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Feels like I'm in a boat


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25 replies to this topic

#1 DiscoStu

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 09:14 AM

I have this strange sensation when driving my 99 Legacy OBW (150K miles). It kind of feels like it's out of alignment, but I've had it checked at Bell Tire and they said the alignment is fine when they rotated the tires (the tires are less than a year old and I had them align it when I bought them). I've had it into the Subaru dealership and they said the suspension is fine and everything is tight. When I drive over grooved pavement (they do that in Michigan sometimes), the car tends to follow the grooves but the steering wheel doesn't move. It feels like I'm driving in high wind all the time but the wind keeps changing direction. I can't feel any kind of rythm to it. It's worse when driving at higher speeds (over 60). It's better when the engine in cold. I've never had the struts replaced, but I figured Subaru would have told me if they were bad during their inspection. Could it be something with the steering system? Wouldn't they have checked that, too? I had an old Pontaic long ago that got bad tie rod ends and it feels similar to that. But, shouldn't Subaru have caught that, too? What else could it be?

#2 Manarius

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 10:02 AM

At 150k miles, you need new struts. I don't know if it's going to be that simple, but I know that's one thing that has to be contributing to your feeling of "boat."

#3 nipper

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 10:29 AM

Sounds like struts to me too. Bounce hard on the corners of the car, how many times does the car bounce (do this once the suspension has waremd up).

nipper

#4 DiscoStu

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 02:09 PM

What should I expect to pay for a set of struts installed? Where should I get that work done? Are there some shops I should avoid (Midas, Tuffy and the like?) I've also seen mention on this board that control arm bushings may be partly to blame. What's your take on that?

#5 nipper

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 02:39 PM

the mileage wouldnt be unusual for bushings to go bad. Get under the car and physically inspect the bushings. It will be fairly obvious (if you can see them) if they are dried out and cracked.

a local shop is just as good as anyone for this. If its bushings, then you will be wise to get an alignment too.

I would avoid midas (hate muffler shops) but have some respect for goodyear and firestone stores when it comes to suspension work.

nipper

#6 DiscoStu

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 03:13 PM

Where, um, exactly would I find those bushings. I'm not at a total loss underneath a car, but a point in the right direction would be appreciated.
It's at the front of the car, right?

#7 mwatt

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:03 PM

I have this strange sensation when driving my 99 Legacy OBW (150K miles). It kind of feels like it's out of alignment, but I've had it checked at Bell Tire and they said the alignment is fine when they rotated the tires (the tires are less than a year old and I had them align it when I bought them). I've had it into the Subaru dealership and they said the suspension is fine and everything is tight. When I drive over grooved pavement (they do that in Michigan sometimes), the car tends to follow the grooves but the steering wheel doesn't move. It feels like I'm driving in high wind all the time but the wind keeps changing direction. I can't feel any kind of rythm to it. It's worse when driving at higher speeds (over 60). It's better when the engine in cold. I've never had the struts replaced, but I figured Subaru would have told me if they were bad during their inspection. Could it be something with the steering system? Wouldn't they have checked that, too? I had an old Pontaic long ago that got bad tie rod ends and it feels similar to that. But, shouldn't Subaru have caught that, too? What else could it be?


If the car were constantly bounding up and down while driving, I'd concur that struts were the problem. But my '99 Legacy GT is doing the same thing as your car. Any road imperfections (grooves, ruts, pavement joints) cause the vehicle to "dart around"--only for a second or two. It's not "bouncing"--the car darts to the left and to the right. There's no play in the steering rack, because the car responds to the slightest input from the steering wheel. I'm thinking the front hub bearings are worn, causing the steering to follow the road imperfections. But my neighbor, who is a shop foreman at a Subaru dealer, tells me "no, you either need an alignment or you've got a tire problem"

#8 DiscoStu

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 04:51 PM

Those were my first thoughts as well. However, my tires are only 6 months old. Kelly Navigator Gold P205/70R15 from Bell Tire. I took it to Bell Tire this past weekend and had them rotate the tires and check the alignment. They said the alignment is fine. I would imagine if there was a problem with the tires, they would have found it then. Would a spin balance find a problem with the tires?

#9 Ranger83

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 06:33 PM

Isthis the only time you have a problem? Some tires "track" on grooves worse than others.

#10 ericem

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 06:51 PM

Maybe your sway bar broke?

#11 jamal

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 07:09 PM

I have a similar problem and I'm about 80% sure it's a tie rod (on the side I ran into a curb awhile back). It only happens when I'm turning right or accelerating moderately hard. Otherwise it's the steering rack itself or bad bushings. I'm going to start out with the tie rods since I have some extra ones and they're the easiest things to replace.

#12 DiscoStu

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Posted 24 January 2007 - 07:43 PM

Isthis the only time you have a problem? Some tires "track" on grooves worse than others.


No. I have the problem always. The grooves just make it a little worse.

#13 DiscoStu

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 11:16 PM

Is there anything in the rear end of the car that could cause this?
Is it possible that one of the back wheels is loose and could be steering the car in this way?

#14 nipper

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 12:14 AM

Is there anything in the rear end of the car that could cause this?
Is it possible that one of the back wheels is loose and could be steering the car in this way?


bushings or the sway bar mounts or the sway bar

#15 Steves72

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 12:41 AM

Is there anything in the rear end of the car that could cause this?
Is it possible that one of the back wheels is loose and could be steering the car in this way?


I am going to assume that your problem is steering related and not with the struts. Here is what you need to do.

1) Check the tire pressure and verify that the pressure is set to the tire manufacturer's specifications. I will guess that this is not the issue but check it anyway.

2) Go to an empty flat parking lot and verify that the car tracks straight when you release the steering wheel. If it does not you may have an alignment issue.

3) Check for slop in the steering system. Drive along slowly and turn the wheel to the left or right. How far did you have to turn the wheel before the car actually turned? Did it feel sloppy? Once the car started turning how far did you have to reverse the direction of the wheel to straighten the car back out? If there is wear in the steering system and it takes you three degrees to get the car to turn it will take twice that - six degrees to get it corrected. It's far easier to feel the slop when you are correcting the steering. Also, you may wish to try this test by slowly oscillating the wheel from left to right. If it feels vague it probably is and needs service.

4) A few people have mentioned bushings. They are simply hard rubber insolators used to soften and quiet the road noise that would otherwise be transmitted to the driver through the steering wheel and to the passengers making the ride very uncomfortably. Because they do absorbe this energy and are exposed to the elements they eventually break down. Crawl under the front end of the car and check for these hard rubber parts on the end of anything related to the steering mechanism and other front end components. If any seem degraded, cracked, damaged, or have chunks out of them they may need to be replaced. If you are still uncertain about checking for these bushings go back to the garage where you purchased the tires and ask them to inspect the bushings. If the bushings are severly deteriorated the car's steering could be very erratic when you hit a pothole.

Steve

#16 frag

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 01:16 PM

About check no 3 in Steves 72 preceding post. Another way of doing it is lowering the driver's window, getting outside and moving the steering slightly from left to right while watching the left wheel. If you can move the steering even just a little without the front wheels turning then you have slop in the steering mechanism.
One often overlooked place to check, and as easy as a turn of the ratchet to fix, is the two (inline) universal joints between the steering shaft and the steering rack. They sometime come loose and need only retightening.
Beware: the second one (which is the one that was loose on my car) is partly hidden by the first one and often overlooked because of this.
Good luck!

#17 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 02:08 AM

you didn't by chance put bias-ply tires on did you?


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#18 DiscoStu

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 08:52 AM

you didn't by chance put bias-ply tires on did you?


Carl


Nope. Kelly Navigator Gold P205/70R15. If I understand correctly, the R is for Radial. I checked tire pressure. It was about 33 all around. I backed them all off to 28. Still have the same problems. The steering wheel moves the tires at the slightest movement. So I don't think I have a rack or U-joint problem in the steering works. It tracks pretty straight when on newly paved road or parking lot. Dont think it's alignment. I'm taking it to a shop next week to have them look at tie rods, bushings, sway bars, control arms, and struts.
Anything else I should have them take a peek at?

#19 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 02:04 PM

dunno if it was mentioned, double check lugnut torque. You wouldn't be the first person to find their lugnuts were loose on one or more wheels. Though I'd expect there would be some weird noises associated with that.




Carl

#20 zyewdall

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 08:00 PM

If it's only on grooved pavement, it's not your car, IMO. They grove alot of the concrete highways around here, and it makes it feel like you are driving in a turbulent wind, pulling from one side the other. Every vehical I own does the same thing. Perhaps some tires are worse than others, and you could alleviate it by choosing a different tire. First time it happened to me, I thought I had a loose wheel or something (on my old subaru, that wouldn't be out of the question), but it was fine on any non-grooved highway. If it happens on smooth roads, then it's probably the car though.

I have this strange sensation when driving my 99 Legacy OBW (150K miles). It kind of feels like it's out of alignment, but I've had it checked at Bell Tire and they said the alignment is fine when they rotated the tires (the tires are less than a year old and I had them align it when I bought them). I've had it into the Subaru dealership and they said the suspension is fine and everything is tight. When I drive over grooved pavement (they do that in Michigan sometimes), the car tends to follow the grooves but the steering wheel doesn't move. It feels like I'm driving in high wind all the time but the wind keeps changing direction. I can't feel any kind of rythm to it. It's worse when driving at higher speeds (over 60). It's better when the engine in cold. I've never had the struts replaced, but I figured Subaru would have told me if they were bad during their inspection. Could it be something with the steering system? Wouldn't they have checked that, too? I had an old Pontaic long ago that got bad tie rod ends and it feels similar to that. But, shouldn't Subaru have caught that, too? What else could it be?



#21 DiscoStu

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 08:39 PM

If it's only on grooved pavement, it's not your car, IMO. They grove alot of the concrete highways around here, and it makes it feel like you are driving in a turbulent wind, pulling from one side the other. Every vehical I own does the same thing. Perhaps some tires are worse than others, and you could alleviate it by choosing a different tire. First time it happened to me, I thought I had a loose wheel or something (on my old subaru, that wouldn't be out of the question), but it was fine on any non-grooved highway. If it happens on smooth roads, then it's probably the car though.

It's something that hasn't always been there. It's not there in my Toyota.
It wasn't there when the tires were brand new. If I find out anything interesting, I will post it here.

#22 1 Lucky Texan

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Posted 29 January 2007 - 09:36 AM

http://www.tirerack....e.jsp?techid=47

#23 nickb21

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Posted 29 January 2007 - 10:46 AM

I'm interested in the outcome of this thread... I have a similar issue with my '02 OBW (only 78k though).

Really noticed it this past weekend driving through the monster grooves on I-295 near Trenton.

Any chance this could be ball-joint related?

#24 DiscoStu

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 08:24 PM

Took it to a local shop. They could find nothing on visual inspection. After they test drove it, they thought it pulled to the right. So I let them put it on their rack and test the alignment. They said the alignment was fine. The rotated the tires and test drove it again. Now they said it pulled to the left.
They then put it on the lift while running and put it in gear and watched the tires. They said 3 of the 4 tires were out-of-round and should be replaced.

I took it back to Belle Tire and told them about this. They said what I expected "That's impossible for 3 tires on a car to be defective." But they were willing to check it out. They took all 4 tires off and checked for imperfections. They came back and said the tires are all true round and not defective, but all 4 were "severely" out of balance. They balanced them and told me to drive it for a few days and to come back if I was still having problems.

I could tell the difference immediately out of the lot. It drives straight and the steering is back to normal. I never would have imagined that tire balance would have caused this. There was never any vibration, noise or shimmy in the streering wheel.

My lesson learned: Do the easy stuff first. Don't assume anyone will check it if you don't specifically tell them to.

#25 nipper

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 10:08 PM

My lesson learned: Do the easy stuff first. Don't assume anyone will check it if you don't specifically tell them to.


repeat after me ..

KISS

K(eep)
I(t)
S(imple)
S(tupid)

its a good thing to learn

(didnt mean to call you stupid but thats how the acronym works)

:drunk:


nipper




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