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  1. #1
    derf's Avatar
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    97SC2 255k Vibration up through Steering Column at 63mph, worst at 70+

    I am getting a vibration as described in the title of the post.

    Work to date in attempt to address:

    1) Rotated tires to see if was due to particular tire/wheel: Same vibration
    2) Had vehicle aligned -- difference in caster betw L and R Front excessive; drilled out upper
    strut mount holes; car brought into alignment Same vibration
    3) Replaced Pass LCA (bushings worn). Both LCAs now <1 yr old Same vibration
    4) Replaced front sway bar bushings (original). They were causing the caster issue.
    Sway bar much easier to reattach to LCAs. Took for quick highway run.
    Totally out of alignment of course but Same vibration
    5) Car aligned; steering freed up and responsive again, but Same vibration
    6) No roaring sounds on turns as would be expected from bad wheel bearings (original)
    7) No ticking noises on either side as would be expected from CV's going bad (original)
    8 ) Zero play pulling on both front wheels at any grip position
    9) Noticed excessive vibration in cabin -- replaced upper TAM w OEM Vibration dampened to 10% of original Same vibration/10
    10) To see if the vibration was actually emanating from transmission (output shaft wobble?), "decoupled"
    load from engine by putting vehicle (5spd) in neutral at 70 mph Same vibration/10
    11) This morning, driving 75+ mph, I did notice a distinct increase in the intensity of the vibrations
    on long sweeping turns to the right.
    Straight and left at that speed were the "Same vibration/10" level

    Just because I decoupled the engine from driving the tranny does NOT rule out things that are spinning but not being driven.
    So anything in rotation is still in play.

    Suggestions? Tire/wheel breakdown to check for bent rims? Tires out of round? I would think the alignment and tire shop would have said something.
    Rotors? (they are not warped and have never been cut)

    Thanks.

    All suggestions welcome
    Last edited by derf; 01-12-2017 at 12:32 AM.

  2. #2
    silver01sw2's Avatar
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    In my experience, a bent wheel will usually reveal itself a a very low speed, and increase in frequency as speed increases. But don't rule it out. You shouldn't need to break the tires down to identify a bent wheel either. Usually watching them spin on a balancer will show anything bent. Out of round tires would be what I would suspect, being out of alignment for any length of time can play hell with them. Do any of the tread blocks look as though one edge is higher than the other? If you lightly run your hand over the tread surface, does it fell relatively smooth, or does it seem to want to snag and catch your hand on the surface?

  3. #3
    Get off my lawn.
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    Flip front wheels/tires left to right and see if that changes the vibration on the sweeping right turns. This should verify if there was a bent wheel, tire with a bad belt, etc. Unlikely given #1, but worth a shot.

    Are these the original wheel bearings? Original hubs?

    OE wheels or aftermarket?

  4. #4
    derf's Avatar
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    Thanks folks.

    Original Wheels
    Original Hubs
    Original Wheel Bearings
    Tires <10K mi on them (all 4 identical, new, installed at same time)


    Tread surface on tires is smooth on all tires, and the wear seems even across the tread in general (no gross misalignment evident).

    As to the tread blocks question -- if I count the tread that meets the sidewall the 1st row, I noticed that the 2nd row tread block is lower towards the center of the tire/higher towards the outside.
    This is true for the 2nd block in on the inside of each tire as well -- likely because I regularly rotate my tires. The height difference is not massive but is noticeable if you're looking for it as I was.

    From brief refreshment of tire war patterns----Issue with former negative camber/misalignment. If the outer edge was lower than the inner edge and the wear was onto the outer tread row, I would guess toe, but just doesn't look as such. But I am no tire wear expert -- hence another reason for me to be here.

    The difference is slight, and you have to feel for it to find it.

    If the vibrations are due to this uneveness in the tire surface, that would explain why doing a full rotation had no effect -- the tires are all worn in essentially the same way and essentially the same amount due to regular rotation.

    I suppose the stronger vibe on sweeping right highway curves might be due to a difference between the left n right front in terms of relative inner to outer camber wear.
    Then again, could it be to a very slight defect in the bearings? I don't think Saturn's expected duty cycle during design was 250K mi.......

    Need to get to the weekend to do the wheel swap.
    --------------------
    IF all of my reasoning --based on your input --- with middle of the night mental wandering added in --
    Is the solution to just drive it (keeping it in alignment) and let nature take its course?

  5. #5
    silver01sw2's Avatar
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    The tread blocks being higher on one side than the other, is usually not because of wear, but because one of the belts in the tire has shifted or broken.

  6. #6
    derf's Avatar
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    It's not the entire tread block being higher than the rest of the tire, it is physically worn in an uneven manner on the single tread blocks.
    Also, what are the chances of all four tires having identical and symmetrical belt issues?

  7. #7
    derf's Avatar
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    Ok, drove about 350 mi a few days ago, all highway. What I experienced w r t the vibration was totally not what I expected....

    Drove it on cruise control to take HUMAN throttle variation out of the equation and of course to maintain a steady speed.

    Sweeping right turns--vibration always increases relative to straight ahead at same speed---Expected
    Sweeping left turns -- vibrations increased ever so slightly relative to straight ahead at same speed---Not expected. I think my previous conclusion was premature as I had not really had it out on the open road long enough to judge.
    Driving straight at various speeds---here's where it gets messy...

    OFF of cruise control, I found that the main resonance speed seemed to be drifting around.
    What I mean by that is that I could drive 73 mph give or take for 3 min straight and the vibration would be pretty much constant, I would then drive at 76 mph, 67 mph, etc and the vibration would worsen in both cases---consistent with original findings (63-70, worse 70+).
    However, when I then went back to 73 mph and drove for three minutes, the vibration was significantly less than it ha been 5 minutes earlier, and it SEEMED as though the main resonance had shifted to higher speeds. I spent 45 minutes convincing myself it was not just my hands getting accustomed to the vibration, making them "less sensitive".

    I know at least one flaw in the above was not doing the varying MPH test w cruise control.

    Also, the entire issue of varying load on the engine -- slow low grade hills vs flats vs downhill, was not under my control, so if any of this is due to applied engine load, I can't easily filter it out.

    Mechanically/physics-wise, if the mass isn't changing and the rotational velocity is the same, and all the other variables are the same, a system that develops a resonance will in general NOT change the frequency at which it resonates. Actually, there is usually a tiny difference for loaded vs unloaded but not relevant here.

    The question is: What else in the "all other variables stay the same" is NOT staying the same?
    1) Temperature---surface of tires, wheel bearings, other bearings (carrier?)
    2) Engine load -- if the resonance is affected by engine load, then that will be difficult to tease out of this unless I can find a few straight flat runs long enough for me to determine if the resonance shifts under "constant" load.
    ----------
    I don't really have an issue with the fact that the majority of all this is due to tire wear -- but can improper tire wear really cause this much of a vibration, and could the surface temp of the tires actually change enough to change the frequency of the main resonance by a few mph (=/-3,4 mph)?
    The increased vibrations on the sweeping turns make me think wheel bearings, but they show no other classic failure symptoms so I just don't think so.
    Could it just be the change in lateral force when turning is causing a slight but in this case important change in what tread is physically in contact with the road?

    I'll be hittin the road again in a few days and will repeat testing with a few more controls

    Any thoughts (besides the fact that I analyze the crap out of everything -- sometimes to a fault....)?
    Last edited by derf; 01-17-2017 at 03:39 AM.

  8. #8
    trottida's Avatar
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    What about your steering rack - could it be loose? Also, what is the condition of your engine cradle? Could it be rusted through and not as solid as it should be?
    Current
    1999 SL2 MT (236K km, 10-2016 to present)
    2001 SL1 MT (400K km, 10-2008 to present)

    Past
    1993 SW2 AT (03-2000 to 04-2010)
    2001 LW200 MT (06-2001 to 01-2005)
    1992 SL2 MT (06-1992 to 09-1997)

  9. #9
    derf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trottida View Post
    What about your steering rack - could it be loose? Also, what is the condition of your engine cradle? Could it be rusted through and not as solid as it should be?
    Well, there's 2 things I would not have thought of.
    This is why I joined this forum!

    Rusty cradle syndrome a definite possibility after 17 years in NJ winters...only 1 in Wisconsin


    Are there any other obvious diagnostic signs of the steering rack being loose? Meaning would it show itself in some way with the car running but not moving, like some kind of noise or "give/slop" when locked all the way on one direction or the other?

    Thank you for the suggestions. It'll take me a few days to get to it, but I will be back.

  10. #10
    trottida's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by derf View Post
    Well, there's 2 things I would not have thought of.
    This is why I joined this forum!

    Rusty cradle syndrome a definite possibility after 17 years in NJ winters...only 1 in Wisconsin


    Are there any other obvious diagnostic signs of the steering rack being loose? Meaning would it show itself in some way with the car running but not moving, like some kind of noise or "give/slop" when locked all the way on one direction or the other?

    Thank you for the suggestions. It'll take me a few days to get to it, but I will be back.
    The steering rack is bolted to the cradle so my though was rust through at the attachment points.
    Current
    1999 SL2 MT (236K km, 10-2016 to present)
    2001 SL1 MT (400K km, 10-2008 to present)

    Past
    1993 SW2 AT (03-2000 to 04-2010)
    2001 LW200 MT (06-2001 to 01-2005)
    1992 SL2 MT (06-1992 to 09-1997)

  11. #11
    derf's Avatar
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    Thank you for the additional info. I've never had the need (thankfully) to mess with the rack, so I am unfamiliar w mounting, etc.

  12. #12
    silver01sw2's Avatar
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    Another relatively inexpensive check, especially if you are beginning to suspect wheel bearings, get a mechanics stethoscope, and put the car in the air in drive andlisten to the knuckles where the bearings are. If the bearing is going out, it should be audible through the scope.

  13. #13
    Approved Vendor ZombieSatty's Avatar
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    Also, a ballance trueness check on the tires/ wheels. I know they are new, but it couldn't hurt.
    It's not my fault, blame the radiation.

  14. #14
    derf's Avatar
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    Well,

    Drove the 350 mi to get home on Thurs.

    Almost-a-Conclusion: The peak of the resonance kept dancing around. Driving at slightly faster speeds (75 plus) seemed to often yield no vibration, yet at other times it did.

    I finally realized that there actually seem to be 2 distinct resonances,separated by 5-7 mph, and both of them are shifting around a bit.
    80 mph was rough to handle on the drive out. How was it on the drive back?

    For that matter, how fast can I go and have the vehicle still operate safely enough to drive.

    Towards the end of the return trip, I pushed the car past 80 mph. Strong vibrations.
    I hit 90 mph --------the roar of the bearing(s?) was thunderous and actually seemed to exert a drag on the car.

    So my tentative assessment is that both front wheel bearings are beginning to go bad. Each failing bearing/assy seems to have its own peak vibration speed which is not unreasonable given that they are not all truly "identical". I'm backing into the "change in heat, road incline/decline, etc" reasoning as to why the peak vibration speeds move around a little.

    It might be worth mentioning that the suspension got the crap kicked out of it in MI. I thought PA roads were the worst. It got to the point in MI near Detroit that after a while you realized trying to avoid cracked patches of patches was futile as there was too much traffic to play "dodge-a-ditch". My reason for mentioning is that if there was something loose -- which I will still investigate -- it probably should have drastically changed position and contributed to a bigger shift in the resonance.

    I haven't looked in the how to library yet -- any general words of wisdom?
    OEM/aftermarket?
    Should I change out the original CV's while it is apart?

    Appreciate all input on my semi-conclusion and as to whether I should do the CV's while in there......they are the originals just like the wheel bearings.
    I have access to a press to do the bearings and someone who knows how to use it properly for bearing work. Any recommendations on bearing/CV brand preference?

    Thanks folks.
    Last edited by derf; 01-20-2017 at 02:47 AM.

  15. #15
    silver01sw2's Avatar
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    Tiemkin bearings. As far as the cv's go, if they're not leaking or making noise, I'd leave them alone. You could start a whole other thread on the pros and cons of replacement axles. I've experienced several brand new axles that cause vibrations. It would seem as though the manufacturers have gotten away from remans, and the newer china casting seem to cause a lot of problems. Now, it's been long enough that some of the remans (if you can find them) have been reman'd from the shit china castings. Long story short,if it were myself I would try to stay oem on the cv's. I had a boot split last summer, and grabbed a good replacement from the pick and pull versus the few hundo from a dealer.

  16. #16
    trottida's Avatar
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    For hub/bearing assemblies I'd go with Timken or SKF. The last Timken's I purchased actually had SKF bearings in the assembly. I haven't had much luck with Moog but others swear by them too.

    I'd stick with OEM axle assemblies from a low mileage donor if you're going to change them. If the inner and outer CV joints aren't making noise when in full lock steering both right and left I'd keep what you have.
    Current
    1999 SL2 MT (236K km, 10-2016 to present)
    2001 SL1 MT (400K km, 10-2008 to present)

    Past
    1993 SW2 AT (03-2000 to 04-2010)
    2001 LW200 MT (06-2001 to 01-2005)
    1992 SL2 MT (06-1992 to 09-1997)

  17. #17
    derf's Avatar
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    Timken it is then.

    Actually, I have heard a loud metallic "pop" when locked full right (THINK it was right) and starting to move the car. Only ONCE. About 2 weeks ago. I dismissed it as nothing significant after I went to a parking lot and tried to recreate it but could not. I definitely remember the sound came from the passenger side, in front of the firewall and down low with me in the driver's seat.

    i'll have to say I am a bit surprised that the new CVs from China are THAT bad that the recommendation is to pull ones from a donor before spending on a "new" part.
    In no way questioning it. I guess it is akin to the Doorman shifter cables that are crap vs low mileage shifter cables from a donor.

    I'll get the Timkens on order and see if I get any more full lock popping sounds and will address on an as needed basis.

    Thanks again for the guidance.

    Hopefully the wheel bearings will be the end of this vibrational odyssey. I will certainly post back after I have done the bearings.

  18. #18
    trottida's Avatar
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    I pulled this information from another site and it is specifically for the S Series.....

    To test for a worn CV joint do the following. Roll down both windows and turn off radio. Find a large vacant parking lot away from as much noise as possible. You will be making a tight run to both the left and right so verify adequate room and no traffic. Turn sharply to the right and slowly accelerate maintaining the original turn radius while listening for a repetitive clicking from one side or the other. Turn to both the left and right and make circles at about 5 to 7 mph. You wan the speed to be fast enough that the car body rolls over a bit. You will have no trouble finding the bad side. Slow tight circle with body roll. The outer joint makes more of a pop sound and the inner makes more of a crunch/pop
    Current
    1999 SL2 MT (236K km, 10-2016 to present)
    2001 SL1 MT (400K km, 10-2008 to present)

    Past
    1993 SW2 AT (03-2000 to 04-2010)
    2001 LW200 MT (06-2001 to 01-2005)
    1992 SL2 MT (06-1992 to 09-1997)

  19. #19
    derf's Avatar
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    I thought I had replied to your post, but it isn't here...so...thank you.
    I had not taken the time to look up the details. Had no idea you needed to be moving that quickly (relatively speaking) to properly diagnose.
    Nor did I know the difference in sounds made by the inner and outer joints.

    Thanks.

    Now to go and check that out properly.

    Having never done one, should I need to:
    1) Do you do both sides of the car at the same time or is one side at a time acceptable?
    2) If it is an inner, should I replace the outer at the same time so that the "wear" is the same on the two joints? Same for outer....

    My concern is that if they have lasted this long with sealed boots, and ine is going bad, does it make sense financially to do a complete overhaul on CVs on both sides since that means one alignment vs 4? I'd already need one after the wheel bearings.....

    Thanks

  20. #20
    trottida's Avatar
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    I'd only replace the side that has the issue and would likely replace the entire axle assembly with a low mileage used OEM assembly.

    They say the passenger side is easier to replace than the drivers side but I didn't find either of them too difficult to remove and re-install when I did my engine/trans swap recently. I did both without affecting my alignment by only disconnecting the lower control arm from the spindle and pulling the spindle outwards while rotating to remove the axle from the spindle. Once removed from the spindle then the axles can be bumped out of the intermediate shaft (passenger side) or transmission (drivers side). Don't pull on them or you'll separate the inner and/or CV joint which is probably not a big deal if replacing anyways.

    If you are replacing the hub bearing assembly at the same time you can disconnect the tie rod from the spindle, remove the top strut bolts (3 bolts at the top of the strut tower in the engine bay) and keep the strut and spindle attached so you can do your off car press work. This keeps you alignment in tact as the geometry isn't changed. As soon as you disconnect the strut from the spindle then you loose your alignment.
    Last edited by trottida; 01-23-2017 at 11:21 AM.
    Current
    1999 SL2 MT (236K km, 10-2016 to present)
    2001 SL1 MT (400K km, 10-2008 to present)

    Past
    1993 SW2 AT (03-2000 to 04-2010)
    2001 LW200 MT (06-2001 to 01-2005)
    1992 SL2 MT (06-1992 to 09-1997)

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