Shuddering at speed

I have a 2005 Toyota Corolla XRS with a manual transmission which has developed a shudder. When this shudder started, it only occurred when accelerating at highway speeds, or maintaining highway speeds. Now it happens at lower speeds if I give it gas without downshifting, but at reasonable RPM, 3000-5000. I cannot feel the shudder in the steering wheel, but the whole car shakes, and it definitely feels like it is coming from the front end. I have had the tires balanced and rotated. I also have replaced the IACV and MAF due to a CEL. These were replaced after the shudder started. For a few days after the replacement, the CEL returned, but now I am no longer getting it.
There are no visibly obvious issues with the suspension or the drive shafts or CV joints, and the motor mounts likewise look okay. I am not getting a CEL of any kind, and I replaced my plugs 6 months ago, but I pulled them anyway, and they are not fouled.
I don’t think the issue is in my suspension, steering, or wheels because I cannot feel it in the steering wheel. I don’t think my half shafts are warped because the shudder happens at varying speeds, and the instant I let off of the gas, it stops. Though this doesn’t rule them out completely, there is no clicking from the CV joints. When I brake, the car slows smoothly, so the rotors are fine. I have run injector cleaner a couple of times, and octane boost once. These both seemed to help the issue, but did not make it stop, and it has gotten worse lately. My wife did put low-octane gas in the car once, but it was weeks ago.

"I don’t think my half shafts are warped because the shudder happens at varying speeds, and the instant I let off of the gas, it stops. "

Actually, that does sound like a bad half shaft: shudder under load, then no shudder when load is removed. And as you said, lack of clicking is irrelevant. Also, you would not necessarily feel it in the steering. And you will feel a bad half shaft at a range of speeds, not just one particular speed.

So my money is on a bad axle.

I was thinking more that it wasn’t a bad half shaft because it occurs at 65 mph under load, and at 30 mph under load, but if I rev high, like 6000 rpm or higher (don’t worry-red line on this engine is 8300), the shudder is either non-existent or very mild. I would think a warped half shaft would only show up at speed, since the RPM matches your wheels.

I would have someone pull the codes regardless of the CEL being off right now. You might end up with pending codes. The fuel pressure should be checked.

But your description also does fit something like a bad inner CV joint. Bad inner joints often behave this way, and don’t make any noise. It’s the outers that click and such. With the car on ramps you might try to yank them some to look for play, but unfortunately the only way to “diagnose” for sure is often just to replace them.

Bad engine / transmission mounts are also not so easy to diagnose, especially just on a static visual inspection. If you’re careful you might have someone start the car and hold the brakes while revving in gear. Everything should stay fairly still under the hood. Obviously this requires caution - especially not having you or anything else of value in front of or behind the car.

Can a bad axle vibrate at both 30 mph and 65 mph? Sure it can. It’s vibrating under load at all speeds, but it’s just less noticeable at the lower speeds because the axle is turning slower and the frequency and magnitude of the vibration is lower.

As for the RPM, try 6000 RPM in 5th gear, and I’ll bet you’ll feel the vibration. :wink:
Not so much in first gear because the axle speed is much lower. But it’s still there.

Bad axle. Now you have to figure out which one. I have seen some people say they solved this problem by swapping the positions of both front axles. This reverses the load path through the CV joints and puts the loads on the previously unworn surfaces of the joints.

But a new axle is not that expensive, maybe $100.


I agree with the others . . . sounds like a bad CV inner joint

If you’re getting an axleshaft, I highly recommend that you avoid brand new Chinese axles

I’ve had nothing but trouble with these, but I’ve had good luck with remanned axleshafts

In fact, I’ve had good luck with those little shops that actually rebuild your axleshaft.

Sounds to me like the clutch has seen better days.

Update - Today when I was driving the car it was not shuddering at all at low speeds. Even when I gave it a lot of gas at 30 in 4th, a test that usually makes it shake badly. The fact that the symptom can come and go makes me question the bad axle suggestion, since a bad axle is not going to get better. I had already contacted my local parts store, and my new CV shaft assembly will be here tomorrow, but now I am not as sure as I was. Also, my CEL came back while the car was running smoothly, and now in addition to the Idle Air Control system fault, it has a code p0441 - evap emmission system incorrect purge. As noted earlier I have recently replaced the IACV and MAF. Does this new information change anyone’s opinion?

Not mine. It didn’t sound to me like a bad axle to begin with.

The outer CV joints generally begin to show their wear in turns, because they’re like a ball joint with ball bearings between the inner ball and the outer socket traveling in slots in the inner ball and outer socket. When t hey wear, they make noise typically when the joint is articulated because the balls are being forced back and forth in their slots, whereas they’re not when going straight. They’re simply “orbiting” the axle’s “ball” when going straight.

The inner joints also tend to show their wear during turns but for a different reason. The axles themselves have three “spokes”, each with a ball bearing, that fit into three “slots” of the inner portions coming directly out of the tranny. When you turn, the arrangement allows the spokes to slide in and out of the slots, enabling the axle to change lengths to enable the steering knuckle to move freely through its dynamics without axial stresses. The inner joint experiences little articulation, but regularly has to allow this length change in the axle. However, what can happen is that the bearings can wear “channels” in the surfaces of the “slots” they ride in, and when you turn and the bearings get pulled out of their wear “channels” as the axle changes length, they can make clunking noises.

Shudders when going straight are not typical CV joint symptoms, noises when turning are.

However, clutch assemblies ARE load sensitive. The clutch plate is actually compressed between the pressure plate and the surface of the flywheel when the clutch is engaged. The flywheel and pressure plate clamp the clutch plate between them. If the pressure plate assembly is having trouble keeping the clutch plate clamped between it and the flywheel, the clutch can shudder under load. This typically rears its head under load in highest gear, and gradually begins showing up under load in the lower gears as the wear progresses. It typically slips, but shuddering is not unheard of. It sounded to me like that might be what was happening in your case.

That was a great CV joint discussion, mountainbike. And that does all sound right. But I have had more than one bad inner joint which behaved exactly as described. One of these was within the past several months. It’s about torque application and that’s why it comes and goes with acceleration, and when you have a bad one there is no mistaking the thing coming and going with acceleration.

Boilermaker, there is no reason that CV joint symptoms can’t come and go. They can certainly reach the point where they’re always there and getting worse, but there are the earlier stages of failure where things are getting bad. You listed CV shaft as singular. How did you decide on which one?

However, as I implied above you might still be looking at a driveability issue. So it’s time to break out with the info. How many miles are on this car? What can you say about the state of general maintenance beyond oil changes. Spark plugs, for example? Filters? The fuel pressure should be checked as I noted above. Find you invoices from past work and report the actual codes that the car threw. There isn’t a code, for example, that can tell you to replace the IACV and MAF. Do you happen to have an oiled aftermarket air filter?

I decided on the passenger side because the shudder seems to come from that side, and I figured if that didn’t fix it I’d do the driver’s side next. The car has 130000 miles on it. I use synthetic motor oil and change it every 10000 miles. I replaced the spark plugs 9 months ago, and I didn’t use the cheapies. I seafoamed it right before changing the plugs. I also replaced the gear oil with Redline about that same time. I looked into fuel filter, but you can’t even get one for this car, it’s part of the fuel pump assembly. Yes, I have an aftermarket oiled air filter, which I pulled off last week and blew out really well with compressed air, but did not re-oil it. The clutch does not slip at all

Thanks for the compliment Cig. It’ll be interesting to see what the final result turns out to be. Even the best descriptions are subject to the reader’s interpretations, and there are so often more than one possible causes for a description. It probably will turn out to be a CV joint in the end, but at least now the OP has another perspective to keep in mind.

Makes me wish I could take it for a drive.

Aftermarket oiled filters have been known to cause continual MAF contamination. You said things seemed better for a while after the MAF replacement. I would now clean the new one and see what happens. MAF cleaner is available at all of the auto parts stores (though I think it’s just basic electronics cleaner with a different label and an extra $1 or $2 tacked on).

I didn’t see an aftermarket induction system in the OP’s posts. Did I miss something?

I had asked about the air filter (because of the MAF thing), and in the OP’s last post s/he said there is an aftermarket oiled filter that was blown out but not re-oiled.

Got it. I agree with your comments on oiled filters. They are well known to cause problems with MAF sensors.

It’s probably best $$-wise to get to the bottom of the IAC and the evap purge problem before assuming this is caused by something else. If you fix the IAC and evap problem and this problem remains … hmmm … well, when you step on the gas it stresses the all components of the engine and drive train performance, so any problem with the fuel, air intake, exhaust, ignition, or clutch/transmission/driveshafts that normally isn’t evident will show up then. It’s hard to say where to start. If it were my car and all the routine engine maintenance were already up to date, and the drive train passed a basic visual inspection, and the fuel pressure regulator passed a visual, I’d probably start by hooking up a fuel pressure gauge so I could see it through the windshield and see if anything unusual is happening to the fuel pressure when this symptom occurs. For safety, this type of fuel test is best left to pros or very experienced DIY’ers with the appropriate experience and the correct tools and safety equipment for working with fuel system measurements.

Actually, after the MAF replacement the CEL went away for a while, but the shudder was still there just as strong, but I will clean the MAF, and switch out the SRI for the stock air box. I have had thhe SRI on for about a year, though, and this shudder started at highway speeds 2 months ago.

It can take time for the oil fumes to build up on the surface of the MAF sensor. Your most recent post suggests even more strongly that the oiled filter is the root cause of your problem.

The ideal thing for you to do right now would be to try to get your hands on a scantool that does live data. I actually have one that’s just an add-on cord for a laptop. It’s USB to OBDII. I paid $100 for the one I have, and they can be had cheaper, so it’s not outrageous to get basic functionality.

You can find out in about 5 minutes whether this is a driveability issue or a drive train issue.