Please help! Steering wheel shaking horribly!

I have a 2003 Buick century custom, 45,000 miles. I just got it 3 months ago, so don’t have any maintenance records. Recently, the steering wheel has started to shake/shimmy while driving. It shakes left-right about 1/4-1/2 inch when I let go of it. The car also pulls to the right quite a bit. The steering wheel doesn’t seem to shake at all at stops, only while in motion. My dad and I are going to look under the hood at whatever we can tomorrow, so any ideas on where to start checking for issues would be greatly appreciated!!!
I am have been able to fix things before on my own and my dad has rigged his pickup to run partially on hydrogen from water, so gets 75 mpg city from an old 1990 beater that’s falling apart physically, so we should be able to fix this if we can figure out what it is. So somewhere to start is what I’m looking for now.

Take a close look at the front tires. You might have a tire with a tread separation.

I strongly recommend that you not drive this until you get underneath and find the cause. Yuo could easily have a ball joint coming apart or an A-frame fallling off. I guarantee you that if a wheel tucks up into the wheelwell while driving the damages will be much more expensive than renting a car for a few days. And someone could be killed. I’ve seen a wheel tucked up into a wheelwell, and just the sight of it gives me the willeys.

NOTE: you’ll find your problem under the car rather than under the hood.

As I usually do, I agree with mountainbike’s post.
What the OP describes is a genuine safety issue, and the car is not safe to drive at this point. And, as MB and Willey stated, this is a suspension and/or tire issue, not a mechanical issue that will be found under the hood.

All of that being said, I just hope that this isn’t a troll.
Why do I say that?
Because whenever someone tells us something like, “my dad has rigged his pickup to run partially on hydrogen from water, so gets 75 mpg city”, my BS detector alerts me.

Artsie–Even if your Dad told you that he is getting 75 mpg as a result of running his truck partially on hydrogen from water, trust me–that is not true.
Don’t believe everything that Dad tells you.

At least he didn’t include a link to buy the magic water device.

Good point VDC. I was so spooked by the rolling problem I totally missed the 75mpg comment.

I have to add that if the post is legit, than the poster and his dad probably should not be the ones trying to diagnose and fix this vehicle. A tow truck and a decent shop are in order. The contents of the post overall suggest to me that they don’t have anywhere near the knowledge necessary to make this vehicle safe again.

Lol I’m not a troll. And I guess it could be a “fish” story from my Dad that just gets bigger each time he tells it, but I have seen the stuff he’s got rigged into his engine and it runs. And it may also sound fishy, like a troll, or whatever, but I watched him take his belt off once and use it in place of a belt of some sort in a snowmobile…the sled made it home where we could repair it properly!
I will look into a tow and the local experts! Thank you guys for the help. I guess I should maybe explain that it’s once we figure out what’s wrong that I do the research on how to fix it. By this I have come by much knowledge, but not enough to physically diagnose much. I don’t necessarily know what things are supposed to look like, but I figure out how to fix them with manuals as to avoid labor costs in shops. I can afford time, not so much the cash!

Artsie, the problem is that a bad suspension is nothing to fool around with unless you are an expert mechanic with a bunch of specialty tools. If you crawl under the front end, the most you will be able to do is see something broken, which you can then point out to the repair shop. And if you don’t see anything obviously broken you still need to take it in and get it checked. There are so many things that could be wrong that this is one of those cases where you can’t scope it out in advance unless you are already an expert.

The only thing I would feel safe in recommending you do on your own is swap the front tires to the back and the back tires to the front, then drive it around the block. If it is a tire with an internal tread separation, the vibration will move to the back as well. Anything else needs someone with a lift and more expertise.

You could have it diagnosed, and then research it before okaying the repair, if it makes you feel better.

Thanks! I understand the severity of the situation. When I go to my folks’ the neighbor is a mechanic with his own garage. If it makes any of you feel better, he is ASE certified. He helps with anything that we need help on, and we get to use his garage, tools, etc for free, so that helps me. We will be looking at all of this tomorrow…schedules just don’t mesh today. And to help you feel safer if you’re on my roads…I won’t be out and about today! I’m actually staying home to clean. Was just looking for some thoughts of where to start looking tomorrow.

You either have flat spots in your front tires…or badly unbalanced front wheels/tires. You MUST get the vehicles front end alligned AND have all the tires balanced FIRST. Then see what you get…you issue may be solved right there and then. If it continues after that then you may be looking at ball joints and or tie rod ends. Thats the long and short of it I believe. Try what I said first if you actually want to solve this issue.

If you have a system that gets 75 MPG, you can easily sell it for millions of dollars to the highest bidder. Then you can push the Buick off a cliff and buy any new car on the market. Problem solved.


While lion9car is jesting with you (we all know that your Dad is exaggerating by AT LEAST 50 mpg), this should give you some food for thought. Consider this–if the system that your Dad jury-rigged onto his old pickup truck really worked and really did what he claims, why doesn’t at least one auto manufacturer make this system standard equipment on their new vehicles? After all, the plans for these devices are readily available (for a fee) via the internet. Any manufacturer that adopted this “technology” would dominate the auto and truck business and could essentially put many other manufacturers out of business with this major advantage in fuel economy.

The very obvious answer is that this “hydrogen from water” claim is a farce and does not work. Some folks try to convince themselves that it provides a small boost to their fuel economy, just so that they don’t have to confront the reality that they wasted their money. Then, there is your father who flat-out lies and makes the outrageous claim that he gets 75 mpg in city driving as a result of this scam device.

If your father is very lucky, he might be able to eke out 25 mpg on the highway from his pickup truck. The claim of 75 mpg in the city is…bizarrely laughable…and is simply a lie. Hopefully you will realize that I am correct before you embarrass yourself in public by repeating your Dad’s lies.

Gently now, we’re not the police of dumb internet claims. I wish it were true, just as I wished the bigfoot corpse in the freezer a few years ago was true. But it wasn’t and it isn’t.

Let me help you out here. When your dad arrives, have him watch the front suspension and steering components while you turn the wheel back and forth rapidly about a 1/4 turn in each direction. If your dad trusts you, you should have the engine running while doing this, in Park naturally, with the parking brake on. He will have to lay down on the ground in front of the car while you do this. It might help if you have the hood open or have a very bright flashlight.

If he sees any part where the two halves are not moving together, then that would be the problem. Things to watch particularly are the lower ball joints and tie rod ends. If he doesn’t see anything, then open the hood and check the top of the strut towers for movement while moving the steering wheel back and forth.

If it passes this test, then try a driving test. Have him stand at the side of the street/road while you drive by, once in each direction. He can observe the wheels to see if one of them is the cause of all the movement. You will need to do this in a place that is safe to go the speed necessary to cause the movement of the steering wheel.

If this isolates one wheel, then jack up that corner of the car, use a jackstand, then slowly rotate the tire by hand and observe the edge of the wheel, then observe the edge of the tire to determine if it is the wheel or the tire. If both are true, then look further into the strut mount, lower control arm, tie rod etc. for this wheel.

Hahahaha! Thanks folks! I’ve had a great few laughs! The system he rigged up is very unmarketable without a ton of tweaking!!! He has to have a jug of water with him constantly to refill the bugger whenever he stops in town. I won’t claim to understand how it helps him in any way, all I know is he built it himself so it’s mostly made out of whatever random stuff he could scrounge of the family farm.
So we’ve decided it’s not 75…I know that and I shake my head because I guess I was listening to him say it for so long that my crap detector kinda went out! But I do know without a doubt it is over 25! Whether it’s believable to some of the folks out there or not, it is over 25!

Thanks to all for the help and teasing! I’ve surmised from all of this that I need to 1-buy a bike and forget about cars, 2-jack it up and check out everything underneath! Woohoo tomorrow could get long, but hopefully not too spendy.

Jacking it up was may LAST step, only if the previous steps did not positively reveal the problem. In fact the first two steps must be done with the car on the ground so there is resistance to the steering wheel. Thats what makes the two haves of defective parts move separately.

Make sure you have good jackstands if you do jack it up.