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Old 02-03-2010, 10:06 PM   #1
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Can towing cause a shimmy in the front end?

I have noticed that my Saturn toad has a shimmy (steering wheel rocks back and forth about 1/2 inch) in the front end starting at 20MPH and up. I haven't towed it for several months and I am just now seeing the problem. I can only assume that the shimmy is the result of 4 down towing. I guess I really don't want to hear about an expensive repair as the car is over 10 years old and I really don't want to spend a lot of money to fix it.

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Old 02-04-2010, 07:47 AM   #2
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Lots of things can cause a shimmy, and on a 10 year old vehicle steering & front end wear is near the top of the list. Or perhaps you hit a pothole or curb somewhere and knocked it out of alignment. Start with afront end alignment ($50-$60) and see if that fixes it.

I would not leap to any conclusions about towing causing the problem, especailly if its been several months.

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Old 02-04-2010, 08:38 AM   #3
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Front end shimmy.


Get the front end of your towed checked out first before you jump to any conclusions. It will be a lot more reasonable to make some repairs on your car, than replacing it and setting the new one up for towing.

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Old 02-05-2010, 07:20 AM   #4
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4 down towing does not usually hurt a vehicle anymore than driving it will. Sometimes we forget we add mileage, wear and tear to our toads, even if the odometer fais to show it. Have the front end check it could be as simple as wheel out of balance. My guess because of the age and if it had not been done -- ball joints.
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Old 02-05-2010, 09:29 PM   #5
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I might even suspect bad tie rod ends!

Jack the front wheels up and rock both tires from side to side. If your steering wheel is moving as much as it is, look for abnormal wear on your tires too. Check the receiver where the tow bar attaches. I've seen a lot of play there that might contribute to what your experiencing. A little loose here and a little loose there all adds up.
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Old 02-06-2010, 06:28 AM   #6
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It sounds to me like you have a belt coming loose in a tire.
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Old 02-06-2010, 11:34 AM   #7
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A front/rear tire rotation would seem the simplest and cheapest diagnostic step. If you have cupping or uneven wear on the front tires, this could cause the shimmy.

From my days in electronics, always do the simple things first.
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Old 02-22-2010, 10:53 PM   #8
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Check out the part you put in the hitch. If it is loose that might make your front end move a little. Go to hardware store and get a piece of 8X8" shim metal. Mold it around the piece that goes into hitch. Up and down is alright, left to right you don't want. Hope this helps.
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Old 02-23-2010, 10:11 AM   #9
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VIsit a good alignment shop.. Shimmy can be caused by failing tie rod ends, failing struts or ball joints, and other components in the front suspension.. I have had most of that happen in over 40 years of driving, A good alignment shop will inspect the front suspension and tell you what's wrong.

Also check the tires.. out of balance or out of round tires can cause that too.

Finally, you ask if towing can cause it.. Well, (whisper mode) yes (normal mode) it can. Actually there are two ways.. The first is "normal wear" any time the car is traveling down the road there is wear on the tires, and other suspension parts.. This is normal and alas there is no way around it.. EVEN if you fully trailered the car some of this wear would still happen.

The other way is if the car is mis-aligned (Wait, I already told you to visit the shop that fixes that) then it can fight the tow and that's never a good thing.. I should add that a car mis-aligned in this manner.. Much harder to drive, also the suspension goes bad faster.. EVEN IF IT IS NEVER TOWED.
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Old 02-23-2010, 04:12 PM   #10
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I agree with wa8yxm, a good shop can tell you exactly what's going on. However, if you're the sort that enjoys bumps and bruises while saving money, I'm going to go with speed racer on this one...possible tire belt problem.

With your steering wheel starting it's movement at 20 mph, I doubt improper balancing would have this effect. It does sound like the start of a bad belt in one of the front tires. As suggested, I'd move one tire at a time, front to rear to see if there's any improvement. I'd also look carefully to see if you may have picked up some mud that has dried on the inside of a wheel causing severe imbalance.

As others have said, different steering components with excessive wear can allow lateral movement in the steering wheel. Most often there usually has to be some lateral or vertical outside force to allow excessive movement in worn steering components to show up in steering wheel movement. A tire with a bad or shifting belt will do just that, and with no more than a half inch of movement, in my mind, that would not indicate excessive wear in those components. IMHO, a bad steering damper, worn tie rod ends, idler arm/pitman arm would allow more movement and at a faster rate. I would go with the tire rotation...and as bruceh said, it's the easiest troubleshooting step.

In the years I did front end and alignment work, I've never run across an 'alignment' problem that caused a wheel shimmy. It's always been some excessively worn front end component(s) that, along with an outside force introduced, that allowed the steering wheel to do it's little dance of hell!

If your tires have some miles on them, I'd do the tire rotation thing first. I've also seen more than a few 'bad' new tires with defective belts, so if your tires are relatively new I'd still do the rotation. This 'one at a time' front to back rotation will let you isolate which tire is possibly causing your problem and may be a candidate for an 'adjustment' from the manufacturer. Good luck with the fix...be interested in the outcome. Thanks, Bob
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Old 02-23-2010, 04:32 PM   #11
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Oh, and by the way, I forgot to add 'center link' in my little list of components...not that it is THAT important to start another post as it is a CHEAP way to get passed my thirteenth post! I'm not in the least superstitious mind you, but who needs to 'fly in the face' of fickled fate? Bob
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Old 02-23-2010, 07:33 PM   #12
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FWIW I had a Suzuki Sidekick that the front tires "cupped" from being towed. (Tire man said it was from towing??) This caused a slight shimmy in the steering. I had them trued (machine trims the tread to make the tire round again) and the problem went away for several thousand miles... A good tire shop can check. Or rotate as 'bruceh' suggested....
Hope this helps...
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Old 03-30-2010, 10:42 PM   #13
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Finally got around to checking out the shimmy issue. Had the tires rotated when I got an oil change. The front tires are now on the rear of the car and the shimmy is gone. There is still a lot of tread left on the tires. Goodyear tires. I had to replace a rear tire due to cupping in the tread. I think I will go with another brand next time.
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Old 03-31-2010, 05:58 AM   #14
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BigRedLancer, how often do you rotate and balance your tire? I have not had good luck with Goodyears (especially the Eagle series)as for cupping unless you rotate ever 5000 miles. Seems certain vehicels are more prone to the cupping issues as well.

As a result of tire history, I do not put Goodyear or Firestones and anything I own.


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