Front end shakes and wobbles

This would be my second post. It appears that the suspension system poses the most problems for me since I appear not to be able to solve them on my own.

The car is a manual transmission 2005 Toyota Corolla with around 90,000 miles. I’m not the only owner. The car was bought used. It appears that the car was in a front end accident that doesn’t appear in a carfax report. This can be identified by the poor clearcoat paint job on the hood flaking off and the absence of the air conditioner as well as some rather pathetic body work with noticable bends and a few missing screws. Most of which I consider cosmetic and irrelivant to the car’s operations.

The tires are bald and the car has had an alignment about 2 years ago after I replaced the struts. I wasn’t notified of any bad ball joints, but that doesn’t mean thats out of the question. The car has a bit of a shake at high speeds. Sometimes the shaking is violent enough to reduce speed. I noticed that more often the shake is really bad above 60 and quite scary above 70. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes the shake isn’t as noticable by comparison.

At low speeds the car seems to have a wobble or repeatative hop. The steering wheel has a rythmic pattern moving back and forth a few degrees. Enough to make holding a full cup or soda not a safe choice unless the desire is to wear the drink. The wobble appears to be a little worse when the car is cold. Winter mornings seem to bring out the worst in the wobble.

I would like to do as much work on my own as possible to save $, but I realize I may need professional service equipment to diagnose some of this. Can car tires be diagnosed for having bulges with some sort of test aside from visual inspection alone? Is there a tool that can be used to verify the metal of the wheel is true and not the source of the wobble? Do wobbles and shakes derive from bad tie rods and/or ball joints? What is the most common problem that produces symptoms similar to mine?

I enjoy the car’s money saving potential, but it lacks an air conditioner which is vital for defrost operations and keeping the insane summer heat tolerable. If the repairs will cost me more than the car is worth I may choose to invest that money into a 2005 model as a replacement since I’ve grown tired of the lack of radio and no air conditioner. I’m trying to keep 5ish years behind the curve as not to waste money on the politics of new car value depreciation.

Many things can cause a wobble or shake and tires are definitely one of those. The tires could be worn out of round or they may be out of balance.

Try raising each front wheel off the ground one at a time and try to move the wheel assembly around. It should be snug with little or no noticeable free play.
If things are tight then rotate the wheel assembly by hand and watch both wheel rim and tire. If a wheel rim is bent or the tire is out of round you should be able to easily see this.

Look the wheels over and note if there are any missing wheel weights. After that, you would need to have the tires spun up on a balancer to check balance. If the tires are that badly worn then I don’t see the point in even wasting time or money on doing so.

Yes, wobbles can also be caused by loose wheel bearings, worn ball joints, worn tie rods or tie rod ends, etc. but I’d consider the above first.
A seriously out of alignment front end can also cause a problem like this; generally due to excessive toe in or toe out. Either condition will eat up tires.