1995 Geo Prizm Tire Wobbling

Tiny
JJBLICHM
  • MEMBER
  • 1995 GEO PRIZM
  • 4 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 77,000 MILES
A friend was driving behind me and noticed my rear, driver side tire was wobbling. I checked all the lug nuts and they were very tight. I don't actually feel or notice the tire wobbling while I'm driving. I was driving around 40 mph when he noticed this, and I'm not sure how speed affects it.
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 5:37 PM

7 Replies

Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Hi jjblichm. Welcome to the forum. The fastest way to check this is to jack up that side of the car and spin the wheel by hand. First look at the edge of the wheel where the weights are pounded on. If that edge spins true, suspect a broken belt in the tire. You will see the tread that contacts the road wiggle sideways as it rotates, or it will have a bulge in it. Either of those should be real easy to feel in the seat as it shakes the rear of the car back and forth.

If the edge of the wheel does not spin true, suspect a bent wheel. They bend pretty easily on little cars. You can also switch the two rear wheels side to side and check them both again. If the same wheel wobbles, it is bent. If the driver's rear wheel is still wobbling, the mounting hub could be bent, but it is also possible some debris or rust is stuck between the wheel and its mounting surface. That only happens when a wheel is removed for other service. Debris can get overlooked after it falls down and gets trapped between parts.

Caradiodoc
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 8:26 PM
Tiny
JJBLICHM
  • MEMBER
Thanks caradiodoc. I did spin the tire earlier, and it seemed like both sides were not spinning true. The tire sort of wobbles side to side. Unfortunately, my lug nuts are on really tight and are pretty rusted, so I can't get the tire off myself. I'm hoping to get a new, bigger wrench and try that.

For now, do you think it's okay to drive? I understand you haven't seen it and you'd be guessing, but I just want your opinion. I don't actually feel any side-to-side movement in the back of my car unless I'm driving on a grate on a bridge.

Thanks for your help.
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 8:45 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I actually am driving with a broken belt on my old rusty trusty '88 Grand Caravan right now. I can feel it in the steering wheel just enough to be noticeable. It's been doing this for about six months. The problem is the squirming causes stresses on the tire's carcass which can lead to ply separation and a leak or blowout. I don't recommend driving on tires like that for six months, but that's what I'm doing.

Did you happen to see if it was just the tires doing the wobbling or where the wheels doing it too. If the wheels are bent, you can drive like that until the tires wear out.

Caradiodoc
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 9:10 PM
Tiny
JJBLICHM
  • MEMBER
I don't know how long I've had this issue because I never noticed it before my friend driving behind me saw it. I think your idea about debris might be right because I did recently do service to it (replacing brake fluid line) and I did it in my driveway. It's very possible something got in there or some rust broke off, but I won't know until I'm able to get it off. I just got new tires in August 2009, so I don't think its the belt like you mentioned, but I'm no expert.

I couldn't tell if it was just the tires or the wheels too. But you're saying if its just the tires, it's "worse" than if it's the wheels that are bent?

Thanks again.
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Thursday, June 17th, 2010 AT 9:22 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Another trick to check for bent wheels is to manufacture some type of stand that can be placed solidly on the ground next to the edge of the wheel. A block of wood with a nail stcking out works nicely. Also a stick laying on top of a cement block. Anything that can be placed next to the wheel and won't move will work as a measuring tool. If the wheel is bent, you'll find it easier to see the difference in the gap between it and the pointer.

To put things in perspective, Dodge had a service bulletin about 12 years ago that had to do with aftermarket wheels that were part of a package they were offering. Some of them were not manufactured perfectly true and could cause a vibration. Each wheel had to be measured in four places as it was spun on a wheel balancer if the customer had a complaint of that vibration. We were looking for any wheel that had runout, (sideways wobble) of.045" or more. That is roughly the thickness of 15 sheets of paper but it was enough to notice on a big heavy truck.

Caradiodoc
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Friday, June 18th, 2010 AT 4:00 AM
Tiny
JJBLICHM
  • MEMBER
Caradiodoc,

Today I finally got the tire off, after a tremendous amount of negotiating with a hammer. Seems to me that it's the wheel that is slightly bent. We took off the tire and spun it and could see the wobbling. Then we put the spare on and spun that, and the wobbling was hardly noticeable. Does it seem like it must be the wheel (rim) then? If so, you think it's ok to drive for awhile until I can get a new wheel and wrap it with my tire?
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Saturday, June 19th, 2010 AT 1:53 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Absolutely ok to drive that way. It will put a little extra sideways stress on the wheel bearings, but no more than constantly turning a corner.

You might consider checking for some used wheels at a salvage yard rather than buying new ones. Ask if you can see them being spun on a wheel balancer. Any wobble will be easier to see without the tire installed, but even with the tire, you don't want to see a lot of wobble, either sideways or up and down.

Happy to hear that's all it was. Some older-style tire machines were strong enough to bend small car wheels if the tool got hooked on the wheel instead of the tire bead. Most shops have a newer type of tire changer now that won't bend wheels.

Caradiodoc
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Sunday, June 20th, 2010 AT 12:44 AM

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