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75 Corolla Wagon with a Shimmy

My 75 Corolla wagon (2T-C 4 speed, rear wheel drive) has developed a terrible shimmy that can be felt in the steering wheel and shifter, as well as the whole car. It only does this when I am in 3rd or 4th gear doing between 35-45 mph. Over the past few months this has gotten worse, and instead of being an intermittent thing (once a week or so) it happens every time I am in the 35-45 mph range.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Check the basics first:
-bad tire or tire out of balance. You can swap the front and rear tires to test this.
-worn out suspension or steering component with a lot of ‘slop’ in it.
-since this is an old car, make sure that the frame isn’t rusted, especially where suspension components and your steering gearbox mount up.

I’m not sure what kind of steering system these use, but my vote is for a bad idler arm or center link.

Most tire stores will check this kind of stuff for free, but take what they say with a grain of salt, as they are in business to sell tires/parts.

How old are the tires? I experienced this with tires that were near end of life, a set of 4 new tires fixed the problem. Another time I bought two new tires for my wife’s car and experience a violent shimmy at 40-45mph. Although the new tires were the same size as the old ones there was enough difference in actual size (different manufacturer) to cause the shimmy. Two more new tires fixed it.

Also check the balance (missing any wheel weights?), lug nut tightness, and tire pressure. At that age it wouldn’t hurt to have the front end (steering/suspension) check by an independent shop.


The tires are fairly new, and I just had them rotated, spun and balanced. The car was fine for a day, but the problem came right back the next day. Could it be the tie rod ends? It seems like the problem would be more consistent if it were.

Truthfully, after 30+ years of use, I would be very surprised if there wasn’t a huge amount of wear on the tie rod ends, ball joints, and idler arm. You need a skilled mechanic to check out every part of the front end a.s.a.p.

Concur w/VDC. With the age of your car, this is likely several problems of accumulated normal parts wear occuring in the steering and front suspension parts. You’ll have to get a mechanic to get underneath the car, do a visual inspection, and tell you what they find. You can report back here what they say if you like. You may get lucky and they’ll find something simple. Good for you to keep your 1975 going strong. But I’m sure you understand that a 1975 is gonna have these kinds of problems from time to time. Think about it this way: Take just a part of the money you’d have to be spending on new car payments and apply it to getting this one fixed, and you’ll likely still be money ahead.

Oh, no kidding. It seems like every few months I am dropping a gas tank, rebuilding a carb, doing the brakes, yada yada. I love the old Toyotas, despite the headaches they give me. Hopefully I will have her in the shop (steering and suspension isn’t my thing) on Friday. I’ll let you know.

My first Toyota was a '76 Corolla, bought new, and I loved it. I wish I still had it.

Oblivion, I seem to recall that it used a recirculating ball steering system without any assist. I could be remembering oncorrectly, however. I never had to work on the steering. With the exception of routine maintenance and a vacuum line falling off, I never had to do any repairs in the 6 years I owned it. I traded it only because it was a coupe, my son was born, and it’s hard to get a baby in the rear infant seat with a car that tiny.

By the way, I agree with the others. This one needs a real good going over.

It was the pitman arm! When I bought the car a year ago, the brake master cylinder had been leaking fluid on to the pitman arm, and the ground, of course. I replaced the master cylinder, and hardly gave the pitman arm a second thought. It appears that all of that brake fluid just cleaned the goodness and functionality right out of it. I should have cleaned it off when I had the chance. Lesson learned.

Thanks for all of the help, guys. You’re awesome.