Shaking car after hitting road debris

  • 105,000 MILES
Yesterday on the way home I hit a 4x4 board on the interstate. It was laying across the entire lane on the opposite side of an overpass, so once I saw it I only had a moment to react. I swerved, but still hit it with the passenger side of my car. Immediately my car started shaking and running rough. I've only driven it a little since then, but it is definitely shaking. It pulls a little, but we've looked at the tires extensively and they seem fine. I'm trying to do some research before going to a mechanic, but there seems to be so much conflicting information. Could it be as simple as an alignment? The entire car is shaking and I can feel it in the steering wheel. It shakes at all speeds, including when idling but the shake is not as noticeable in idle. Any input is appreciated. Thanks.
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Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 AT 11:59 AM

1 Reply

Shaking when idling and the car isn't moving obviously has nothing to do with wheels and tires. That is an engine misfire issue. A spark plug wire could be knocked off or a wire could be torn off.

Pulling to one side when the car IS moving can be an alignment problem or a tire problem. Unless the damage is very bad, you aren't going to see that by just looking at parts. A wheel and tire can appear fine but if the alignment has shifted and the wheel is tipped in or out on top, the car is going to pull that way. That misalignment can move the top of the tire by as little as 1/8". You aren't going to see that without an alignment computer.

A tire can develop a broken belt. That you will usually feel as a shimmy in the steering wheel, and it can cause a pull. Your mechanic will start by inspecting the steering and suspension components to see if any are bent. Next, he will do an alignment check to see if an adjustment has just shifted and can be reset. If there is still a pull, he will switch the two front tires side-to-side to see if the pull goes the other way. If it does, one of those tires is the cause of the pull. He will suspect the one on the left now and switch that one with the left rear tire. If the pull is gone, the left rear tire, (the one that hit the board), will need to be replaced, or in some cases can be left on the rear until it wears out. Customarily the other front tire will also be moved to the rear to keep the same two tires on the same axle. Keep in mind there could be internal damage to the tread or sidewall that could lead to a tire failure and blowout, so your mechanic may suggest replacing it.

A wheel could be bent too. That will cause a shimmy in the steering wheel. When that wheel is moved to the rear you'll feel it as a wobble in the car seat.
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Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 AT 12:28 PM

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