Broke College Student With a "Hunk of Metal"

Alright, so I guess the title is self explanatory, but I’ll say it anyway. I’m basically broke and my car doesn’t seem to want to cooperate so if anyone has a suggestion or a common low price of anything to get whatever is wrong with my car fixed, I’d be more than glad to hear it. I have a pretty big problem with my car. It’s a '92 Chevy Lumina and I bought it last November. It was fine at first until I had to get a tune-up and new coil packs. After that, my car was running perfectly until something else was wrong. Lately (I’m gonna say about a month now) the front part of my car has been vibrating whenever it reaches to about 55mph and I can hear a thumping sound that feels like it’s coming from the front right tire and if I’m not stepping on the accelerator at that speed, that thumping noise and feel is more noticeable. The steering wheel will shake pretty bad too and if I let go of it, it’ll automatically go to the right. My dad told me that one time when he was driving in front of me, he noticed my front tires shaking and said they probably just needed to be rotated and balanced. So we went to Wal-Mart and got that done for around 30 bucks. Well, when we got back home, my dad checked it and said they didn’t do anything because he didn’t notice any new rivets. Now, I don’t know anything about rivets, but I’m guessing it’s supposed to keep your tires balanced and he suspects that that’s why my car still vibrates. I’m pulling more towards it needing an alignment because my car is still doing the exact same thing. My dad told me that an alignment usually costs around $100. “Holy crap,” I thought. If that’s the case, then I really hope it’s worth it (that is if my car needs one.) I’ve dumped a lot of money into this little jalopy and I really need to save as much as I can for the next semester, not to mention pay back for the laptop my dad bought me, and my insurance (which is more than average because of a little fender bender I had back in February). This is a desperate plea from a girl who not only wants her car to stop vibrating, but to learn a thing or 2 about cars so that she does not end up getting ripped off again. Please, help.

Thank you


P.S. I forgot this one other problem. Why is it that in extreme weather, whether it’s freezing or really hot, my car takes forever to turn on?

Irma, you’re going to have to adjust several things about the way you are thinking.

First, don’t post things to the internet in huge blocks of text without paragraphs or breaks of any kind. It is really hard to read.

Second, you bought a car that is about 17-18 years old. You should expect to have issues with it. Start saving. You will have to have repairs done it - probably fairly regularly.

Third, its pretty obvious that your dad isn’t a mechanic. I mean no offense to him, but this problem is very unlikely to be a tire balance problem. He’d be very unlikely to see that from in front of you (from the side, yes), and it would be very unlikely to make the car pull to the side. What you need to find is a trustworthy, local mechanic to do your diagnosis for you. Do not take your car to Walmart or any other corporate chain type of place. Find a local, owner-operated business that word of mouth suggests can be trusted.

The “rivets” aren’t rivets. I’m sure that he meant wheel weights - these are little chunks of metal clamped to the rim, and they are used to balance tires. Nothing about the weights would have changed if the tires weren’t out of balance.

Take the car someplace right away since I’d consider driving it right now to be dangerous. Here’s one possibility - a bad front wheel bearing. Have you ever had a wheel suddenly come off the car while driving? Distinct possibility. Another one that will result in loss of the wheel is a bad ball joint. Get this car to a good shop for diagnosis before you kill yourself or someone else.

We do get a fair number of posts where it must be pointed out that in this area dad is not exactly helping out. you certainly don’t want to dismiss dad’s efforts but he is out of his area of expertise here.

There really is no reason for someone to scam you on a tire balance, the job is just not big enough. I hope this hasn’t made you cynical but it seems you are set-up to think people want to rip you off.

Your problem could be anything from a defective tire to severely worn steering and/or suspension parts which will allow the wheels to flop around as they please.

Find a shop that specializes in front-end repairs and ask them to check over your car for obvious problems that might cause the symptoms you have described. Most decent shops will do this for free, hoping to get the repair job. Have them SHOW YOU the problem. Then decide if the car is worth fixing or not. Anything over $400, you are in the market for another car. Or perhaps live without a car for a year or two.

A 2-wheel alignment can often be gotten for much less than a 100 bucks.

The first thing you should check is the tire pressure. A low tire can cause every single one of the symptoms you’re complaining about.

You gave no details behind the “takes forever to turn on” complaint. Without details the number of possibilities increase dramatically.

And it’s highly unlikely you’re being “ripped off”. You bought an 18 year old Lumina and expect perfection?
And you should ignore your father at this point. I’m sure he means well but he’s apparently not mechanically inclined and giving you some bad advice.

ya’ll are freaking about a simple problem

grab ahold of the passenger side wheel and try to push it in then pull it out. You likely have a worn wheel bearing, and when you do this, the wheel will flop like a limp fish. The amount of vibration could almost never come from a tire out of balance, and a bad alignment wouldn’t give you vibrations. I’ve had a car with a bad bearing, and this sound like a classic case.

Little fender bender in this car?
First and cheapest thing to do is jack up right front, push and pull at 12 and 6 oclock to see if wheel bearing is bad. Then have dad look while you push and pull at 9 and 3 oclock to see any slop in frontend.
Its free and may narrow down where trouble is.
When you say turn on do you mean turn over takes forever?

Your gona get ripped off- your a woman. To your defense, you’ve gotta keep your gaurd up and know twice as much as the guys when it comes to cars and how to repair 'em. Do whatever it takes to become more car savvy. Theirs nothing worse than a chick with an auto mechanic for a dad/husband/boyfriend/whatever who could care less about actually knowing whats wrong with her car because her dad/husband/boyfriend/whatever will take care of it for her.

Irma first things first take hd72mm advice jack up the front of the car and make sure its supported right. then check like he said it sounds to me like you have a ball joint problem or a tie rod end problem. Also be aware the that year lumina also has a recall on it for a faulty stearing box. check this out with a local chevy dealer if it is in the recall batch they will fix it for free. I’ve had two luminas in the last 6 years and replaced both tie rod ends and ball joints in both of them and what your saying sure sounds like i’ve heard it before. Good luck