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Hit a curb, now what?

Hi everyone,

What brings me here is I hit the curb of a median with my driver’s side front tire. The road was turning slightly right and due to my inattention and looking right, I got too close to the left and well, bam. So the hit was on the side almost parallel with the wheel.

Here are some details:
Car still drives perfectly straight as before, does not tend to pull to one side.
The hit was to the side of the tire, not perpendicular. It looks like the tire took the hit as the rim is not scraped as it would have been at that angle.
The car did go up part of the curb for a split second, but no more than a couple inches, not completely over and off.
The tire still holds air, I have not noticed any bulging, although after looking more closely there are some cuts to the sidewall that might mean I need to replace the tire.
FYI, Nissan Sentra, so FWD sedan.

The problem:
Later, after everything looked okay I was on the freeway and the steering wheel started vibrating at speed. I’ve looked at many posts about this issue, however what is different is that absolutely nothing happens until 65mph. At 55, the steering wheel is perfectly still. I noticed it is really only significant when going downhill (front wheel damaged so this is when more weight is on it). At 65 when the problem starts, the steering wheel wheel rotates/vibrates so that the edge moves less than 1/4 inch at the edge, back and forth.

No need to point out the obvious to me, I know something is wrong, but I want to know what might be an order of the most likely issues and what i can look at myself. I don’t want so spend 100 on alignment, 100 on rebalance, 100 on a rim, and 100/200 on tire/tires and have it still not be fixed with one or more of those. What is there that I can do to inspect it? I have the tools to lift the car, remove/replace wheels, etc. I’m looking for insight beyond “take it to the shop.”

Also, if I am replacing the tire, what is the most tread difference that is acceptable. The other 3 would still have fairly new tread but a bit of wear compared to new.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but I hope there is enough information for some suggestions. Thank you for your help and time.

The tire should be replaced as soon as you can before you have a blowout at speed. If the tire has significant wear, you should replace both front tires. If this is an AWD car, you may have to replace all 4. How much is significant? My uneducated guess is 1/8 inch or more. But others may say 1/16.

“the steering wheel wheel rotates/vibrates”. Get the new tires balanced, required anyway.

You can take a chance that alignment is not needed, but I wouldn’t.

Edit: alignment should include a careful check of steering and suspension components.

Definitely, cuts to the sidewall=tire replacement.
As to whether you need to replace the other front tire, the tire shop can probably advise you as to whether that is necessary, based on the amount of tread remaining on the other front tire. Because this is a FWD vehicle, rather than AWD, you can probably get away with replacing only one–or at the most two–tires.

However, there is a very real possibility of damage beyond just the tire. More than likely, you will need to have the wheels aligned after that curb hit. Additionally, the wheel could be bent, and/or there could be damage to the suspension and/or steering components. The car needs to be put up on a lift for a front-end safety inspection.

If it were my car, I’d jack the right front off the ground (parking brake ON, transmission in neutral) and rotate the wheel to see if anything looks bent. Then I’d remove the tire and measure if the hub is bent. Then check the tie-rod, ball joint, strut and control arm to see if they are noticeably bent. I’d replace any bent pieces I see and do my own alignment and road check it. I’d let the car tell me what’s wrong rather than guess.

If you are not a DIYer then take it to the tire store (preferably an independent, not a chain), Be honest with the service writer and tell him or her everything in your post. Don’t bring it in a just ask for a tire, or tell them to align it because they will and your problem may not be fixed. Buy 2 tires (if they are fairly worn) like @BillRussell posts . The service writer should tell the tire changer to check for a bent wheel. It will be obvious to him when he spins the tire to balance it. They should check all the rest of the parts I mentioned. In that path, there should be a reason for the shudder above 55. It could be that the car itself is bent but your hit was a bit too small for that and alignment will be difficult to impossible if that has happened.

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Possibly knocked a wheel weight off. Balance that wheel and see if it fixes the vibration.

Actually there is less weight on all the wheels going down (or up) a hill. Think of going down a vertical hill…no weight on any wheels.


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Cuts to the sidewall nearly always=tire replacement. I got lucky once. The cut was about 3/4 inch long. It was inspected and declared cosmetic only by the local tire shop.

Mustangman is right. Look for damage to the suspension and also drivetrain. Hitting the front wheel sideways against a curb in a front-wheel-drive car is always a bummer. It’s pretty common in snowy areas and FWD cars understeer by their design. If it were my car I would take it to a trusted mechanic. If the damage is bigger than just tire and rim (wheel) your insurance might cover the repairs after the deductible. If you carry collision.

If the cuts aren’t deep enough to expose the sidewall cords (plies) then the tire should be good. It can tolerate minor abrasion. As for differences, it does not matter on the rear, but the fronts should be within 3/32" of each other. If you replace, put the new tire and other front tire on the rear and the rear tires on the front.

You may have just lost a weight, but you could have knocked the plane of the rim out of parallel with the plane of the hub. Worse case you damaged the lower control arm or its bushings from the impact.

This requires an immediate shop inspection as it might be unsafe to drive now. Most likely a damaged tire, bent rim, or – knock on wood – you simply knocked off a few wheel weights. Suspension system components should be suspect too. My best guess is the tire is damaged, possibly out of round or delaminating.

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You won’t have to worry about tread difference unless you have AWD. You should look at the sway bar to see if the right side (end) is lower than the left. If they aren’t the same height the sway bar is twisted. Tie rods for looseness, strut damage and wheel bearing looseness which would all be checked during the alignment and damage check which you will talk about before the alignment.