car trouble deja vu
November 28, 2006 10:25 AM Subscribe
My car has developed pulsing brakes and a low-speed wobble, for the second time in under 2 years. Help me get it fixed right this time, please?
posted by vytae to travel & transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My car wobbles from side to side slightly at low speeds. The wobble frequency varies with the speed of the car, becoming a mostly non-noticeable vibration above ~20 mph. Also, the brakes apply in a jerky/pulsing manner that again varies with the speed of the car and isn't noticeable until I'm going quite slowly. It feels to riders as though I'm pumping the brake pedal, even though I'm applying constant pressure. It feels to me like the brakes don't catch as well during some parts of the wheel's rotation.
My question partially involves these symptoms, but mostly involves the fact that this has happened before. These same two problems occurred together about a year and a half ago. It all began a few months after I had 4 new tires put on the car. (Bear with me - I know very little about cars, so I'm about to pull terms from memory that I didn't fully understand when I heard them.)
I was told at the repair shop that my brake rotors were bent and needed to be re-machined (to fix the jerky brakes), and also that one of my tires was probably out of round (to explain the wobble). The mechanic fixed the brake issue, but said the tire guys would have to deal with the tire issue. However, he did rotate the tires so that the wobble would be in the back of the car instead of the front until I could make it to the tire store - this made driving the car somewhat easier/less nauseating. He also said to tell the tire guys to be sure to use a torque wrench next time they did the tires. He seemed to be implying that the lack of a torque wrench might have caused the bent brake rotors.
A few days later I went to the tire store and told them about the wobbly tire and that the mechanic thought it seemed to be "out of round". The tire guys took a look, did some stuff, and told me that one of the tires just needed balancing. I didn't mention anything about the torque wrench, because I'm kind of shy and didn't feel qualified to be telling the tire guys how to do their jobs.
So, approximately a year and a half later the problem is back. This time I want to know what I'm talking about when I go to get it fixed, so maybe it will STAY fixed. I'm done being shy. Here are my questions:
1) Does the original diagnosis sound correct - bent brake rotors and a bad tire? I mostly assume the mechanic was right, because the problems went away (for 18 months, anyway) after he fixed the brakes and the other guys messed with the tires.
2) Should the tire people replace my tire(s), or is re-balancing it/them ok? As I understand it, re-balancing just shaves rubber off of part of the tire, which won't solve the problem if the tire is truly "out of round". How do I know whether the tire really has an irreparable flaw? Should I demand a replacement? This is at a national discount chain, and at this point I don't really trust them to thoroughly handle the matter unless I ask the right questions and really push.
3) Could the tire guys' installation techniques, or the bad tire, have caused my brake problems? If so, should the tire store have to pay for fixing my brakes, especially if they should have replaced the tire the first time this happened instead of just rebalancing it? Should I mention the torque wrench thing this time?
4) Could there be something else wrong with my car that is causing both of these problems to come up again? I've been blaming the tire and possibly the tire people for not fixing it right the first time, but if something else could be making this happen then it'd be good to know.
Other details that may or may not matter:
The car is a '96 Civic with only 60,000 miles on it, automatic transmission. I bought it from my grandparents just over 3 years ago. It was in a major accident that required significant rebuilding at some point well before I purchased it, but my grandparents didn't experience any problems with it after the rebuilding.