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Discussion Starter #1
I have a question. I will start with a description of the problem.

08 WRX 4-door 5-speed

Here's my problem:
I have been having an annoying front end vibration at all speeds, though it is mainly noticeable on the highway between 60-75. It feels like a tire balance problem, but the dealer put three different sets of wheels on the car, rebalanced them numerous times, and the problem persisted without change.
-Tire rotation front-back does not affect the source of vibration at all. It is always felt through the steering wheel/front end.
-The vibration is speed dependant and but is noticeably worse on some days than others (maybe tires are more or less compliant due to temp/humidity variations).
-The steering wheel does not visibly shimmy most of the time, but the vibration is sometimes visible if you look at the center of the wheel (Subaru emblem).
-The car sat on the lot for a long time before I bought it and had A LOT of corrosion on the brakes and the tires were pretty severely flatspotted. It took me about 3-4 days to shed all of the corrosion on the rotors. I mention this because I am considering rotor balance (NOT warpage) as a possible cause.
-I experienced brake judder during those 3-4 days I was still shedding the rust, however I do NOT currently experience brake judder.
-There is no noise associated with this vibration.

Here's where I am now:
At this point I am finished taking my car to the dealer as their troubleshooting methods are pretty pathetic (I won't get into it). I was wanting to get an on-car balancing done on the front end, but wasn't sure how the AWD would affect this. I was also wanting to put my car into gear on a lift/jackstands to visibly check for runout.

Here is my concern/question:
Can the car be put into gear with the suspension fully extended without damaging things? Also, what steps should I take trying to troubleshoot this?

PLEASE only respond if you have experienced non-tire related vibration and/or know what you are talking about.

Thanks ahead of time.
Pete
 

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Did they just balance the tire or use road force to balance them?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The current tires (3rd set of new different wheels/tires) have been road force balanced twice with no change. Vehicle has done this since new. Only suspension mods are sway bars and endlinks, which did not change the symptoms of the problem, and really shouldn't create a vibration in the first place. I would like to do more suspension mods, but I want to get this fixed first so that I don't complicate the issue and make troubleshooting it harder than it needs to be.

Can I use an on car balancer if both ends are jacked up, or will it mess up the AWD/axles/diffs?
 

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as long as your wheels are off the ground you'll be fine

maybe your brake rotors are warped? (get them turned -- check all four)

is there any noise with the vibration? (I'm thinking wheel bearings)
 

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Discussion Starter #6
as long as your wheels are off the ground you'll be fine

maybe your brake rotors are warped? (get them turned -- check all four)

is there any noise with the vibration? (I'm thinking wheel bearings)
There is no noise like anything that would be associated with a CV joint or anything. I don't get any brake judder so turning them wouldn't really accomplish anything as the swept surface is obviously smooth. I am thinking they might be out of balance though, because it really feels like a balance issue. This is why I mentioned the higher than usual rust buildup as I was thinking that it is possible that there is some rust buildup in the cooling vanes, or enough rotor material was corroded away that is throwing the rotor off balance.

The main thing I want to do with the on-car balancing is to rule out an imbalance in the hubs and rotors since I have more or less ruled out tires.

After I do the on-car balancing I will get an alignment because my car needs one anyway, and despite the fact that alignment issues really don't cause vibration, people have said it has helped.

Then my next step will be to replace the tires, since I was going to do that anyway, with some a set of re960as's on a set of PIAA sport mesh wheels. I will do this still have a TINY suspicion that the tires may be at fault due to the fact that all 3 sets were pulled off of WRX's that, along with mine, had been sitting on the lot for quite some time. Mine had actually been on the lot undriven so long that the battery was dead. I figure flatspotting is still a slight possibility, despite the fact that roadforce did not detect it, and maybe the rear suspension absorbs it better and the relatively tight steering system transfers the vibration more readily. I doubt that this is the case, but stranger things have happened.

I will eventually put snows on my stock wheels, but, for the sake of not ruining new tires, I don't want to do that till the vibration is fixed.

After I have completed these steps, and outside of just randomly swapping parts out, what would the next step be?





off-topic:
I absolutely LOVE the car, but I really hate this vibration. I'm trying to focus on the positive till I get it worked out.

If this situation has done one thing it has destroyed my confidence in dealers and their word. The dealer I got it from, which is supposedly the best in the area (that's not saying a lot), gave me their word (and in writing) that they would fix the issue when I got the car. I went back to them about 5-6 times, and their troubleshooting methods and the ways they approached the problem were absolute crap. After 5-6 visits they still weren't past trying to rule out tires. I am stuck trying to deal with it on my own because I don't trust either of the two local dealers (there is a 3rd, almost an hour away). I'm moving in a month to Denver though, and there are a ton of Suby dealers out there, so I'll try to get SOA to send out a guy if I haven't gotten it fixed by then.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
After calling around unsuccessfully trying to find someone with an on-car balancer, I went out and bought some jack stands so I could visually check for runout.

I put the car up on the stands, put it into first gear, and in about 2 seconds I noticed that ALL 4 tires seemed to be out of round. I didn't leave it in gear for very long as I was worried about CV joint/Axle damage as the suspension was totally unloaded. The wheel would spin true and not oscillate, but the tires seem to change height by at least a 1-1.5mm (an estimation). Somewhat slight I guess, but immediately visible by eye. Is this normal, or would this be the cause of the vibration? I really want to verify this as well as I can before I go shell out 800 bucks for a QUALITY set of tires.

When I did this the car had been sitting about 3 hours in the garage at that point, so it could be that they were simply temporarily out of round due to sitting with the car's weight on them, but I won't know for sure till I go out and warm up the tires then immediately jack it back up to check. I will do that tonight.

I suppose the tire oscillations could be a symptom of the problem rather than a cause, but I'm hoping that with under 3k on the tires that the vibration, if it is actually caused by something else, wouldn't have deformed (by wearing them funny) the tires as much as they appear to be.

If the problem ends up being the tires for sure then I will be super-pissed at the dealership and repeated calls to Subaru and the dealership will commence until I am compensated for the cost of the tires (at least for the cost of the stock RE92's). The car was definitely sitting on the lot undriven for WAY too long judging by the state of the battery, tires and brakes. But I mean after 4 service visits (half hour to the dealer each way), and two other visits where they wasted my time either by miscommunication or making me take time out of the day to come up for a road test when they couldn't actually take my car for another week and a half, you would think that they would have moved past tires. I feel like I'm not being unreasonable having those expectations.

I don't want to be unreasonable to Subaru or the dealership so comments are welcome and encouraged.
 

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Not to knock mechanics in general at a dealership...b/c I love working on my car, you know, pretending to be a mechanic...but some mechanics are not too swift, ones at the dealership are not excluded, it's not hard to become a certified mechanic.

The point of this pseudo-rant is to point out that they should have checked the tires as one of the first things...stick to your guns and *suggest* they check the tires b/c you think they are unevenly worn all over the place.

Just see what happens when you talk to them i guess :) but I think you are certainly entitled to some sort of compensation for all your troubles and that you had to find the problem...although go in there expecting to get only half of what you want.

I'm not sure what I just wrote makes any sense as I'm tired and hungry and shouldn't be on the forum (but I'm addicted), take it for what it's worth :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've already talked to them. They basically washed their hands of me when I turned in a negative survey. I turned in the negative survey two weeks after they told me they would get a subaru engineer scheduled to come down and call me back. I called them back a few times in those two weeks, but they never called me back or told me what was going on. So I turned in my honest negative survey instead of fudging a positive one for the sales people who were supposedly pushing the service people to take care of the problem.

I got an email from the salesman asking me to request that the survey be returned to me and wanting me to turn in a positive survey. He did this because his bonus was hurt by my survey. This was after I explained, in an email response to his initial request that I call him, the BS that he and the rest of them pulled, and all the lines of crap that I was given when I was buying it and when I was dealing with sales and service to get this issue resolved.

The service guy that I dealt with the last time, while very nice, knew all of nothing about cars or just basic physics. He was supposedly a tire expert and had 30 years tire experience, but he insisted that tire problems and problems with rotating parts almost always were more noticeable at lower speeds than at higher speeds, including out of balance tires, driveshafts, axles, etc. He also insisted that if you just spin a brake disk (without it being attached to a brake system or coming in contact with pads) that it will become hot. Well, we all know that this is obviously not true given the whole centrifugal force and friction -> heat nonsense (aka things that happen in the real world).

Anyway, basically what I'm saying is that I am no longer dealing with this dealership because they are absolutely and totally incompetent. I can deal with the sales BS, but I will not let someone touch my car if they exhibit over and over again that they do not know/care about what they are doing.

As far as them looking at the tires first, they did. They did this the first time, the second time, the third time, and the fourth time. They ended up swapping tires in and out of other wrx's they had on the lot. No where during any of those visits did they identify a set of tires that were known good by driving the wrx that they were on before swapping them out and onto my car. Instead they insisted on randomly swapping tires around, trying to spin balance the tires, roadforce balance them, etc, and repeatedly giving the car back to me saying it is fixed when there was no real change in the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
So I spun the tires again after warming them up first. The oscillation is not quite as bad as it was when it sat for 3 hours, but there is still a slight change in the height of the tire as it is spun. How much of this runout is normal when the tire is not under load?
 

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modern tires don't get flat spots

drive around the block and that will warm them up enough

if the battery was dead on the lot it's more likely they left the dome light on overnight or something... it wouldn't take much
 

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I'm sorry, but any halfway decent mechanic could diagnose this problem in a timely fashion and you shouldn't have to get on the sales and service department to get this resolved. That's just poor service. I think your plan to go to a different dealer is warranted.

My dealership has the opposite problem...they are reasonably good in service...but their sales dept. is inept....that's why i bought my car from a dealership 1.5 hours away in a different state.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Tires definitely do still flatspot, maybe not quite as bad as they did way back, but they still do. This is why proper tire storage is so incredibly important. I've experienced both temporary and permanent flatspotting before, I've just never taken it to someone so inept at diagnosis and had to look at it myself as I obviously don't have the necessary equipment.

The problem I have in Indianapolis is that there are only 3 subaru dealerships within an hour driving distance. The one I went to, Tom Wood Subaru, was supposedly the best, the other one, Duke Gold's Subaru/VW, is a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE dealership, and the other one is almost an hour away so I didn't try to go there for service. I'll be moving back to Denver in about a month and there are a TON of subaru dealerships out there so I will try again with the dealer approach rather than paying someone. I guess I want someone who actually knows the cars and doesn't think that the WRX is a legacy. Seriously, the service manager at Tom Wood asked me what kind of car I had on the phone, I said 2008 WRX, the service manager started talking about "other legacies" as if the WRX line were among them.

One thing I noticed last night was that even with the tires off the ground, I could still feel the shimmy/vibration in the steering wheel when the car was in gear and going faster than 20mph. Again, I didn't do this for more than a few seconds as I was worried about damaging things, but in my mind that suggests an imbalance of some sort.

What kind of tools do they use to chase down these kinds of vibrations and who would have them? Is there some sort of vibration sensor that they use (not chassis ears)?
 

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I didn't see this here but this happens to me if the car is mis-aligned
 

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btw I don't know if this was mentioned but make sure the tires are balanced on one of those fancy machines

even if it has a worn spot you can still balance it
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I've heard that from someone else too. Alignment being off doesn't normally cause vibrations unless it is off for so long that the tire wears funny, but maybe it does with our cars. I do need an alignment as, if the steering wheel is any indication, mine is off by a fair margin.
 

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It can happen if the toe is out of adjustment too much in or out or if the toe on either side is uneven. It becomes more noticeable at high speeds because the car's tires are pulling in different directions and causing vibrations. And yes, it is even more prominent in 4wd since there is power in all four corners pulling in all directions.

I would get it checked especially if the steering wheel is already off, it isn't usually off unless alignment is off by a large margin.

Hope this helps you
 

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Discussion Starter #20
It's not tire pressure. I am sitting at 32psi cold all around.

I think that the tires are a little bit out of round/flatspotted from sitting for so long on the lot as I can see it very slightly when I spin the tire with the car jacked up. Another wrx, when using the tires that originally came with my car, also vibrated in the same way when we swapped tires, although mine still vibrated as well with the other car's tires. I'm still not totally sure as I don't have a ton of experience with out of round tires and the dealership supposedly ran it on a roadforce machine, and also because rotating the tires didn't change the source of the vibration that much. It could be that the steering and front end is just much more sensitive to vibration than the rear suspension.

I'm going to try to get an alignment this week, and then I'll be ordering my new wheels and tires in about two or three weeks from tirerack (once I decide between the black or grey OZ ultraleggeras, or the black enkei rpf1's).

When this issue gets resolved I am going to be insanely happy. It really ruins driving on the highway, which I generally enjoy. I really don't want to have to trade the car because of this issue. Some days I am more frustrated by it than others, but it's always pretty annoying.

When I move back to CO in a couple weeks I will have access to a lot more reputable subaru repair shops who I would be a lot more willing to trust over the lame shops we have in Indy.
 
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