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Steering wheel shake

First, I’m not much of a mechanic. The steering wheel on my 1995 Toyota Tercel jerks back and forth (like I’m turning the wheel) about a quarter to half inch at a time fairly rapidly, particularly when I first start out and am driving slow in a residential area. Once I get on the highway and up to 50 mph or so, the jerking is minimal or disappears. I took it to a mechanic and he told me it was a tire problem and refused to look any further. I looked at my tires and noticed that the left front tire was worn more on the outside edge than the inside edge, but the wear was even. The right front tire seemed to have even wear. Is this really a tire problem or something else wrong with the steering.

Swap the front tire on one side with the rear. Take the car for a ride. If you feel the shake in the seat rather than the steering wheel you’ve identified your problem. If there’s no change swap the other front tire with the rear. Go for another ride.

Your mechanic wasn’t saying that your tires were worn unevenly. He was saying that one of them is BROKEN. Once you identify which one is causing the problem, a close inspection will probably reveal a bubble or flaw in the tread area.

Yes, it could be a tire problem. A damaged tire, or a tire with cord separation, can make the steering wheel wiggle at low speed. The uneven wear indicates the need for a wheel alignment, and, depending on the mileage on this car (you didn’t say), there may be other mechanical issues.

But a damaged tire is highly likely.

Chuck, I Think That Mechanic Did You A Favor And Saved You Time And Money. If These Are Old Tires, Replace The Front Tires And Try It. You Probably Need Them Anyhow If They’re Irregular.

Uneven wear can be the result of a defective tire(s) with a belt that has shifted. Spinnng the wheel/tire(s) slowly on a wheel balancer and holding an indicator near the tread will show you that the tread is oscillating and rule out bent rim(s).

Put a new pair on if only one is bad. If the rear tires are good you can move them to the front and put the new ones on the rear. If not, buy 4 new tires.


I had the same problem with a 98 Windstar. My mechanic took a look at the front tires and found one of them had a slipped/broken belt. The damage was not obvious to me. The tire was replaced and the problem was fixed.