vibrations and shimmies and how to fix it in a Honda Civic

I have an 89 Honda Civic DX sedan. I’ve owned it for 8 years, it now has about 170000 miles. You would think I’ve grown accustomed to its idiosyncracies. You’d be wrong, in at least this respect. Ever since I’ve owned it, there’s been a vibration/shimmy in the (presumably) front end. I feel it mostly through the steering wheel. I’m on my second set of tires and I just bought and had mounted the first pair of my third set of used wheels. The vibration is better then it was (the second set was also from a junk yard and they were a little bent :frowning: - the first set came with the car when I bought it, and they were American Racing after-market wheels and were missing a hub-spacer-thingy so they never could be mounted exactly right, according to the local tire-shop guys), but it’s still there. I’m probably going to buy the second pair of wheels next month, after I get paid.

But what the hell is causing this? What suspension part can I replace to get it to ride smoothly? I admit to being a little sensitive to this particular problem, and I realize a 13 year car with 170000 miles won’t ride like a new BMW, but it also shouldn’t ride like it is.

This has been a fine car, and I will probably (have to) keep it for the foreseeable future, just this one thing bothers me. I guess that means I have a pretty good life, huh? :wink: Thanks for the input

Does it shimmy all the time, just at certain speeds, or only when you put your foot on the brakes?

I’m guessing your tires/rims are a problem. If they are not properly mounted, matched, aligned and/or balanced, it will certainly cause vibration of one degree or another. The problem is probably with your wheel potpourri. Especially if you’re missing a spacer or some other part. Vibration that occurs only at certain speed ranges (usually highway speeds) is almost always out of balance tires. Using fix-a-flat can immediately throw a tire out of balance from the sloshing fluid as can repairing the tire with a patch or plug. Vibration that occurs when braking is usually warped rotors, which is a sign that the front brake assemblies need replacing (Calipers, rotors, and pads). Don’t skimp on the brake system! Very dangerous! There may be some incidental damage if serious vibration has been going on for years. Your studs can get worn down at the base. This in itself will affect the wheels mount and can cause vibration.

The vibration is mostly at highway speeds, and I wouldn’t call it serious. Perhaps it’s all in my head? Around town it is not as noticeable (although I know it’s still there!) Now that I have actual Honda Civic wheels on the car, I feel better about the wheel situation. The brakes have been properly serviced, I know it’s not that. The tires are in good shape and have been rotated appropriately. The tire shop guys haven’t tried to sell me anything, and since they seem to try to push things on customers (in my limited experience, YMMV), I feel safe in saying the tires are in good shape.

Are there suspension parts that could be the culprit? I haven’t replaced any shocks or anything on the front. I have replaced or had serviced all the regular problems, at different service centers, although it’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere but Big-O (free rotation/balancing when you buy tires there).

Possible causes: tire defect, tire imbalance, wheel defect, hub distortion, loose/worn suspension parts (ball joints, control arm bushings, etc.), loose/worn steering linkage parts (usually tie rod ends), worn wheel bearing–and the list goes on. To get an authoritative answer about THIS shimmy on THIS car, it will have to be inspected and evaluated by a competent auto repair person.

I wanted a list of possibilities, as I had exhausted my limited knowledge of the subject. Thanks for more information.

I would Buy a new set of four & be sure they are balanced by the store on the rims.

It can be a whole lot of things, but this works for me.

I can’t figure out why you didn’t do something about it before, whats the reason for that?

sounds like you ought to take it in to a shop. If it’s been vibrating that long chances are you’ve damaged other parts down the line. I bought a car from my sister and it had a shimmy that “was always there”. I took it in to a shop and they fixed it up fine but it cost me because the shimmy had gone on so long.

You might also try changing tire brands. I’ve noticed that certain brands don’t “ride” as well as others. It could be a suspension problem, and you should definately have it checked out. If you haven’t had the CV joints looked at, that’s a must. If they’re starting to go bad, it could be causing the problems you’re having. You might also check with the dealer to see if there’s any kind of recall on your car. My mom works for a Honda dealership and when I bought my used 1984 Accord two years ago, she told me that certain year Honda’s (she couldn’t remember which ones or what years) had recalls on them due to a faulty suspension bolt (or something similar) the dealership will be able to tell you if there’s one on your car and if it’s been done or not.

Balance your tires

If the car had aftermarket parts on it previously, the odds are good that the car was “lowered”. Have your shop look at the suspension… you could have dead shocks, a messed up camber, or other things of this nature.

If the tires tend to wear unevenly (more on one side of the tire than the other) that would indicate that it’s something of that sort.

That being said, I learned a long time ago that it’s usually cheaper in the long run to buy parts that don’t come from pick-n-pull. YMMV.

Well, I’m a little cheap, handy, so I try and put things off if it’s not too serious. I don’t believe this is a serious problem. It’s more of an aggravation than anything. And the CV joints were a huge aggravation but are now fine (there was a big problem with the remanufactured parts. I’ve had three on one side and two on the other!)

But I will be keeping this car for some time, so I might break down and take it to the local Honda dealer to have them check it out. Or I’ll just live with it some more and buy a new car when I can afford to.

Every time it happened to me it was because they needed balancing. I guess the weighs fall off sometimes if you got kinda weird rims.