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      09-04-2008, 06:37 PM   #1
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Steering vibration from wheel spacers

Ugh. Just after getting very stoked on the visual improvement from my wheel spacers I get a steering vibration problem. Details:
  • Used nice H&R hub centric spacers on OEM 19s, 10mm rear, 15mm front
  • Carefully cleaned hub mounting surfaces with scotchbrite pads
  • Used new lengthened lug bolts
  • Lug bolts properly torqued to 88 ft lb

Result: Annoying rotational steering wheel vibration. A bit intermittent (i.e. NOT persistent) but clearly more noticeable, i.e. larger amplitude and occurs more often on more road surfaces.

Anyone else notice this? Any tips or solutions? By the way my tires are not heavily worn and the rest of the suspension, chassis are 100% stock.
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      09-04-2008, 06:38 PM   #2
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maybe wheel needs to be rebalanced with spacer on?
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      09-04-2008, 06:52 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ///Mantis View Post
maybe wheel needs to be rebalanced with spacer on?
Worth trying, however the new wheel lugs should be pretty naturally balanced and the spacer itself it as well. All from tight machining tolerances.
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      09-04-2008, 08:30 PM   #4
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Did you try removing them and reinstalling? just to make sure everything was mating up correctly. When the wheel is in the air, give it a spin and check for any misalignment/wobble/etc. Could just be a small burr on one surface.
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      09-05-2008, 06:33 PM   #5
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I've seen a few causes.

1: Sometimes wheel weights get knocked off or lost when pulling wheels on/off the car.

2: If the wheels were out of balance the spacers would magnify the effect.

3: Its possible that the wheels didn't seat correctly on the hubs. Did you lower the car to the ground before torquing the wheels? I have had better luck torquing the lugs before putting substantial weight on the wheel (i.e. lowering the car more than was necessary to keep the wheel from turning).
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      09-12-2008, 01:00 AM   #6
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Swamp

Anyway you could snap some quick pics with this setup? Those are the same size spacers I am about to put on and woud love to see how they would turn out before installing.

BTW any reason why you did not try 10mm in the front and the 15'smm in the back?
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      09-12-2008, 01:46 AM   #7
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I have always gone by the notion that spacers in general are just a bad idea... (maybe it was because of a wheel from a Civic that came flying off the car at me at a SCCA meet a few years ago)
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      09-12-2008, 07:51 AM   #8
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The spacers could be magnifying an existing imbalance or out-of-round condition in a front tire. Also, this may be incompatible with the natural frequency of the front control arm bushings. Change one thing, it affects others. Ground-Control sells fantastic control arm bushings, but I'm not sure if they will work in the e9x.
Most likely, though, is an amplified pre-existing problem.
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      09-12-2008, 08:11 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enigma View Post
I've seen a few causes.

1: Sometimes wheel weights get knocked off or lost when pulling wheels on/off the car.

2: If the wheels were out of balance the spacers would magnify the effect.

3: Its possible that the wheels didn't seat correctly on the hubs. Did you lower the car to the ground before torquing the wheels? I have had better luck torquing the lugs before putting substantial weight on the wheel (i.e. lowering the car more than was necessary to keep the wheel from turning).
Removed everything, scotch brited everything, cleaned/inspected for any small dents/gashes in the wheels/hubs/spacers, put everything back together and torqued the bolts in a star pattern with only a bit of weight on the wheels.

Result: Still vibrating. I is intermittent though. Very smooth roads don't cause any vibration. I recall a bit of this before the spacers but I'm pretty sure it is worse after. I am going to pull only the front spacers and confirm the difference.

What should be a no-brainer cosmetic mod has turned into this. Not happy here at all.
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      09-12-2008, 08:11 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PPINESM3 View Post
Swamp

Anyway you could snap some quick pics with this setup? Those are the same size spacers I am about to put on and woud love to see how they would turn out before installing.

BTW any reason why you did not try 10mm in the front and the 15'smm in the back?
Replied via pm. Digital camera is broken as well. You can find pics of this setup here on the forum already.
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      09-12-2008, 08:53 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swamp2 View Post
What should be a no-brainer cosmetic mod has turned into this. Not happy here at all.
Spacers exist to solve fitment problems but have too many problems to be used when you have a choice.

I would never use them for cosmetic reasons. In that application you are using them for a negative purpose. That is moving the wheels away from the designed fitment. If you had aftermarket wheels and were attempting to correct a poor offset, then it would make sense.

But in this case you are altering a proper offset and problems are not a surprise.
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      09-12-2008, 10:02 PM   #12
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As you are going to do....go back to stock, and see if the issue resolves itself. Let us know, as I wish to do this myself.
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      09-13-2008, 03:32 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enigma View Post
Spacers exist to solve fitment problems but have too many problems to be used when you have a choice.

I would never use them for cosmetic reasons. In that application you are using them for a negative purpose. That is moving the wheels away from the designed fitment. If you had aftermarket wheels and were attempting to correct a poor offset, then it would make sense.

But in this case you are altering a proper offset and problems are not a surprise.
I readily acknowledge that this was purely a cosmetic choice. I'll be the first to admit I like small mods that do both, make the car look better or make it perform better (perhaps both if lucky). If I can positively determine the gained aethetics are contributing to this annoyance I will remove them. It isn't worth it.

However are you saying that any movement of the stock contact patch location, either by a wheel itself or by a spacer is going to create problems? Does not sound likely to me. Can you define a "poor offset"? Thanks again.
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      09-13-2008, 04:44 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swamp2 View Post
I readily acknowledge that this was purely a cosmetic choice. I'll be the first to admit I like small mods that do both, make the car look better or make it perform better (perhaps both if lucky). If I can positively determine the gained aethetics are contributing to this annoyance I will remove them. It isn't worth it.

However are you saying that any movement of the stock contact patch location, either by a wheel itself or by a spacer is going to create problems? Does not sound likely to me. Can you define a "poor offset"? Thanks again.
The main problem caused by spacers in the front is the altering of scrub radius. The inside tire has to turn sharper than the outside tire when you widen the track (add spacers). This is, however, a minor issue. I was willing to live with it on my e46 because moving the tire contact patch outward in relation to steering axis (imaginary line drawn through the strut to the ground) improved steering feel significantly. I only notice the scrub radius issue when making full lock turns at low speeds with my track tires on.

I don't believe the spacers are causing your vibration. They are increasing the cars sensitivity to a pre-existing problem. A subtle distinction, but probably true, none-the-less. I am certain you have a tire out of balance or out of round. BMWs are notoriously sensitive to these sorts of things.
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      09-14-2008, 04:57 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radiation Joe View Post
I don't believe the spacers are causing your vibration. They are increasing the cars sensitivity to a pre-existing problem. A subtle distinction, but probably true, none-the-less. I am certain you have a tire out of balance or out of round. BMWs are notoriously sensitive to these sorts of things.
Thanks for re-emphasizing this. It should be considered how small 1 cm per side is. Some suspension/wheel changes can have large effects for a small change. This one just seems pretty subtle.

I should go for a rebalance. Any idea how to get this done in the most sensitve/accurate way? I.e. better than your average Tire Rack schmuck will do it
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      09-14-2008, 05:39 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by swamp2 View Post
I should go for a rebalance. Any idea how to get this done in the most sensitve/accurate way? I.e. better than your average Tire Rack schmuck will do it
Most tire balance machines "zero" out at something greater than zero, I want to say about 1/8 ounce. You need to find a technician that actually understands how the tire balancer works. Most better shops can handle this. Just go in and ask if the technician knows how to overide the automatic zero or whatever its called. Expect to pay extra for the additional time it will take.

The tire may be out of round, in which case a small amount of shaving will be necessary. If you find a shop that can correct an out of round condition, I'll assume they also understand balancing to less than 1/8 oz.
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      09-15-2008, 01:45 AM   #17
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For what it's worth, my father had a steering vibration in his MB CLS... took the car to the dealership and 2 independent shops, they all rebalanced the wheels and it didn't go away. He took it to another shop and they found that the rear left wheel was very slightly deformed, but not visibly. Once it was replaced the high speed vibration went away.
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      09-19-2008, 04:56 AM   #18
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You got a damaged wheel, balance your wheels and you'll find the damaged one.
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      09-19-2008, 01:08 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Radiation Joe View Post
The spacers could be magnifying an existing imbalance or out-of-round condition in a front tire.
We have a winner here. Before removing the spacers I had the fronts rebalanced and told the tire shop to do the best job they can, go slow be meticulous etc. Before making any changes they noticed a definitie out of balance. They corrected it and the problem is now almost gone. It is even better than before the spacers. Any vibration left I suspect its entirely road induced. Nice job with the factory wheel balance BMW... NOT.

Last edited by swamp2; 09-19-2008 at 10:13 PM.
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      09-19-2008, 06:54 PM   #20
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Glad to see it's solved!
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      09-20-2008, 10:06 AM   #21
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I just put the 18s I bought here on my e46. I noticed a light vibration through the steering wheel as well. These wheels have a large offset difference from the stock e46 wheels (28mm vs. 46mm). I was afraid I had created a similar situation to Swampy, but had a balance done yesterday before driving 4 hours to Allentown. No issue whatsoever after the balance.
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