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Ice/Mud Stuck in Wheel Wells (?) of Vibe

Hey there. We have an 07 Pontiac Vibe. This winter (I live in Vermont) there have been a couple of instances where we’ve gotten ice/snow or mud stuck in the wheel wells that have caused a major vibration. We’ve had to pay twice to have it flushed out at the dealer since December and it’s happened again. We tried going to a manual carwash and power washing the wheel wells and tires off but that didn’t seem to help. This seems pretty ridiculous and it never happened last winter. Any ideas?

The ice is on the backside of the wheel, not in the wells or the tire. I assume the problem exists primarily on the front wheels. Go to a manual car wash and turn the front wheels all the way to one side and you should be able to get the nozzle behind the wheels enough to clean them out. The ice in the wells will not cause a vibration. You just have to get to the back of the wheel itself. If you had the stock alloy wheels it would be easy to clean them out but I assume you have the steel wheels with hubcaps?

wow, that was fast! we do have the steel wheels with hubcaps. how will those be harder to clean? and is there anything to prevent this from happening?

They’re harder to clean because the large holes in the wheel are covered and you have to turn the wheels to clean the inner side.

Just to clarify, what’s happening is junk is building up on the wheels which are throwing them out of balance. Considering that the weights used to balance the wheels are only a few ounces is doesn’t take much to throw them off, especially with light weight aluminum wheels. This is yet another advantage to having a set of winter tires on dedicated steel rims, though it can still happen with those.

The major vibration is not the end of the world just annoying. With patience it will warm up enough to let the stuff go. This winter has just been a bit colder after a storm instead of the typical warm up day.

I have had it a few times in my Subaru WRX and it goes away or I move my car into my semi heated garage.

can we do damage to the car by driving it when this is happening? we only really notice it at high speeds.

we do have winter tires but not on their own rims. perhaps we’ll investigate that next year.

it’s just odd because this never happened to us last year and it’s happened 3x this season (twice in the last 10 days).

If you drove for a very long time like this you could maybe shorten your tire life, but that’s probably pretty unlikely. I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

While a set of winter tires on their own rims is a great idea for anyone who drives in the snow regularly, I was mentioning that since they’re generally heavier steel wheels are usually less susceptible to this than lightweight aluminum wheels, but since you’ve already got steel wheels it probably won’t make a difference with this problem.

I don’t know about where you live, but the last few winters here have been really mild whereas this one’s been pretty cold and snowy, so that might be why it’s happening this year. Or also your local government might be playing with whatever their deicer formula is, which can make the snow more or less sticky.

so if it’s ice it’s just going to melt out (hopefully today, since it’s going to be nice and warm) but what about the mud?

i live in vermont and last winter was actually much snowier than this winter for us. but my husband has been doing some more backroad driving this season, so that’s probably it.

Don’t they have car-washes in Vermont?? You already know the solution…clean it out. Take it to a car wash. What’s the problem???

mikeinnh, thank you for your helpful response. of course we have car washes here. as i mentioned in the initial post, we weren’t successful with our trip to the manual car wash. (and a regular car wash doesn’t get in there to flush it out.) i’m hoping that the helpful information from the other responders on turning our wheels will help is get it out.

more importantly, i’m trying to figure out if this will cause long-term damage to our car if we continute to drive it with stuff frozen inside the wheels and if there’s any way to prevent this from happening. because it’s a huge pain to have to do this everytime we drive down a class 3/4 road in the spring and/or get a snow storm.

You’ve stated you already know the problem. The ONLY solution is to REMOVE THE MUD/ICE. It happened on EVERY car I’ve EVER OWNED…Some more then others. The ONLY way I’ve ever found to remove the mud/ice is with a car wash. The hand held ones work the best (but far fewer then there use to be). The touchless with undercarriage wash works OK, but may need a second trip…especially if it’s real cold out.

You should be able to prevent this from happening (or at least minimize the chance of it happening) by removing the hub caps and leaving them off. This way you will have access to the holes in the steel rims and can even put the end of a hose through them.

The other answer is yes, this can cause premature wear to your tires, shock absorbers or struts, and other suspension components, just like any out-of-balance wheel can. It probably isn’t that big of a deal though.