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2007 Pontiac Vibe Differential, Transmission

I just moved to a new town from out of state. My steering wheel has been a bit wobbly some of the time for the last month (when I arrived), and I’ve just gotten to addressing it while I got my oil changed and tires rotated. I’ve probably gone about 1,000 miles with it being wobbly.

I took it to the place I returned my moving truck to get the oil and tires taken care of (way across town, but they seemed nice, I know where they are, and I didn’t have to go through the process of finding a new place).

They said the differential and everything inside the transmission case need to be replaced. Will be around $1800 (without the transmission stuff, this is $1600, but they said I might as well do it for the extra $200, and I think it makes sense). He showed me how the axle wobbled when he pushed it and that it isn’t supposed to do this. I looked online (overwhelmed) and on the mechanics files here and see I could have taken it to a place where I could have walked home (instead of renting a car because I know no one here–the guy at the repair place said he didn’t think I could go very far and that the case might crack and if it does that it’s another $500-600). I think I should get a second opinion, but have no idea where to go. The place nearby can’t do anything for two weeks (was the recording on the machine).

Feeling pretty stupid because I know nothing about cars and this is a lot of money, and that I drove all the way across town to do this and now I can’t easily (or safely?) get a second opinion.

I’m almost at 100k miles and was hoping to get to 200k. I’d like to repair this because I’m not in a position to buy a car. I don’t even know how this kind of problem happens. I don’t know the vocabulary for this problem and do not feel I am asking the right questions or even know how to tell if the place I am at is honest. I really thought I’d just get the oil and tires done and drive again.

And suggestions?
Thank you.

Get your car back and get away from this place as fast as you can. This is a big scam. You should get a second opinion on the wobbly wheel, but I guarantee you that it is not caused by the transmission of the differential, or even the axle for that matter.

But a wobbly wheel does need to be looked at ASAP and not ignored for a month. It could be as simple as some loose lug nuts or an unbalanced tire or as complicated as a bad rack unit or bad ball joints. without further description of this wobbly steering wheel, I am inclined to go with an unbalanced tire but get it checked by a competent mechanic ASAP.

Ask friends or coworkers in your new location. Check the online BBB for any potential candidate to see if they have a poor rating or unresolved issues and complaints against them.

  1. Please expand on “wobbly steering wheel.” Do you feel the wheel vibrating? At what speeds? Do the vibrations get faster as the car goes faster? Or, if no vibrations, does the steering just feel loose? Is the car “wandering” as you drive, meaning it wants to deviate from your steering inputs?

  2. Definitely get a second opinion from a “Mechanics Files” recommended mechanic. Replacing an entire differential/transmission because of “wobbly” steering is highly dubious. If the wobble is due to a bad axle, the axle itself can be replaced. Run away from those guys. And don’t go back.

  3. It could also be something like a bad steering component (tie rod end, etc), unrelated to the axle, transmission, etc.

  4. If it’s a bad steering component it could be extremely dangerous. So you need to be careful with it and not drive fast or far until someone trustworthy who’s not out to fleece you checks it out.

Here’s an update:
I just picked up my car from Place #1 (without warning) and drove carefully to another place that is rated on Mechanic Files, closer to my home, and can give me a ride to and from the repairs. They were very nice and accommodating even though it is clear they are very busy (I think that is a good sign).

Place #1 said they didn’t much going on this week and winced again when I said I’d drive it for a bit, concerned the case would break. They also suggested that it might not be worth it to do the repairs and instead buy a new car (my car is probably KBB for $5500ish). Their labor description says: Found the passenger side constant velocity joint bearing inside the transmission to be failing causing low speed vibration while driving. All 4 tires are almost down to the wear bar and in need of replacement (they suggested Hankooks for $660).

I drove myself home from the new place with a mechanic and he noticed more of a wobbly ride than I had and asked me about my tires (they are from 2009, 60k miles on them but supposed to be 80k tires, all season). He noticed the steering wheel shake (L to R, again, not pattern with speed or driving conditions, no vibrations just loose). He also said they were down to the wear bars, so I guess I’m getting tires sooner than I thought!

They will look at it this week, tell me if it is safe to drive, and tell me what they find or don’t find.

Thank you for the feedback–I’ll let you know how it goes. I know two people here and not well (work from home) and neither of them were around today. If I have something like this happen again, I’ll get it checked out sooner (usually do). Moving beyond my community seems to get more complicated as I get older. I really hope Place #1 was being honest, but I also hope it’s just time for new tires.

If you do get Hankook tires, I recommend the Optimo H727 which is a good all-season tire. But be careful because Hankook makes other “Optimo” tires that aren’t as good. The H727 is best.

Also, if someone recommends a different tire, don’t buy it until you research it first on They have user surveys and rankings for most common tires. Often a tire store will try to sell you a tire that isn’t very good, or more expensive than you need. A little research first on can save you $$ and disappointment.

The second shop says it’s just tires and recommended I also get my brakes replaced. $600. Thanks for the help. Grateful the Mechanic Files and this forum exist. I’ll be more prepared next time!

Congratulations! You just found an honest shop. Next time bake some brownies for them. :wink:

BTW, the constant velocity (CV) joints are on the axles, not inside the transmission. I think your hopes for place #1 are dashed.

Keep going to these new guys, an honest shop will take care of you for years (mom’s been a customer of her shop for just over 20 years now)

Thanks, Keith! That’s good to know, but still disappointing. If Place #1 had given me a lower estimate and not suggested I think about trading in my car, I probably would have done the unnecessary and expensive work. Lessons learned!

Agree with Keith on both comments. “Fear of cracking the case”, is a warning shot to get out of there. I put Generals on my 09 Pontiac and are quite happy with them. They are made in the US, quiet, cheap, and seemed OK in snow.