks, which was basically destroying them. That the calipers should rust is not surprising. A good deal of Madeline’s (and my) life has been spent in cold climates where there is a constant layer of salt on the road. At any rate, B replaced just about everything brake-related in my car, which cost about $1000.

So as you can guess, I am now down around $1200 and poor Madeline’s steering wheel is STILL shaking (albeit not as badly) at speeds exceeding 60-65 mph. What the heck is going on here? I’ve read something about ball-bearings in the axles being a possibility, but I have no real idea, and while I do love Madeline dearly, I have now spent almost half as much as she is worth on repairs.

Can someone point me in the right direction?


The two easiest things to check are both tire-related. It is possible that mechanic “A” did not do a good job in balancing those tires, so a check of tire balance is definitely in order. If that does not solve the problem, then there is the possibility that you have an internal separation in a tire (or two).

I would suggest that you visit a well-reputed independent shop that specializes in front end repairs for these things to be checked, because if your tires turn out to be well-balanced and to not suffer from internal separation, the next step is to look at things like tie rods, ball joints, and other front end components.

DO NOT go to Sears, Midas, Meineke, Monro, or any other chain operation unless you want to overpay for necessary repairs, be charged for unnecessary repairs, and possibly receive poorly done repair work.


Have someone jack up front end and grab a tire and try to move it up and down to see if wheel bearings are loose then move back and forth and see if there is any play in steering componets, do other side.
If this does not show anything rotate tires from front to back.


Thanks. Tires have already been rotated, though. So possibly it really is just that the wheel bearings are loose?