Persistent front end vibration

I have a 2007 Mazda3s. I bought it new and have about 180,000 miles on it. For years I have been experiencing issues with vibration in the front wheels. I get shaking at expressway speeds that causes the steering wheel to vibrate. I also experience steering wheel vibration when braking. Sometimes it’s worse than others, and sometimes pumping the brakes a little can alleviate it. I have tried all the common things:

1 I have replaced brake pads and rotors multiple times. It usually helps for a little while and then it comes back.

  1. I replaced pads, rotors, and calipers. Again, helped for a little while, but then gradually got worse and worse.

  2. New rims and tires, balanced again and again.

  3. had it inspected for alignment and other issues at several shops.

  4. New front struts and springs.

I’m not sure what else to check. This is incredibly frustrating. Could it be a bent hub? I have hit some pretty bad pot holes over the years. I would think that that would be noticed immediately, regardless of how new the rotors are. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thinking out loud: What else is rotating that hasn’t been looked at? Axles, transmission, engine, hub bearings.

I am puzzled by that fact that changing the rotors helped, but it got worse over time.

Oh, and is it possible it is the road? I’ve known of several instances where the source of the vibration was a particular stretch of road, while the customer blamed the tires.

Perhaps you could tell us if the vibration is speed rated. - or any times it doesn’t vibrate - like at idle.

Thanks for the response. Vibration only occurs at around 60+ mph and when braking from just about any speed. Nothing at idle. So I think I can eliminate engine and transmission issues. I don’t know much about hub bearings, but I could imagine a scenario in which that could cause this. Seems like an easy check, but I would also expect that I would hear significant noise coming from the bad bearing. The most puzzling part is definitely that it seems to help initially after replacing rotors. I’ve tried that at least 3 times now.

There is a stretch of pavement on I-287 in NJ that produces some very unpleasant feelings in the steering wheel. Thankfully, it is a fairly short stretch of roadway, and then everything is back to normal. But, if the OP drives on pavement that has those characteristics for many, many miles, it is entirely possible to misinterpret a pavement problem as a front-end problem.

There are certain stretches of road that produce distinct noises and vibrations. But this is independent of the road. It happens on all roads.

A bad wheel bearing can be silent for a long time. When the bearing goes bad, it will start to howl and grind and the noise be constant at any speed. I wonder if they checked it for play when you did your alignment. They can certainly affect the handling of your car(wheel wobble) when they go bad.

I’m not sure if they checked that . It was years ago. I wonder if it’s as simple as putting the car up on jack stands and pulling on the wheel to check for play.

Another thing I’ve considered is a bad tie rod or sway bar link.

I had a similar issue cause by a bent wheel. The bent wheel created increasing pulsation in the front rotor to the point that I replaced the rotor and the problem went away for a while.

Since you’ve replaced the wheels, I’d agree with @CapriRacer, that there is something in the driveline doing this. Bent hub seems likely, in my humble opinion.

Thanks for your thoughts. That’s (bent hub or spindle) probably not something I can evaluate on my own, huh?

At 180,000 miles pretty much everything in the front suspension is suspect. You replaced the struts, but as you say the tie rods and the sway bar are possible. At least consider replacing the flexible bushings between the sway bar and its clamps. There are also rubber bushings between the lower suspension arms and the pivot points, and if it were me I’d probably replace the lower arms and bushings together if I was going to take the arms free of the car.

The other question is tire wear. Anything unusual to report on the front tires?

I will look into replacing those parts. I get my wheels balanced and rotated regularly at Discount Tire. They have never reported unusual wear.

While you’re doing all this checking, tell the mechanic to look over the rear suspension, too. And don’t do it at a volume tire store. Find a suspension shop.

They may not, unless you specifically ask. You might also try someplace different, I never like places with names like “discount” for service that requires well trained personnel.

I remember a tire place that twice tried to balance my new tires (purchased from them) and failed. They insisted the problem was in the rim. Finally a trip to Pep Boys solved that.

Valid points. I would question the balancing, but I don’t think the vibration during braking could be caused by out of balance wheels, could it?

Could a caliper have a stuck piston, and/or a caliper not centering itself because its bolts/pins need cleaning and lube? That would account for uneven force on rotors, eventually distorting them.

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I have considered that, but I have since replaced the entire caliper and bolt assembly.