Why Your Car Wobbles at Low Speeds

Car Wobbles at Low Speeds

Does your car wobble at 15 to 20 mph and stop when you increase speed? Car wobbling is not natural, especially in newer cars. Therefore, it is a sign of a problem. Driving in a wobbling car is uncomfortable, embarrassing, and the beginning of bigger problems down the road. Whether your car is brand new or 60 years old, wobbling at low speeds is not as uncommon as you may think. Read on to find out why your car is wobbling at a low speed and what you can do to fix it.

What Causes a Car to Wobble at Low Speeds?

The automobile functions by an effective combination of several moving parts. When there is a problem with one of the systems, the vehicle shows symptoms. Obviously, wobbling is not a normal behavior for a vehicle. Vehicles with front wheel drive have their own reasons for these types of problems. The axle rotates the wheels on your car and also helps to support the weight of the car.

You can have problems with the front axle, rear, or stub. There are a few things that would cause a car to wobble at low speeds as well as high. Most problems are associated with the wheels themselves and any systems associated with them. Suspension system problems also top the list as the cause of irregular car movements. Cars that wobble with a shimmying steering wheel have suspension system problems.

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Old age – Newer cars tend to have a tighter suspension and low-profile tires. The size of the rims has gotten larger. Old cars wobble, vibrate, stutter and lots of other things because the design is antiquated. Wear and tear also contribute to the problems associated with old cars. It may be the tires that have gotten old. It is quite common to have trouble with the wheel and hub bearings due to time, wear and tear, installation or other problems. The tire and hub areas must be kept clean and the wheels must be rotated from time to time.

When a wheel is left on a car for a long time and especially if the owner has not driven the car for a long time, the metal parts will become corroded, frozen, or rusted due to the environment. If you have not had your tires rotated periodically, debris, rust or corrosion is setting in. When the wheels have too much negative camber, they will wear at a faster rate. The tires will wear on the inside or outside in uneven patterns. The top edge of the wheel tilts in toward the center of the vehicle when the suspension attempts to compensate for induced roll which happens because the tire’s contact area with the road has been reduced. It could be one tire that has the problem, or all of them need to be changed out.

Bad tire(s) – Uneven wear and tear on tires can cause wobbling at any speed. It could be that the tires do not have the same amount of air. Further, unbalanced or misaligned tires are problematic. The problem may only be in the front end, or in the back end. If the steering wheel is shaking, that means the tire problem is in the front. Sometimes the vehicle wobbles when a new set of tires are added on.

Bad control arm -The control arm (view on Amazon) is also often referred to as the ball joint or the control arm bushing and is typically manufactured in an L or A shape. Some vehicles may have two control arms on each wheel with a suspension spring mounted in between. The control arm enables wheel movements by connection to the steering knuckles with ball joints. The control arm connects the wheel assembly and the frame while carrying the vehicle weight. Originally, the control arm bushing was manufactured with rubber materials and were designed to keep the control arm in alignment. Modern designs include the ball joint and bushing. When the control arm assembly is working properly, the vehicle rides smoothly with clean turns and no noise. When the assembly is not working properly, the steering and suspension no longer provide a smooth ride.

Bent wheel – If the car wobbles at 30 mph or faster, the cause is likely a bent wheel or tire out of round. The transmission and drive line can also be a part of the problem if the car is wobbling at about 30 or 40 mph. It can also be that the tire needs to be better matched to the wheel. Bent wheels can cause a tire to blow out and can also cause car accidents.

Loose lug nuts – Lug nuts hold the wheels on to the rims. The lug nuts are torqued down on the

wheel hub to keep the tire intact. When the lug nuts are not tight, it can cause shaking or things

that are even more disastrous. The tire may wobble a bit at first which feels like the entire car is

shaking. If the lug nuts on your wheels are tight, make sure they are the correct size.

Highly different caster angles – Caster is the angle of the steering pivot when you turn the steering wheel on a pivot which is attached to the suspension system. Like the camber, the caster angle is also measured in degrees; however, it is observed from the side of the vehicle. The caster is positive when the top of the tire is leaning toward the back of the vehicle. The caster is negative when the top of the tire is leaning toward the front of the vehicle. When the caster is off, the straight line tracking becomes problematic. Unlike the camber angle, the caster is not adjustable and has almost no effect on the tire wear.

Damaged driveshaft – The driveshaft (view on Amazon) transmits torque and rotation and

serves as a connector for other components of the drivetrain. If the driveshaft is damaged in

any way, it can cause shaking during low speeds and may even begin to worsen during acceleration along with other problems.

You Treat Your Car Like Shit – If you fail to look after components in your car, it can lead to several components failing which can cause your car to wobble. Maintaining your vehicle is a crucial process that needs to be done by every car owner and it prevents you from experiencing a lot of problems. Failure to look after just one component can cause a knock on effect and this can be felt in other areas of the car.

If you want to avoid acceleration problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.

A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.

What to Do When Your Car Wobbles at Low Speeds

The vehicle is designed to provide a smooth ride with safe turns. When this is no longer happening, some parts are being worn or damaged while you drive. A car wobbling at any speed that goes unchecked will eventually cause other problems. Although the kids think it’s fun, you don’t want to be embarrassed as you drive down the street. If the car is wobbling at slow speeds, it’s kind of hard for the tires not to be involved in some way. If you have the car wobbling problem, follow these steps:

Have a wheel alignment – A wheel alignment can smooth out your ride by making sure all your tires are properly aligned. Wheel alignments are also recommended to slow down the wear and tear of the tires and to make sure the car drives straight on a level surface. Wheel alignments can also help to put the steering and the wheels back in sync. Regardless of what the problem is with the steering system and the suspension, it is never a bad idea to have the wheels aligned.

Have the tires balanced – Have the tires balanced with dynamic, static, or road force balancing. Dynamic balancing will balance the tires from side-to-side and up and down. The static balancing will balance only from up to down. Road force balancing, also known as ride matching, is a common method of diagnosis for things like wobbling, runout and vibration. The car garage has new technology that is used to calibrate, balance, and smooth out your ride.

Change the tire(s)– If the alignment did not work, you may need a new set of tires. It may be that the tires are worn on the inside where you cannot see the aging. If possible, replace all the tires at the same time. Then have them balanced. If there are problems with the suspension, you may see it while the tires are removed. Make sure the replacement tires are the right fit for your car.

Replace the control arm bushing – This process is a bit advanced; however, those with mechanical knowledge and the proper tools should be able to do it. Before you get started, do a visual inspection of the vehicle. Look for bushings that are worn. Take a hold of the components in the suspension and try to jiggle them around. If you hear rattling noises, the bushings need to be replaced. To replace the rubber bushings, follow these steps:

  1. Gather the materials. You will need protective goggles, gloves, a socket and extension, car jack, a large wrench, hammer, and hydraulic press.
  2. Put on your safety gear, which should include the gloves and goggle.
  3. Jack the car up and remove the tire.
  4. Find the ball joint. The ball joint is probably connected to the control arm. Release the cotter pin and loosen the ball joint nut with the wrench.
  5. Strike on the spindle with a hammer to release the taper fit.
  6. Use the wrench to loosen and completely release the sway bar.
  7. Use the wrench to loosen the control mounting bolts. Remove them.
  8. Pull on the lower control arm to loosen it and remove it.
  9. Place a mark on the spot of the orientation of the rubber bushing.
  10. Use a hydraulic press or a threaded press to remove the bushing..
  11. Strike on the old bushing to remove it. Push out any excess rubber in the socket.
  12. Install the new bushing in the control arm.
  13. Secure the bushing with the hydraulic press.
  14. Reinstall the control arm by sliding it back into the mounts.
  15. Replace the bolts and tighten the ball joint.
  16. Reinstall the sway bar link and the nut. Tighten the mounting bolt.
  17. Replace the nut with the socket and extension.
  18. Replace the cotter pin in the holes aligned by the ball joint.
  19. Replace the tire
  20. Check to see if the car is still wobbling as you drive.

Go to the repair shop – Car wobbling may not seem like a serious problem because you can still drive the car. However, it is a problem that can become dangerous. Some states may even give you a citation because you are operating a vehicle that is not safe. If balancing or changing the tires or replacing the control arm bushing did not work, it’s time to go to the car repair shop. For one, continuing to drive will only make the problem worse. Second, it is not safe to drive a car that wobbles. So, get some help under the hood and drive safe.

Job Guthiri is a freelance writer with 3 years of experience writing for Motorsrun and other established automobile outlets. His focus and key interests are Tacomas and maintenance. Read our Editorial Guidlines and Fact Checking process.