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Cold Weather Tire Vibration

I recently put on four new tires on my subie this fall (Continental ContiExtremeContact) - the car was aligned and tiers balanced at the time. In January when we started having very cold weather (-7 F) I noticed a vibration all around my tires. I only notice the vibration at speeds of 50 mph or higher, and it gets worse when it is very cold out. My mechanic is telling me that my tires aren’t perfectly round and that it is quite common in some brands. Is this true? Should I take it somewhere else to get it realigned/balanced? Any ideas? Now that it is warmer, the vibration is hard to even notice.

What you are experiencing is something that many owners of the new 2010 Outback have commented on, and their tires are…Continentals–possibly the same model as your tires!

It appears that these tires have an unusually high incidence of out-of-round conditions and are very difficult to balance unless you move up to a more expensive Road Force Balancing machine.

I have heard from a Subaru service manager that Subaru of America is going to dump their affiliation with Continental, based on the huge number of customer complaints about the tires.

Uggh, that is not what i wanted to hear! So I might have to just eat the cost and get another brand of tire?

If I were you, I would first spend some money on Road Force Balancing.
You may have to call quite a few shops to locate one that has this equipment, but it is worth the effort, as this might work, and would be far cheaper than replacing the tires right away.

I bought a set of 4 Continentals for my pickup truck once and no matter what I tried they would not roll smooth. I made them swap out the worst two for BF Goodys (I used my full service spare to find the worst offenders) and that helped, but the problem didn;t go away until I changed all four tires out.

My guess is that it’s the Continentals. You’re simply feeling it more as the cold weather stiffens the struts.

Sorry. i wish I could offer something more promising. But I’ve been where you are.

Read the tire guarantee carefully. Some brands allow you to return them within a certain time period if you don’t like them. I wouldn’t want to be stuck with tires that are that difficult to balance when new. Imaging how hard they will be when they’re half way worn out!

I had to return them in the first 2 months. However, the warranty does state I can basically get another new tire if I encounter vibration problems in the first 12 months, or 2/32 worn. So I cold get new ones I think…

It isn’t quite clear, but what you may be experiencing is “Flat Spotting”, where the tire heats up due to driving, then when the vehicle stops and the tires cool down, they develop a flat spot where the tires contact the road.

To confirm this, the vibration ought to diminish the longer the vehicle is driven. Needless to say, whenever the vehicle is parked, a new flat spot develops - and the colder the outside temperature, the worse this is going to be.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot that can be done about it, except to make sure you are using enough inflation pressure.

The car is basically used for short trips most of the time. The vibration at high speeds is so bad sometimes, it actually makes me ill (motion sick) and I’m not normally of that mold - never get motion sick. So how long would I have to drive the car to test out this flat spot theory? I want to try it out, but I don’t want to take a really long trip unless I have to.

Don’t stop going back till you get the tires replaced by a different brand that doesn’t give you this problem. Tell them to resell them in Georgia or where ever. I’ve had to deal with incidents like this too. Life is too short to completely dread driving a car you have so much money in. Change now…don’t let them put you off till it warms so much it goes away. Tires with good maintenance should be taken for granted.
Get mean, get tough !

One issue that makes me a little uncomfortable is that I bought the tires from Tire Rack, had them installed by my trusted mechanic. But I think I need to go to a Continental Dealer for this to be addressed. So my plan is to setup an appt with Sears (the closest Conti dealer). Makes me wish I just bought them local so I could tell them to fix it or replace it.

The short trips is ceratinly part of the problem.

I would think you would need 15 minutes at freeway speeds to be sure the tires have heated up. Obviously this is temperature dependent and the colder it is, the longer it will take.

Well, I contacted Tire Rack and sounds like I can get these replaced but it has to be another set of Conti’s, maybe I’ll try a different type - i’ve got not much to lose at this point.

Post back and let us know how you made out.

I know that my experience with Continentals was that they were just plain not smooth rolling tires no matter what. I had my truck for hundreds of thousands of miles and the Continental problem was the only vibration problem I ever had, and it smoothed right out again once I replaced them.

I’ll be curious to know if you have similar results.

I have that same fear - but they should pay for the mounting, balancing, and shipping, so why not? And if the new ones do the same thing, I’ll be quicker to complain.

Hi Everyone,
Just wanted to update the situation. Tire Rack took the tires back no problem, and purchased Michelin’s to replace them - the Mich’s solved the problem, no more vibration. So I’m chalking it up to faulty Continentals. Thanks for everyone’s help.

Continental makes some of the finest bicycle touring tires, but their car tires seem to be sub-par, including the ones that came original on my '06 Matrix.

I’ve worked in many tire shops over the years, and I always thought Michelins were the most “perfectly round” tires I’ve come across, as evidenced when you balance them. Many times the eyeball could perceive no deviation whatsoever as the tire and wheel assembly spun on the balancer, assuming a machined aluminum wheel, not bent.

Capriracer is right. this happens with High quality tires also. unfortunately some air compressors shoot Minor amounts of water into tires as well which settles to the bottom and freezes which will make it take longer to heat up. Solutions: 1- Store vehicle in a warmer location if this is an option. 2- inflate with nitrogen. 3-warm up tires enough to what is frozen, then inflate as much as possible to avoid shaping while parked in cold. (because tires lose pressure in the cold weather.)

Unless you use a double-valve-stem inflation system, nitrogen inflation is pointless. Your tire starts at just under 15psi before you ever inflate it, and that air is 78% nitrogen already. Ramming nitrogen under pressure will skew that percentage a little bit, but will not get rid of the oxygen and water vapor that were already in there unless you are also evacuating the air through the second valve stem.

And even then, unless it’s a high-performance (i.e., high heat) application like an airplane tire or a race car tire, it’s silly overkill.