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1996 Legacy vibrates 60-65mph

had the tires balanced 4 times! now we think it may be the wheel bearings or the ball joints. It is worth spending the money to fix these? The vibration isn't horrible, but it is noticeable but does smooth out after 65.

I think both of those repairs are pretty costly. I'm wondering what the costs maybe to NOT repair these.

Comments

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,576
    Generally you'll hear noise from the wheel bearings when they are on the fritz, but it's pretty easy to check for play. Put the car up on jack stands and spin each tire. It should spin quietly. Grab the tire (whose bearings you want to check) by the top and bottom, and alternate pushing and pulling. If you get discernible movement in the assembly (not just flexing of the tire), the bearings are worn and ready for replacement.

    The ball joints are probably ready to be replaced on a '96, unless the car is very low miles. The boots on those will crack with age, the joint will dry out, and then it begins to wear quickly. Sometimes, if the joint is very bad, you can feel movement in it while driving when you take curves and corners. The sensation is like the car suddenly shifts its weight (toward the outside of the curve/corner) much like a person might shift his weight from one leg to another.

    Both of these are normal wear items and certainly worth replacing if the car is in generally good condition. In fact, you might expand your reconditioning to tie rod ends, bushings, and struts as well (unless those things were already replaced at some point).

    Costs of not repairing? Well, if a wheel bearing were to fail, you'd be stranded because the wheel would not have a spinning surface to reduce the friction of motion. But, I doubt that's going to happen without gradually increasing noises. It's one of those failures that warns you well ahead of time (I know this one the hard way!). Ball joints generally pick inopportune times to fail, such as when you're taking a hard curve. If one of those breaks while driving, the stability of the entire wheel assembly is compromised (and your ability to steer along with it). Again, though, failure of these items is a progression that has very obvious symptoms.

    Basically, if these items are the source of the vibration issues you're having, you have time to plan for the repair.
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • Thank you for this valuable information. I believe I am getting the sensation you describe when the ball joints need replacement. That may be the cause of the vibration, and if not, would be worth replacing. The car has 160k and is pretty solid. This has been very helpful.
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