Friday, July 4, 2014

Your Car 101 (Series) - Why is my steering wheel shaking?

Steering Wheel
Steering Wheel Shaking?  A few tips to hone in on the issue. 
There are several reasons why your steering wheel might be shaking.  I hope these help you with your process of elimination.

1) Check your tie rod ends.

These are the components at the ends of your steering rack.  There is an inner and an outer.  They are what's attached to your wheel components and have greased areas.  If these are not properly greased and if the grease boot has busted or worn out, it can be the cause of our shake.  Using a jack, lift up the a suspected corner.  Inspect the black rubber section of the outer tie rod end (see image).

2) Worn wheel bearings.

These will typically make a noise if completely worn out.  Best way to check is jack the corner of the car you suspect the issue to be on.  Grab the wheel/tire.  Rock the wheel side to side to see if there is any slack.  Then rock the wheel top and bottom for the same.  If you find slack in all 4 directions without steering wheel movement, it is most likely you need to replace your wheel bearing.

3) Re-balance your tires.

Tires after some while, can sometimes throw off a weight.  Hammer on weights tend to damange the wheels' surface, but are more likely to stay on the wheel than stick on weights.  The best way to tell if your tire needs to be re-balanced is if the shaking in the steering wheel starts at a speed and approximately 10-15 mph later, it disappears.  For example, you begin to feel a shake at 55mph.  And as you pick up speed, then at 65 or 70, the shaking disappears.  That would require a re-balance of the tires.

4) Replace Your Tires

Run your hand gently across the tread of the tires.  Sometimes the tread starts to warp and no longer becomes a smooth surface.  The tread becomes "choppy" or develops knots.  This is sometimes due to manufacturers defect, but also with the overinflation of tires.  Be sure to check your tire pressure regularly for not only optimum tire life, but optimum gas mileage.

There are a few other culprits that can cause steering wheel shake.  I will add them on this blog as they come to mind.  But for now, these are very common sources of a wheel shake.

- Bryan Lin | CEO, The Motorsports Authority, Inc. |

Monday, February 10, 2014

How To Drive on Ice, Snow, or in Rain: 4 things to know

How To Drive on Ice, Snow, or in Rain: 4 things to know
Photo Courtesy of Lee Shevchik

It's that season.  Rain.  Sleet.  Snow.  Nature's finest precipitation.  Milk, bread, and eggs disappear just as quickly as they hit the shelves.  (Never understood why French Toast was so popular during these times.)  What is it about the weather that scares people so much?  Well...simple laws of physics and chemistry that can't be denied.  Friction and molecular bonding to be more specific.  I lost you didn't I?  Let's back it up.  The friction between the rubber tires and the pavement causes the car to move forward.  Water molecules have a tendency to almost bond to one another which is one of it's cool properties because that allows it to transform into either gas, solid, or liquid.

Back to cars, rain is scary for some because of the possibility of hydroplaning.  Hydroplaning is like skipping a rock.  At a certain speed, the tires of the car basically float on the surface, losing "friction" or what we call "traction" in the car world.  Well, when we apply the brakes, the car takes advantage of friction again between the tires and the pavement to slow the car down.  If the car is on the surface of water,...there's not as much friction between water and rubber as there is between pavement and rubber.  The loss of friction is no different when it comes to ice.  Sleet is like driving on a gravel surface, but can easily turn to ice if the conditions are right, so the ice rule applies with sleet as a precaution.  The same with snow.

So if you find yourself in rain, ice, sleet, or snow, here's 4 things to remember to make it manageable.

Keep calm.
Now, I know that's easier said than done.  You're behind the wheel of the car that's headed straight for the telephone pole.  You've found a patch of black ice, and your car is now spinning like a top down the interstate.  The best thing to do is to stay as calm as possible.  Sudden movements can make the situation worse, so make sure you're thinking clearly.  A sudden jerk of the steering wheel could change your direction from heading into a ditch to flipping end over end.

Slow down.
Rain: If the rock you're trying to skip is moving slower, it will sink faster.  Same concept with your tires. Slowing down prevents the tires from "floating" and keeps them on the pavement.  It's probably good to note here that bald tires "float" better.  It's like finding that perfect skipping rock.

Sleet / Snow / Ice: Walking on ice is entirely possible if careful.  You wouldn't try to run on ice. least without knowing there's a really good chance of losing balance and falling.  (You do have rubber on the bottom of your tennis shoes.)  The nice thing about ice is you will continue to move in the direction you are headed should you hit a patch, so keeping on the road isn't a problem.  (This is actually Newton's first law of motion.)  It's when heading towards a turn, a red light, or stopped traffic that becomes tricky.  Give yourself plenty of room and slow down a lot earlier.

Know Your Surroundings.
Rain / Sleet / Snow / Ice: If you get caught in an unfortunate situation, know where you are compared to your surroundings.  Are you driving in a hilly area, is there a ledge, etc...  You can then try to steer the vehicle towards a safe area.

Rain / Sleet / Snow / Ice: Tap the brakes.  Holding the brake down does nothing for you when you're already sliding.  (Unless you have ABS - Anti-lock Braking System.  If you're unsure if you have it, read on.) Tapping the brakes gives a "friction, no friction, friction, no friction" and even though the friction is slight, it'll help slow you down with each tap.  How quickly depends on a lot of factors: condition of the tires, if the ice is smooth or lumpy, etc...  (Newton's third law of motion.)  It's a habit to just floor the brake because that works in dry conditions.

The best rule of thumb is to not travel in conditions you aren't comfortable with.  However, if you have to or are unexpectedly caught in it, I hope this helps.

Disclaimer: This blog is written as merely a source of understanding and knowledge to serve as a guide should you get into a situation.  This by no means is a 100% rule of thumb and to make you feel you can manage any driving condition.

- Bryan Lin | CEO, The Motorsports Authority, Inc. |