Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Vibration after new tires

2003 Toyota RAV4, approx 130K.

I’m desperate for some help. A month ago I put a new set of Goodyear tires on my RAV. I drive on the highway 35-40 miles each way to and from work every day. Immediately after the new tires go on, I notice a vibration from the steering wheel at highway speed, above 60 mph. I took the car back to the tire shop (an independent tire shop, not a chain) and asked them to rebalance the tires. They did, and I took the car home. Drive to work the next day, vibration is worse. Next day, my dad and I switch cars so he can take it in. The tire shop says the front end alignment is off, and adjusts it (for $70). Small improvement, but vibration is still there.

I took it in for the 3rd time this weekend, and they swap the front and back tires at my request, thinking this might help isolate the problem. The shop also checks my struts and says they are ok. (I don’t even know what struts are, but apparently they are ok.) Now the vibration has moved out of the steering wheel and is coming from the rear and the floor. It does not happen when I apply the brakes or am on city streets.

What do you all think? Bad tire or tires? Something else going on altogether? What should I ask them to do?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Could be a bad tire, or could be a bad balancing job - a lot of tire techs are terrible at figuring out how to balance a wheel properly.

Also, some vehicle/tire combos just don’t do well without road force balancing (which would also reveal a bad tire, if you have one).

If the tires are balanced, then one of them is bad. They proved it when they switched the tires front to back and the problem moved to the back. They need to replace one of the rear tires with a new one, see if it fixes the problem. If not, put that tire back on and replace the other one. Bad tires happen.

Has this shop tried road-force balancing (which is a fancier type of balancing that requires special equipment that they might or might not have)? If so, then a replacement tire is the next step here. If not, then that’s worth a try, but I think it should be at their expense.

So I should find a place with road force balancing, and get that done? And that will reveal a bad tire if there is one?

I would make it their problem. If they want to find a shop that does road force balancing, fine, otherwise they have to replace the tire causing the problem.

They could claim the shop you used caused some kind of problem. Don’t give them an ‘out’.

If RFB doesn’t eliminate the problem, then you undoubtedly have a defective tire (or two).
Defective tires should be replaced at no cost to you, under the terms of the tire manufacturer’s warranty.

If the indy tire shop does not agree to cover the cost of the RFB in addition to replacing the defective tire(s), I suggest that you never patronize that shop again.

One of the tires/wheels on the rear is the problem, that’s why the vibration moved from the steering wheel to the seat of your pants. Move one tire back to front on one side of the car at a time and that should isolate the one tire that is the culprit.

The tire could be defective. The balance of the tire could be so far off the shop should dismount the tire and try again. There should be a heavy mark on the wheel and a heavy mark on the tire. A good installer will find these marks and put the heavy mark on the tire opposite to the heavy mark on the wheel.

Finally the wheel could be bent, or if the wheel is an aftermarket wheel it might be missing the “centering ring”.

Sometimes it can take a while to identify and correct the problem with a “vibration”.

I had a similar problem with our 2003 Toyota 4Runner after I had new tires installed. The vibration would start about 50 mph but after 60 mph it wasn’t as bad. The tire shop “indexed” the tire by turning it 90 degrees on the rim and rebalancing the tire. This solved the problem. Years ago, I had a the same problem with my 1954 Buick. I finally traced the problem to a tire that was out of round. In this case, I replaced the tire.
Your tire shop needs to determine the tire which is causing the problem. You have it down to two.

From my own experience, another thing to look for: a slightly bent rim (“slightly”, because nobody has noticed it yet); and then you have you wonder who bent it, if the vibration really only started with the new tires.

Lots of good info here.

One caveat I’d like to add is that if they tell you it’s a bent rim, make them show you. A bent rim will be obvious spinning the tire by hand on the balancing machine, but I’ve had a shop try to use that statement to cover up what was actually a bad tire. If they cannot show you that the rim is bent, it isn’t.

Try this, either have someone standing on the side of the road as you drive by at the speed that it vibrates the worse, in both directions, or have someone follow you, preferably a vehicle with a driver and a spotter, on a multi lane highway, when it is not in heavy use, and watch each of the tires. Sometimes the vibration is visible. That will isolate the wheel if it works.

Then jack up the tire and rotate it by hand. Watch the edge of the rim where it touches the tire and look for it to wander back and forth. If the rim wanders, it is bent. Now watch the tire treads, if they wander excessively, then its the tire. All tires will wander a little bit, but a quarter inch would be my limit. Watch also for the tire to be out of round, that is the tread rises and falls as the tire rotates. I’d expect this to be less than 1/8".

I agree. You either have a bad tire or two, a bad balancing job, or a bent rim. Make it their problem though not yours. Tell them you need a couple new tires in the back if they can’t fix it or show you how the rim is bent.