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'98 Honda Civic wobbles

With just above 100K miles our Honda has been wobbling, wiggling and shimmying for a couple of years and a half-dozen trips to our mechanic and to the tire shop have found nothing. The wobble occurs at all speeds and can really be felt even at sub 15mph speeds to the point where my knees can be seen shaking in time.

When it first happened I thought it was the brakes, so I had a major brake job done to no effect (it did need it, so it wasn’t wasted money). My mechanic was a winner on the recommended shops on your website and has done all my work, except tires, for more than 6 years and he has been real good at avoiding unnecessary work, taking the time to check things out without charge. He’s had it looked over thoroughly and can’t find anything in the tie rods, CV joints, etc. that could be fixed.

My local tire shop, also a long-term customer, has been over the tires twice and can’t find anything wrong either.

It’s shaking pretty bad and I’m getting even more nervous about high speed driving.

I should add that I’ve looked at the car as my wife drove slowly past at at time when it was shaking quite heavily and couldn’t see anything from outside - not the body, nor the wheels.

When’s the last time you had a front end alignment done? If it’s out of alignment, no amount of visual inspection is going to find that out.

Have you tried rotating the rear wheels to the front, in order to rule out a tire problem?

Do you feel any pulsing in the brake pedal, or is it only the steering wheel that transmits a shimmy?

I don’t see how alignment would cause a wobble, so no, I didn’t do that.

The tires were balanced and rotated by my tire shop.

I feel the pulsing in the brake pedal, but I also feel it without the brake pedal and it’s not in the steering wheel, it’s the whole body wobbling.

A wobble that can be felt even below 15 mph and makes your knees shake sounds like something is seriously bent. This is obviously a major problem, not something trivial. I don’t know why your mechanic can’t diagnose something so severe. Take it to a Honda dealer and ask them to diagnose it.

I drive a 1998 Civic, although mine has 223,000 miles on the odometer. Here is what I think it could be:

-Struts - If you’re still driving around on the original struts, there is a good chance yours are worn out. I replaced mine somewhere between 150,000 and 170,000 miles. With the potholes you have in NJ, I’d be surprised if you aren’t on your second set of struts already.

-Wheel balance. You might have a bent rim or two. The bend won’t be visible to the naked eye, but your tire guy will have a harder time balancing the wheels if you have a bent rim or two. How much weight does your tire guy need to balance each wheel, a little, or a lot? If there are some large weights on your wheels used to balance them, it’s a hint you might have a bent rim. However, if the bend is bad, no amount of weight will stop the vibration at certain speeds.

Thanks, Whitey.

Fortunately, I’m FROM NJ, not IN NJ! The roads out here in Oregon are noisy, but not pot holed, yet, and the car was never in the East at all, just SoCal and Oregon.

I’m sure my mechanic, who I trust far more than any dealer, checked the struts, the CV joints and the brakes and would have been perfectly happy to take my money for replacements/repairs that it needed.

I haven’t checked the wheel balance weights, but am planning to go to the tire shop again and maybe see if there’s something they can find now that the wobble is much more noticeable - part of the problem has been that it came and went and none of the mechanics ever witnessed the wobble, only went on my word.

I don’t think a simple, if excessive, wheel balance or ding would cause the wobble at sub-fifteen mph, even at a walking pace, all the way up to 70mph. Two seriously bent rims, I would expect to have variable frequencies as they shifted in and out of synch after turns, for example and it doesn’t do that.

I think you’re putting too much trust in your mechanic. Everyone can make mistakes, and when the struts on your car wear out, it isn’t something you can see unless they happen to be leaking. You need a second opinion, and I’d get it from a suspension specialist.

BTW, I live in Florida. We have no potholes here either, but my struts still needed to be replaced somewhere around 160,000 miles. They don’t last forever, and spotting worn out struts isn’t as easy as spotting worn out shock absorbers.

Your Civic may only have 100,000 miles on the odometer, but parts age with time, and your car is 14 years old.

In a couple of situation similar to yours it ended up being engine related, engine miss, fouled plug, clogged injextor, motor/trans mount etc. Time for a tune up or filters?

By you best estimate, the wobble primarily in the up/down direction, side to side, or a rocking motion either side to side or front to rear?

At this point I would put on 4 known good wheels and tires. I suspect a tire that does not appear bad, but may have internal delamination.

The wobble got much worse after a bout of freeway driving recently and I took it back to the Les Schwab tire store and they quickly found a separating tread on one of the rears. So, two new tires and we’re good to go! Too bad it didn’t show up when they first inspected the tires a few months ago.