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Having your car wobbling at low speeds can be a bit of a head scratcher. Many of us will think it would be more common for the wobble to happen when the wheels rotate more at high speeds than lower ones.

Below we will highlight each potential cause of low speed wobble.

The first thing to consider is whether the wobble is coming up through your steering wheel or not.

If you feel the wobble in your steering wheel, it points to the cause being around the front of the car and the steering system or front wheels. 

If the steering wheel is not wobbling, the issue could still be at the front of the car, but it’s more likely to be a suspension or misalignment issue, a rear tire, and not a steering component failure. 

Front End Wobbles At Low Speeds

Front-end wobbles point to front wheels being misaligned or steering problems and may get worse when you drive over a bump or into a pothole. A bad front wheel bearing is also a common cause.

Rear End Wobbles At Low Speeds

You can discount steering issues if you feel a wobble at your rear end when driving at low speeds. You can narrow the cause to wheel related or suspension problems with the rear ball joints.

Tires are the most common cause of wobbling at low speeds; we’ll spend time below highlighting the issues.

Tires, Wheels, and Rims Related Low Speed Wobbling

Do a visual inspection of your tires. Is the tread pattern worn evenly,  is one tire more worn than the other on the opposite side? Look for bubbles on the side wall, both on the exterior and also the interior. To check the interior, you may need to turn your steering wheel full lock to get a look. A bubble is exactly what it sounds like,  a protrusion from the tire’s sidewall. These are dangerous and could blow out when driving at lower speeds.

Tire Belts

Tires are made up of three or four metal belts. Sometimes, they are not seated properly with the rubber in the manufacturing process. When this happens, they are prone to failure and will wobble at low speeds before for a short time before they blow out.

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Damaged Rim

Have you hit the curb recently? I asked this because if you have, it may be time to check your rim or wheel. Even a small dink in the metal can make the wheel misshapen. Once again, it is more noticeable at lower speeds as you feel every wheel’s rotation. At higher speeds, the wobble becomes less pronounced as the wheel spins a lot more quickly. 

Bad Wheel Bearing

Are you hearing a grinding noise on each rotation? If so, it could indicate your wheel bearings are bad. Rarely do they cause wheels to wobble, but they can on some occasions when they have been left bad for too long.

A simple test is to raise the wheel of your car from the ground and then hold it in both hands in positions 9 and 3 and then 12 and 66 on a clock face and push and pull the wheel.

A bad wheel bearing will allow ‘play’ between the wheel and the assembly, and a wobble ensues when the bearing gets very worn.

Wheel Spacers

Wheel spacers are used to extend the tires out from the axle. Many younger drivers like this modification as it is cheap and easy to do and makes the car look more sporty.

The first thing to do would be to check they are still fitted correctly on the axle. Any slight deviation or looseness can cause the delicate balance of your car to be disturbed and can create a wobble.

Loose Wheel Nuts

If you’ve changed a tire recently or a car shop has done it for you, get a wrench and check that your wheel nuts aren’t loose. Most car shops recommend that after fitting a new tire, you check the wheel nuts are tightened or at least checked after 100 miles after having your tires replaced.

Wrong Torque

Did you know that your wheels can be over-tightened? Car shops use a manufacturer’s guide to tell them how tight to torque the wheel nuts on your car.

An over-tightened nut can mean that friction is building up on one wheel and is not rotating as well as it should be. Once again, this will be more noticeable at lower speeds but diminish as you start driving faster.

One problem with over-tightened wheel nuts is that they can cause friction and heat on the affected wheel.

Low Tire Pressure

Low tire pressure is unlikely to cause any wobbling either at high or low speeds.

Tire Balancing 

It’s a common misconception that tires come from the factory perfectly spherical and well-balanced, but this isn’t the case. All new tires will weigh more on one side or area of its circumference. This is where tire balancing comes in. 

When fitting a tire, the tire shop will use a machine to highlight where weights need to be applied to make the tire run perfectly spherically on the pavement. These weights are often stuck on the rim and are prone to falling off, especially in dirty and wet conditions.

Any tire that isn’t balanced correctly can wobble, especially at low speeds. Often a visual check will show you if a weight has fallen off as it might leave a cleaner area on the rim.

Wheel Alignment 

Often confused with tire balancing, wheel alignment concentrates on the position of the wheels to each other. Any misalignment can make the car wander across the road and wear tires quickly and unevenly.

On rare occasions, you may feel a wobble, but generally, this is more related to a tire balancing issue than a wheel alignment issue. For a car to wobble, there would have to be a serious misalignment on the toe or camber of that individual wheel. 

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If the tires and wheels look fine, below are the other parts that, when failing, can cause your car to wobble at low speeds.

5 Non Tire Related Wheel Wobble Causes

Steering Components

As discussed, a front-end issue could relate to a steering component malfunction. 

A lot is going on between your wheels and your steering wheel. The steering wheel connects to the steering column to a universal joint. This connects to the rack and pinion unit, which connects to the control arm via bushings.

If the steering wheel shakes and vibrates after checking the tires, this will be your next set of checks. You’ll have to get underneath the car and look for worn bushings, loose universal joints, and the like.

 If your steering checks out and it’s fine, you may consider installing a steering damper. A damper deadens vibration in systems that are functioning correctly. Older cars especially benefit from dampers, but more modern cars should have steering that works adequately without one. Think of it as a shock absorber for your steering system. 

Brakes

The only time your brakes would cause your car to wobble at low speeds would be if the caliper was stuck on one of the wheels.

Normally accompanied by a grinding noise, a stuck caliper can cause friction on the wheel. Often placing your hands near the caliper and the rotor will be enough to indicate heat.

Misaligned Chasis

A misaligned chassis is normally the result of an accident. All modern cars are designed down to millimeter precision, and any change can cause adverse effects on the handling and braking of your car. It doesn’t take much of a whack to slightly alter the framework of your car and cause a wobble. 

It’s not unheard of to get your car back from a car shop after having it repaired after a serious accident to find that there is a wobble that wasn’t there before you had the accident. If this is the case, call the insurer or the car shop for further advice, as your car chassis likely needs alignment.

Suspension Parts

Your car suspension is designed to be taught and stable.

Generally, before any part fails to the stage where it causes your car to wobble, other signs will have notified you. Knocks or banging noises when you go over potholes or humps, squeaking or squealing noises when you turn the wheels left or right.

Ball joints, tie rod ends, and bushes must be in good condition to work together well.

Engine 

The engine is unlikely to cause the car to wobble at low speeds.

However, worn engine mounts can cause the engine to move slightly, especially when turning at low speeds. The engine is heavy and requires to be secured correctly. Any weakness in a mount will cause it to move s and wobble lightly during these maneuvers.

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When a car has an engine issue, it’s unlikely to cause wobbling. More often, it is described as a jerk or a shake. However, if you have checked all the other issues above and your car is still wanting at low speeds is worth checking these issues concerning the engine.

This is particularly true if you haven’t done routine maintenance per the car manufacturer’s instructions.

Your car needs a good mixture of fuel and oxygen to run smoothly. Any interruption in either of these components can cause a car to jerk and shake, especially when you start it.

In conclusion

Most of the time, wheels that wobble are caused by tires that aren’t balanced, wheels that aren’t aligned, or suspension problems. If you can feel the shaking through the steering wheel and it’s hard to keep the car going straight, the problem needs addressing immediately.

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