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Old 02-06-2020, 07:28 PM   #1
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Vibration Saga

Just thought I'd share my thoughts on a persistent issue with my van that has reached a favorable resolution. I often turn to this forum for van advice, among other things, so I thought I'd share this experience in hopes that it could be informative to someone. Also, as much as this issue had bothered me, I learned from it and want to put it all down on paper.

I am not too confident in my mechanical background, but I believe that I'm (usually) sharp enough to understand and think things through, and seek wiser voices for guidance. I generally leave the hands-on part to the pros, or whoever I think might fit that bill. Any parts replacements/upgrades to address this specific issue were hopefully wear and tear items, even if I jumped the gun on them. Perhaps to more capable and experienced van owners some of what I share may seem obvious, but it wasn’t so to me.

Van is 2009 E150 passenger with Weldtec 4” kit, Fox shocks, aftermarket wheels and tires. The issue with my van was a vibration. It felt like an out of balance tire. The vibration became noticeable at freeway speeds and, to me, was nearly unbearable anywhere north of 70 mph. My timeline is fuzzy, but it first occurred over two years ago and I've been gradually trying to remedy it since. Here is a list of attempted fixes (I think in order, but might’ve left a couple tire shop visits out):

1. Rebalance and then rotated tires… tried two times at my local tire shop… Free
2. Added Weldtec Steering Dampener… vibration persisted… Cost of parts and install labor
3. Mechanic/Buddy… Inspection of suspension and driveline components, measured driveline angles… Suspected out of balance driveshaft… Driveshaft was balanced, U-joints replaced (why not at that point)... Vibration persisted… Had tires balanced at different tire shop after.. Vibration persisted… Paid cost of U-joint replacement and driveshaft balance, Mechanic labor was free (because we wagered that was the fix and he lost.. hehe)
4. Suspension/Alignment Shop A.. went in for an alignment and they recommended replacing radius arm bushings and drag link but declined ...Cost of alignment
5. Visited Suspension/Alignment shop B for second opinion… ended up replacing radius arm bushings… Vibration persisted but seriously dampened/masked… Cost of labor and parts
6. Rebalanced and rotated tires at local tire shop… Vibration persisted… Free
7. Replaced tires at local tire shop… BFG KO2 to Toyo Open Country… probably could have gotten another ten thousand miles out of them… Vibration persisted… Cost of tires
8. Back to Suspension/Alignment shop B for inspection… They had no answers but suggested that adding a stock front sway bar and drop pitman arm were worth consideration… Free
9. Visited Weldtec… Suspension inspection was all good.. Free. Following test drive, they suspected out of balance tires. We rebalanced then test drove again… Vibration persisted… Cost of an hour’s labor (I was actually there for nearly three). They suggested throwing on stock wheels and tires for troubleshooting, but didn’t have any on hand. Overall, very nice folks over there.
10. Visited Agile… I had a wild hunch that custom tuning the shocks could help. Thought maybe tires were skipping down the road. They inspected and then threw on a set of stock wheels and tires. It was smooth! Then they put my wheels and tires back on. Likely an out of balance wheel or two…Cost of labor
11. Rebalanced tires at Discount… I requested Road Force balance plus Ride Match balance. It was smooth!
Four days later, a small piece of rebar jams itself in right rear tire… Bummer!
12. Tire replaced under warranty at local tire shop
13. Brought that tire and wheel (not yet mounted on van) to same Discount Tire for Road Force and Ride Match balancing… $20.
14. Mounted wheel/tire on van at home… test drive… Vibration is back!
15. Back to Discount… I asked to adjust that tire, but described vibration issue to tech. We miscommunicated somehow. They adjusted the balance on front two tires instead. WTF ...Vibration persists!
16. Located a local shop that balances wheels/tires while still on the vehicle upon a suggestion from mechanic family friend... They balanced three outta four and it is now smooth! ... Cost of labor
17. Driving happily
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Old 02-07-2020, 12:00 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like a painful journey, but glad to hear you have it figured out.
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Old 02-07-2020, 11:01 AM   #3
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At what speed is the vib at?
You didn't mention how many miles on your van.
Have you got up to vib speed put the tranny in neutral to further eval driveline vibs?
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Old 02-07-2020, 11:18 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CDACamper View Post
Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like a painful journey, but glad to hear you have it figured out.
I appreciate the thought. Thank you. I considered selling the van at multiple points out of frustration, but had mixed feelings about passing it along with some mystery issue. Or maybe a buyer would've figured it out quicker than I.

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Originally Posted by Lilnuts2 View Post
At what speed is the vib at?
You didn't mention how many miles on your van.
Have you got up to vib speed put the tranny in neutral to further eval driveline vibs?
168k miles. Prob been dealing with it for 25k+ miles. Several long family road trips, daily driving, etc.

Bad vibes noticable a 55ish mph but tolerable at 65, 70-80 mph were real bad, eased up at 80 (although I rarely hit that mark).

Honestly, I've dropped it into neutral at these speeds on a desolate freeway and it felt the same. This was very likely not the wisest or safest way to diagnose, but I did it anyway. Short of putting on blocks and getting it up to speed (which really scares me), not sure how else to go about it. I feel like was able to separate out the road surface vibrations using the seat of my pants.
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Old 02-08-2020, 06:40 AM   #5
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Wow--that's quite the odyssey getting a "simple" vibration problem worked out--glad its had some success.

I recall the process of balancing tires/wheels while still on the vehicle, am a bit surprised its not a more common process these days especially for tire shops who sell larger-than-stock tire/wheel combos.

Frankly if it were still readily available I'd want the tire/wheel assembly balanced first.
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Old 02-08-2020, 02:10 PM   #6
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^Had I known this type of balancing was out there, I’d have done it much sooner. The shop that performed the service said it was a lost art, of sorts. I didn’t investigate too deep for local places that do on-vehicle balancing, but I only found two places in San Diego.

I do wonder how this would effect the tire rotation schedule. Forgot to ask. It’s worth the price of admission, but I certainly don’t want to pay to do it as frequently as every 5k miles.
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Old 02-13-2020, 02:17 PM   #7
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Killacks,

Where in SD did you get the balancing (while on the vehicle) done?
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Old 02-13-2020, 02:40 PM   #8
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Road Force balancing is a common form of balancing on the vehicle. You can look up places that have a machine from the site of the company that makes the Road Force balancers (Hunter):

https://www.hunter.com/gsp9700

Discount Tire also offers Road Force balancing depending on location:

https://www.discounttire.com/learn/road-force-balancing

I'm also curious about how it affects tire rotations--does anyone have firsthand experience?
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Old 02-13-2020, 02:43 PM   #9
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Thanks, Kibo. I've had Road Force balancing done on my van, and it made a huge difference. What I'm interested in is the balancing they do with the wheels/tires installed on the van.

What do you mean by "I'm also curious about how it affects tire rotations"?
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Old 02-13-2020, 03:24 PM   #10
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OK, I feel like an idiot now. When putting tires on my Cayenne, the shop kept talking about 'Road Force balancing' and implied that it had to be done with the wheel installed on the vehicle in the position in which it would be used. Now that I watch the video on Hunter's site, I see that it's done independent of the vehicle using a load roller for simulation. Sorry for the confusion, just a misunderstanding on my part!

My question about tire rotations was from the assumption that balancing on the vehicle would mean that the wheel/tire balance may be compensating for vibrations induced by that wheel's location--implying that if you were to rotate it to another position on the vehicle (or perhaps even rotate its orientation relative to the axle), the vibration compensation wouldn't be accurate?

Going back to the OP's post, I wonder whether the local shop's inability to balance the wheels may have been due to the aftermarket wheels. Do you know whether they're hubcentric? It seems plausible that the shop used a balancer with a centering cone, such that the wheels and tires are balanced around the centerbore; but if your wheel isn't hubcentric (or using a hubcentric adapter), they would be lugcentric once mounted since aftermarket wheels typically use cone lugs to center the wheel as they're tightened in the star pattern. Just surmising...
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