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Intermittent Vibration Highway Speed... CV Joint?

14526 Views 26 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  marvinstockman
Have an 03 T&C, 135K miles, newish tires (under 10K miles on them), properly inflated. Runs fine, drives smooth, steers and brakes straight... most of the time. 3 times in the past month have been at highway speed (65ish MPH) for 10-15 minutes and suddenly get a strong vibration through whole vehicle timed with wheel rotation. Drop it into Neutral, rev engine, brake, change lanes... all have no effect on vibration. First two times I slowed down and it kept happening all the way down through 40ish MPH and then I stopped the vehicle to check tires (all fine). When I restarted it was gone. Third time I just kept driving and it went away on it's own in a minute or so. Checked and no play in wheel bearings or steering. Brakes worn similarly on both sides front. After thinking about it and reading other posts, I'm leaning toward a CV joint being the problem but the intermittent nature has me wondering. Any other suggestions to look at? Anything in the rear wheels to look at? How best to check CV's/half shafts, or just replace both? At 135K I guess they don't owe me anything :cool:. Want to figure it out as the wife and kids use it most and having intermittent highway speed problems with the family truckster is never a good thing. Thanks!
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Why didn't you check the tires for balance?

First thing I check when anything vibrates?

New tires mean nothing anymore, they can be out of round, been there recently. Rotated tires front to back - vibes stopped.

Do the simple things first, much cheaper and faster.
I will second what gusc said. My '97 Mercedes S320 have an intermittent vibration, that would come and go.
I gave the car to my local indy shop owner for a day. He drove it, felt the vibration, and opined that it was
a tire the separation. You can't prove it, but new tires on the front solved the problem.
Yeah, I had the belt separation thing too.

Found it when the van couldn't be aligned. The separation was not apparent to my untrained eye. Tires had plenty of tread and looked good.
Thanks one and all for taking the time to respond. I did not suspect brakes because the van generally drives fine and then starts the vibrating without me touching the brakes. And if I take my hand off the wheel while it is doing it it does not pull to either side which I'd think it would if one caliper was sticking. Do not think it is a balance issue with the wheels themselves (like missing or shifted weight) as the van drives smooth most of the time. Most recent occurrence was on a 120 mile round trip and it did it once, about 20 minutes into the trip, for about a minute, then it stopped. I have heard of ply separation but can it happen intermittently? Also did drop it into Neutral while it was doing it without effect so I figured probably not a motor mount or engine related. Next time it happens I have to verify that it is truly timed to the wheel rotation, and stop to check if any wheels are hot to rule out brake related issues.
Out of round or belt separation do not show up on a balancer, they are entirely different things.

Caliper sticking does not necessarily cause steer pulling - been there twice.

Don't remember exactly if the vibration was intermittent at a constant speed but it varied greatly with speed changes.

The separation vibration was very low grade, a driver not used to the vehicle probably wouldn't have noticed it. I probably never would have done anything if I hadn't tried to get it aligned.

The out of round vibe was much stronger.
If you want to be proactive in your troubleshooting, go to a place like Harbor Freight and buy a cheap infrared thermometer. Drive around, using your brakes for fun. Pull over and check rotor temps, as one will certainly be higher than the other.

The infrared thermometers are great for troubleshooting lots of problems, and also finding 'heat leaks' in your house.
Just compare the heat between the two sides, there will be a great difference between the two unless both are sticking - very rare.

I could feel the heat with my hand without touching the one wheel.

The melted wheel cover on the other one was a good clue too:)

Happened about a thousand miles apart.

When the brakes get hot enough to cause warping and vibration, you don't need a infrared thermometer, but this is not always the case, as his episodes don't happen that often.

What will happen is that one wheel is dragging most of the time, it just doesn't drag enough to cause warping, which is why I suggested purchasing a cheap infrared thermometer.
I didn't post that well. I didn't mean not to purchase the IR gage, just that on my van it was really easy to feel the difference.

I own two of the IR gages, wouldn't be without them for engine work.
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