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      05-22-2012, 07:47 PM   #1
mlhj83
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Steering Wheel Vibration FAQ

Hello mods, given the number of complaints about steering wheel vibration, I decided to do a writeup below, and was hoping to get it as a sticky to help everyone. Happy for any feedback.

Common causes of vibration (excluding brake judder). Go through the list and eventually it WILL be solved.

1) Wheels and tyres are out of balance
2) Wheel is bent, resulting in axle or radial runout (a few millimetres can be felt)
3) Wheel hub is not sitting flush with hub of the car
4) Wheel spigot (centre bore) is not centred on the car's hub (very common with aftermarket wheels that come with spigot rings). The wheel should fit snugly around the hub lip of the car.
5) Wheel bolts not torqued in the correct pattern or to the correct value
6) Tyre has too much runout despite being in balance i.e. tyre wobbles from side to side or up and down despite alloy wheel being perfectly round
7) Tyre sidewall has variation in stiffness - cured by road force balance
8) Wheel bearing bent or worn
9) Suspension components are faulty or out of alignment
10) Brake discs/rotors are imbalanced (especially aftermarket) or have an elliptical rotation (in the radial direction) due to faulty/worn floating mechanisms or poor manufacturing.

The chassis setup of the M3 is precise enough that there is little tolerance of any imperfection. My M3 and indeed many others have been perfectly smooth from new. Any vibration is a problem somewhere. 99% of the time, it's to do with the alloy wheel and tyre. Even if the tyres and alloy wheel balance perfectly using a dynamic balancer, there are still a number of problems a wheel and tyre can have that can cause vibration namely:

A.Tyre or wheel runout
B.Is the wheel hub sitting perfectly flush with the car's hub
C.How the spigot of the wheel sits on the car's hub lip - hubcentric
D.The irregularity of the sidewall stiffness of the tyre

I can guarantee that if the wheel and tyre is properly balanced and the above 4 points are checked, 99% of vibration problems will be solved. Also note that there are broadly speaking 3 types of vibration that one can feel through the steering wheel:

Rhythmic vibration - this is due to an imbalance on the car
Road surface vibration - texture of the road surface
Impact vibration - self explanatory

Rhythmic vibration being the one that requires fixing.

Road force balancing while better than dynamic balancing still does not deal with points A, B and C. Points A, B and C can be diagnosed at home or at a good mechanic. All you need is a good eye.

My personal experience:
I had a slight vibration at the same speeds and I jacked up the car and spun both front wheels and there was a tiny bend in the inner rim of one of the front wheels - no more than 2-3mm out of trueness. Had it fixed and all was good. Had another set of wheels custom powder coated and ended up vibrating, which turned out to be due to the spigot having a bit too much paint and not allowing itself to sit perfectly flush with the hub of the car.

Last edited by mlhj83; 07-18-2013 at 12:20 AM.
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      05-27-2012, 07:59 AM   #2
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Wonderful information. Subscribed.\

What are the chances that wheel vibration occur after coming back from the track?
Having an uneven surface on the tires can cause this as well right?
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      05-27-2012, 08:18 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Day Laborer View Post
Wonderful information. Subscribed.\

What are the chances that wheel vibration occur after coming back from the track?
Having an uneven surface on the tires can cause this as well right?
Yes, vibration after a track day is common due to the following:

Flat spots from sitting at the pits when the tyres are hot
Tyres out of balance due to wear
Tyres out of balance due to pick up of hot tyre marbles
Wheel bolts may have also come slightly loose during the track day
Wheel weights have fallen off
Tyres may have slipped on the wheel due to cornering and braking forces
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      05-27-2012, 11:59 AM   #4
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thanks for this great info.
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      05-28-2012, 03:46 PM   #5
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FYI; I just had my car back from the dealership; resulted in steering wheel vibrations due to over-torquing the lug nuts on the wheels
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      05-28-2012, 03:50 PM   #6
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I'd expand on the wheel bearing and just say that it could be worn in general too, not just bent?
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      05-28-2012, 04:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
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I'd expand on the wheel bearing and just say that it could be worn in general too, not just bent?
Yup, worn bearing certainly is a potential cause as well. Updated.
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      05-28-2012, 04:06 PM   #8
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FYI; I just had my car back from the dealership; resulted in steering wheel vibrations due to over-torquing the lug nuts on the wheels
Good to hear.
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      05-28-2012, 04:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlhj83 View Post
Yup, worn bearing certainly is a potential cause as well. Updated.
Yay! I contributed! Do I get my cookie now?
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      03-14-2013, 10:13 PM   #10
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      03-14-2013, 10:39 PM   #11
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Add to the list-spacers. Took mine off, vibration stopped. Others have had similar experience.
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      03-14-2013, 11:56 PM   #12
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Quote:
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Add to the list-spacers. Took mine off, vibration stopped. Others have had similar experience.
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      03-15-2013, 01:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsiciliano View Post
Add to the list-spacers. Took mine off, vibration stopped. Others have had similar experience.
I have spacers too and the steering wheel vibration is driving me insane now. I tried getting them road force balanced, but that didn't help.

My (noob) question is: If I take them into a shop to get them removed, do the wheels need to be road force balanced again? Or can they just remove the tires, remove the spacers, and put the tires back on?
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      03-15-2013, 07:25 AM   #14
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Also, if the bearings are loose, that can cause vibrations. If you take the wheels off for any reason, always re-torque your lug bolts/lug nuts after about 100 miles of driving.
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      03-15-2013, 08:59 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsiciliano View Post
Add to the list-spacers. Took mine off, vibration stopped. Others have had similar experience.
Wheel spacers that are hubcentric and sit flat on the hub of the car, and have a lip that protrudes sufficiently to align the wheel centrally, do not cause vibration.

Quote:
Originally Posted by knicks0819 View Post
I have spacers too and the steering wheel vibration is driving me insane now. I tried getting them road force balanced, but that didn't help.

My (noob) question is: If I take them into a shop to get them removed, do the wheels need to be road force balanced again? Or can they just remove the tires, remove the spacers, and put the tires back on?
Take the spacers out and put the wheels back on. Don't need to rebalance the wheels and tyres, as they were balanced on a machine and not on the car with the spacer installed.

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Originally Posted by elm3 View Post
Also, if the bearings are loose, that can cause vibrations. If you take the wheels off for any reason, always re-torque your lug bolts/lug nuts after about 100 miles of driving.
Yes, those are on the list.

Last edited by mlhj83; 03-15-2013 at 09:46 AM.
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      03-15-2013, 09:41 AM   #16
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Thanks for posting this info op. I'm going to be specific on the type equipment for sake of this comman issue, not to blame or point fingers at any manufacture. So about 1.5 years ago (18,000) miles ago. I installed an AP BBK New with 12mm spacers. From that day on I have had vibes in the steering at about 80mph range and stronger vibration while braking. About a year ago switched to New ARC-8 wheels, New tires, got rid of the spacers and it never got better. Road force balanced, no hard track days of braking, BMW has checked out the front end. Even did some disc face cleaning with race pads to clean the rotor surface of any pad deposits. Nothing makes a difference. I wish I still had all my OEM parts but don't so can't compare back to stock. Ideas
Thanks.
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      03-15-2013, 09:57 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BimmerRob08 View Post
Thanks for posting this info op. I'm going to be specific on the type equipment for sake of this comman issue, not to blame or point fingers at any manufacture. So about 1.5 years ago (18,000) miles ago. I installed an AP BBK New with 12mm spacers. From that day on I have had vibes in the steering at about 80mph range and stronger vibration while braking. About a year ago switched to New ARC-8 wheels, New tires, got rid of the spacers and it never got better. Road force balanced, no hard track days of braking, BMW has checked out the front end. Even did some disc face cleaning with race pads to clean the rotor surface of any pad deposits. Nothing makes a difference. I wish I still had all my OEM parts but don't so can't compare back to stock. Ideas
Thanks.
Here's my differential diagnosis for your problem, given that it occurred post BBK install and also under braking:
-imbalanced brake disc (unlikely given AP quality, though still a possibility)
-the AP strap drive system may be faulty or are not aligned properly, such that the disc may be wobbling up and down or side to side relative to the hub. (this is most likely)

What you can do is jack your car up, take your wheel off, get a clothes hanger wire, secure one end to a fixed part of the suspension, and bring the other end as close to the brake disc as possible without touching. Now, retract the brake pads sufficiently to allow the brake disc to spin freely, then spin the disc and watch the surface of the disc relative to the pointed end of the clothes hanger wire. The purpose of the pointed end of the wire is to help you see any wobbling of the disc. If you can see wobbling, then you have found your culprit.

If no wobbling is visible, then I would go to a garage or get a run-out gauge and do the same thing as above, which will provide a measurable reading if there is any brake disc runout. If no significant runout is visible, then I would proceed and have the AP brake discs checked for balance at your brake dealership and any specialist with the right equipment.

I have had wobbling aftermarket floating brake disc issues before in a previous car.

Last edited by mlhj83; 03-15-2013 at 10:04 AM.
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      03-15-2013, 10:07 AM   #18
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Good technique, but I already measured run out on the orginal disc's from AP. They were about 007" which was too much. Stilen has been working hard with me to figure this problem out. They rebuilt the strap drive on those discs and still no difference. O actually ended up getting new discs a year ago for this problem from AP and the problem is the same but the vibration is a little better on the second set. We'be even tried a different set of AP calipers with street seals and removed the piston springs to allow less pressue on the disc while at cruise.
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      03-15-2013, 10:14 AM   #19
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Quote:
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Good technique, but I already measured run out on the orginal disc's from AP. They were about 007" which was too much. Stilen has been working hard with me to figure this problem out. They rebuilt the strap drive on those discs and still no difference. O actually ended up getting new discs a year ago for this problem from AP and the problem is the same but the vibration is a little better on the second set. We'be even tried a different set of AP calipers with street seals and removed the piston springs to allow less pressue on the disc while at cruise.
Great to know that Stillen is helping out, always good to have reputable service.

Is it possible to get some non-strap drive discs that can safely fit under the front calipers and then go for a test drive to truly rule out the AP strap drive discs as being the culprit?

Also, you could use other good quality fixed-floating brake disc (oem for example, you only need one disc) and then remeasure runout to make sure that the wheel bearing is not the one causing the problem.

Unless, you have tried the above already, and we can move on.

Another thing to do is to rule out rear chassis and propshaft vibration, which is done by raising the car securely (wheels completely off the ground) and running the car up to the speed that you get vibration. If you get vibration, then it isn't from the front chassis, or it could also mean that the front chassis isn't the only source of vibration.

Last edited by mlhj83; 03-15-2013 at 10:35 AM.
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      03-15-2013, 12:08 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Great to know that Stillen is helping out, always good to have reputable service.

Is it possible to get some non-strap drive discs that can safely fit under the front calipers and then go for a test drive to truly rule out the AP strap drive discs as being the culprit?

Also, you could use other good quality fixed-floating brake disc (oem for example, you only need one disc) and then remeasure runout to make sure that the wheel bearing is not the one causing the problem.

Unless, you have tried the above already, and we can move on.

Another thing to do is to rule out rear chassis and propshaft vibration, which is done by raising the car securely (wheels completely off the ground) and running the car up to the speed that you get vibration. If you get vibration, then it isn't from the front chassis, or it could also mean that the front chassis isn't the only source of vibration.

I've done most of the work in regards to measurements, removal, testing, etc. and measured Hub Bearing face run-out and it was spot-on true on both bearings. I think there is another type of hub (hat) for the front discs and Stilen is looking at that too. Not tested yet on my vehicle. I'll have to do more work with them on that.

As for car up on jacks, wheels off and running up to 80mph without any road/load factor I don't have the means to do that. But I could have the rear end checked out. That thought did pass my mind. The only reason why I'm thinking that it has to do with the AP kit is because like I mentioned earlier, this vibration issue started the day I installed the kit and been the same pretty much with two different AP discs but I know this BBK is one of the best selling out there so I'm very puzzled, as are the guys helping me out from Stilen and AP. I've even tried swopping my front wheels with a 6 series and a co-workes '11 E92 M3 with ZCP 19" wheels. My wheels did not vibrate on the other car(s) and the vibration was the same on mine so I can pretty much rule out the front wheels at this point.
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      03-15-2013, 12:21 PM   #21
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Quote:
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I've done most of the work in regards to measurements, removal, testing, etc. and measured Hub Bearing face run-out and it was spot-on true on both bearings. I think there is another type of hub (hat) for the front discs and Stilen is looking at that too. Not tested yet on my vehicle. I'll have to do more work with them on that.

As for car up on jacks, wheels off and running up to 80mph without any road/load factor I don't have the means to do that. But I could have the rear end checked out. That thought did pass my mind. The only reason why I'm thinking that it has to do with the AP kit is because like I mentioned earlier, this vibration issue started the day I installed the kit and been the same pretty much with two different AP discs but I know this BBK is one of the best selling out there so I'm very puzzled, as are the guys helping me out from Stilen and AP. I've even tried swopping my front wheels with a 6 series and a co-workes '11 E92 M3 with ZCP 19" wheels. My wheels did not vibrate on the other car(s) and the vibration was the same on mine so I can pretty much rule out the front wheels at this point.
So it sounds like it's pretty much down to the brake disc being the culprit then. Hope you get them sorted eventually. Do let us know when you find out what exactly is wrong with them.
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      03-15-2013, 01:26 PM   #22
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