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Car wobbles left and right on highway!

What’s going on?! When I drive my 2004 volvo xc70 on the freeway, sometimes there is a vertical line pattern cut into the road. These lines cause my car to wobble left and right about two inches! It feels very scary to drive like this at freeway speeds. What’s causing this and how do I get it fixed?

Generally… almost always… this is a symptom of badly worn suspension components and/or alignment, often combined with bad tire wear patterns… caused by the first two. Getting it fixed means having the chassis and the tire wear evaluated by a competent shop and forking over the dough to get the worn components and/or tires replaced and the alignment done.

I urge you to get this done as soon as possible. Your car may well have a dangerous situation, like a ball joint ready to separate. If you’d ever seen what happens when a ball joint separates while the car is moving you’d head straight to a good shop without stopping. It ain’t pretty… even if it doesn’t result in a head on with a tractor-trailer truck.

You really need to have the front suspension closely inspected and this problem could be due to more than one single worn part.

Worn tie rods, tie rod ends, control arm bushings, ball joints, trailing arm bushings, etc, etc could be the cause of this and possibly the alignment due to wear in the suspension or something that is bent.
Ball joints are especially critical because of all of the suspension components on a car, ball joints are the most lethal if they break.

I think you are talking about the grooves cut into the pavement before resurfacing. If that is the case it is normal for your car to squirm on them and some cars and tires react more than others. Relax and don;t try to steer in reaction to them or it could increase the wobble.

Oldtimer, with great respect, I would recommend that assumption only as a last resort, only after everything has been brought into and/or verified to be in proper shape. The risk involved in ignoring the other possibilities is just too great. Especially with this being the once-a-century “year of the pothole”. There are some serious spindle-benders out there. I know because only days after having an alignment done I whacked a doozie in a rainstorm. It had hidden under a puddle, which is where potholes go to hide.

Those grooves can be fun. I’ve driven on those highways but had no bad handling problems. Worn out parts could be a problem there.

They are cut into the road for wet and snowy traction I believe the same as the open steel grating on some bridges. I had that issue with one of my Rivieras. Turned out to be the inner tie rod ends were shot, causing too much slop in the steering rack. I agree with the other, the front end needs to be inspected for worn parts, tires, and alignment issues.

This could be “normal” for your car, but you should have the steering parts of the front end checked out. Worn bushings, tie rod ends, etc. could get sloppy and make the wobble worse than it should be.

All cars wobble a bit on the grooved surfaces. Some tires are much more prone to do this than others going over the same roadway. And some car models do it more than others too. While the car feels like it is out of control, it really isn’t. If the car is in good condition this is just something you expect to occur on grooved roads, get used to it, and drive on.

Thanks everyone! So there’s some conflicting advise here, so I thought I’d tell the whole story:

On march 1st, 2014, I bought a 2004 volvo xc70 wagon. For a week or so driving it I didn’t notice this particular problem. Just last week I took it to a volvo specialist for the 125mile service. The mechanic noticed some over sensitive steering on the highway and he suggested I replace all four tires (with pirelli scorpions) and get an alignment. The tire shop didn’t do alignments so I took the car to the only place open late: Sears auto.

Upon inspecting my car Sears said they could not align my car because the two front front control arm brussings were shot. The Sears mechanic then demonstrated this my wedging a crowbar into my suspension to show it would move, I guess? (This was disturbing to witness…I don’t know about cars. It seemed a bit intrusive). I wish I could pinpoint exactly when this wobbling started. It could have been right after I got the new tires or right after Sears took a crowbar to it.

Anyway, I called the original volvo specialist to ask if he checked out the two front front control arm brussings. He said they inspected the entire front suspension and it was not uncommon for my vehicle to have cracked brussings. He assured me that the brissings were not so bad I couldn’t get the car aligned. I wondered if Sears could have made them worse?

I decided to fork up the money for yet another shop (one very local) to replace the two brussings and get the car aligned. Done.

The car still wobbles!

Does this story shed any light?

Thanks again everyone!!!

Does it shed new light? Heck yeah. It changes all of the assumptions inherent in the original statement. It changes everything.

Pirelli makes a whole series of Scorpion tires, including winter treads. Can you post the entire description of the tires from either the paperwork or the sidewall? You can also look up reviews of your specific Scorpions on Tirerack. It’s entirely possible that they put winter tires on your car, which would have a tendency to wobble on grooved pavement due to the low durometer of the tread compound and the siping in the tread.

Post the full tire information.

The bushings and alignment were not a bad idea in case you are wondering. The car is fairly new to you, so presumably you’re planning to have it a while. The bushings were at least on their way out and all you had was a difference of opinion about just how close they were to needing replacement. And it would be really hard for the Sears guy to have somehow “caused” the bushing problem to be worse just by prying on them. They are designed for things about 10,000 times worse than that.

Mountainbike is right about needing the tire model. As has been noted, the groovy stuff on roads cause a lot of cars to do that - and it’s mostly about the tire tread and how that meshes with the grooved nature of things.

The Pirelli Scorpion tire is: 215/65 R 16 98V M+S. The tire shop explained Pirelli makes this tire special - specifically weighted for my volvo. Because volvo is so popular in the area, this tire shop keeps them in stock.

Pirelli Scorpion STR 215/65 R 16 98V M+S

As a general rule I would stay away from any national chain for diagnosis or repairs with the possible exception of exhaust work. They are all famous for recommending unnecessary work.

Find a good local independent shop by asking friends, relatives and neighbors. The best ones are usually very busy and you will probably need an appointment.

Build a relationship and they will treat you right.

I copied the following consumer review for your tires from’s feedback section It was typical of the reviews. They were all terrible.

“By far this is the worst performing tire I have ever had on a vehicle. On a grooved highway you had to be on top of your driving,otherwise the car was all over the road. I would not recommend this tire to anyone and would not take another set even if it was offered to me free of charge.”

Apparently these tires are not good, especially on grooved pavement. If you’d like more information, I recommend visiting the website.

Sorry to say it, but apparently the problem is the tires.

When I told the OP to relax, i didn’t mean to relax about the situation, I meant relax the steering response. If you fight the wobble, you can make it worse, building an oscillation that can get violent.
There was a stretch of Interstate 90 heading east from Buffalo years ago that had sunken grooves worn into the pavement that would cause a truck to squirm around quite a bit. I had different tractors and trailers every night and some were much worse than others but if I just held the wheel loosely the truck would hunt around a little bit but be ok.

I saw a Greyhound driver fighting the grooves one night and he wound up dumping the bus over.

And for a technical explanation of why some tires follow the road surface grooving and others don’t:

It has to do with how well the groove in the tire line up with the grooves in the road surface. If enough of those line up, you get “groove wander”.

There is no standard groove spacing for the road surface, so the tire manufacturers have to catalog what groove spacing causes issues and make sure not to use that spacing. The problem lies in scaling up (or down) the tire size and how that changes the spacing of the grooves.

It can be unnerving. As Oldtimer11 related. Rlaxing the grip on the steering wheel and let the vehicle go where it wants to go (with small corrections in basic trajectory) is the best tactic.

On the other hand, if it hasn’t been too long, call Pirelli and ask to get switched out to something else.

“The tire shop explained Pirelli makes this tire special - specifically weighted for my Volvo”

In addition to the obviously questionable “specifically weighted” reference, after reading that tire review posted by mountainbike, I think it would probably be more accurate to say that the tire store is trying to unload a bunch of dogs that nobody wants.

Sad to say, taking tire recommendations from salesmen at tire stores (who may have been check-out clerks at the supermarket on the previous day) is not a reliable way to find out about the qualities of a tire. Just as a restaurant has a “special of the day” featuring meat that is on the verge of spoiling, tire stores will push tires that are not necessarily good quality, just so that they can get rid of them.

A few months ago, a friend of mine wanted to get a set of Michelin Defenders for his Rav-4, as a result of my positive experience with the tire, their top rating from Consumer Reports, and very positive reviews on the Tire Rack site. When he went to the largest tire retailer in this area, he was told, “Oh, those are not SUV tires, so you can’t put them on a Rav-4”.

That statement, of course, is ridiculous, and the Bridgestone tires that they insisted he buy instead of the Michelin Defenders have a much shorter tread life, and are rated worse for traction, road noise, and rolling resistance than the Defenders. Translation=we have to get rid of these Bridgestones!

Incidentally, the other 3 retailers who he visited saw no problem in mounting those Defenders on his Rav-4, and he bought them from the retailer with the best price. And, he is just as happy with those tires as I am. Luckily, he knew enough to ignore the BS from the salesman at STS Tires.

" I think it would probably be more accurate to say that the tire store is trying to unload a bunch of dogs that nobody wants. "

This is a big reason I stopped asking tire shops for their recommendations on tires.

" I think it would probably be more accurate to say that the tire store is trying to unload a bunch of dogs that nobody wants. "

This is a big reason I stopped asking tire shops for their recommendations on tires.

I’ve ALWAYS found the BEST tires for your vehicle are the ones the tire shop makes the most profit from…or has in stock.

When Town Fair tire open shop not too far from me…they were running a huge sale on Cooper tires (although it wasn’t that good of sale). I went there to get pricing…and the salesman was steering me toward the Mastercraft tire (made by cooper, but not the same quality). He said the Coopers are cheap tires and the Mastercraft is a better tire. I said…no I wanted the coopers. That’s when I found out they didn’t have my size in stock. Went to another Town Fair (just a little farther away)…and this time the salesman was pushing the Cooper. I asked about the Mastercraft…and he said…those are cheap tires…and the Coopers are better.

The problem is there’s a VAST majority of people who just believe what the salesman tells them. As long as the buying public is stupid…places like this will exist.