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Old 12-06-2019, 09:21 PM   #1
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Have Steering Wheel Shimmy? - read this

Hey Everyone, just want to share my experience and possibly save some others headaches and cash.

I am the proud owner of a 2004 330 ZHP with 117k kms (70k miles) on it. I had a full safety inspection done 5000 kms ago and it came back perfect (I am fairly anal about my maintenance, and a decent mechanic who regularly checks things over).

As I live in Canada, and it is my daily driver, I need winter tires. Over the summer I run the factory ZHP rims (sorry, I don't remember the style number 63 maybe?) and performance all seasons. This year I decided to upgrade my older 17" winters to much nicer 18" with aggressive studded tires (Nokian Hakkapallita 8's). While I was shopping for used rims and tires I put on the old winters (17" BMW rims and Xice3's that are fairly worn). No issues at all.

I found some nice rims, and a set of hak 8's with 80% tread life. get them mounted and put them on the car. All of the sudden I have a shimmy in the steering wheel from 55 kph to 65 kph. above or below that, no issues. By shimmy I meant the steering wheel is moving right and left (like I am turning it) about 3/4" 5 ish times a second.

Must be a balance issue, this is a common symptom. Have them balanced again. Same problem.

Balance them again and rotate them, see if there is now a vibration in the rear. Nope, same problem.

Look closer and one wheel has a bit of a dent, minor but its there. (note all of this is done at a reputable tire shop, but I found the dent, so it was subtle). Ok that must be it. So I take the rims into a very reputable wheel shop (they have done work for me before, and are recommended by just about every tire shop in the city I live in). I took in all 4 to get checked. Turns out two rims have slight dents, and the other two are slightly out of balance (no surprise, tire shops rarely get it bang on). $400 to fix the rims and balance the other two. Put them back on, same problem.

Keep in mind, in the interim I put the old winters back on and have no problems.

What the hell.... Ok, one of the slightly used tires must be delaminating on the inside. Rare but it happens.

Replace just the front two with brand new Nokian Hakkapallita 9's - $600. Same problem.

Summary.... Old tires no problem. Full mechanical safety inspection at a reputable indy shop, perfect. Rims are now perfect, new tires and still the problem exists.

The rim repair shop doesn't know what to say. The tire shop has now checked over the car 3 times and cant find a fault.

Ok, I decide I am going over the front end with a fine tooth comb as it must be something there.

after a bunch of searching the only thing I found was one of the control arm bushings was slightly worn. Not bad enough that anyone with experience would say hey, replace that, but slightly more play than new. They are cheap and a quick job, so what the hell....

I would have bet you $1000 that this isn't the issue. Well it was. As soon as the new ones are on, the problem is gone. Something about the rolling weight of the tires maybe??? The studded have heavier tread, and the studs, so maybe that was enough. I honestly don't know exactly why it was happening.

Normal signs of a control arm bushing failure are clunking when turning or going over bumps, I had neither. There was no slop in the steering, and it was (and still is) incredibly responsive.

So there is my $1000 lesson.... Have steering wheel shimmy, it's probably a balance issue, but check your control arm bushings.

Hope it saves someone out there some time and cash.
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Old 12-06-2019, 10:13 PM   #2
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My xi had a shake when braking when the bushings needed to be changed. My e36 has a shake and it has poly bushings, hopefully it's just an inner tie rod.
Alternative to expensive xi control arm bushings
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Bad outer xi ball joint?
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Old 12-07-2019, 05:03 AM   #3
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Old 12-07-2019, 07:34 AM   #4
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Different tire and wheel combinations put different stresses on the suspension. You went from 17” alloys to 18” alloys. That alone may have been enough to cause the shimmy.
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Old 12-07-2019, 09:46 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by markusmarkus View Post
Different tire and wheel combinations put different stresses on the suspension. You went from 17” alloys to 18” alloys. That alone may have been enough to cause the shimmy.

For the winters yes, the summers are 18” and they are physically heavier than the new winters, they were also fine. My guess is that the rims on the summers are heavier, but the rubber is lighter. So the rotating mass is different as the weight on the new winters is further out. But that is purely a guess. I still don’t understand why that would show such a pronounced bushing issue, but it did.

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Old 12-07-2019, 10:23 AM   #6
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Thank you for posting you experience. Another item that should be replaced is the steering guibo. If you have any side to side free play in your steering wheel, it is probably your guibo. I always replace the steering guibo and LCAB on any new car I aquire.

This just goes to show the fix may not be where you obviously think it is.
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