Diagnose what is wrong with our car

downsouthSeptember 29, 2007

The car we are having a problem with is a 1998 Toyota Avalon. About a month ago while traveling on I-75 we heard a noise and there was vibration in the steering wheel. It sounded like we had a flat. We took the next exit, got out and checked the tires, no flat. Got back on the interstate, noise was gone and vibration was gone so we assumed it was ridges in the road.

Yesterday, 9/28, the same identical thing happened while on I-20 this time. Pulled off again, no flat, noise gone and vibration gone. This time the shaking was worse than the last time. Hubby was driving and I could see his hands shaking.

We were close to Sears Auto so went in for a diagnosis. Before I say what they think it might be, would like to hear from some car experts here. Monday we will be taking it to the Toyota service center to have their diagnostic people check it out.

No problems the rest of the day, drove it today and still no vibration. What do you think this problem is?


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I'm hesitant to try and "diagnose" based on the verbal description alone. The best anyone could really do at this point is guess, and guesses are more likely to be wrong and misslead you, which could end up having you make the wrong decision about how to have this problem dealt with.

DO NOT take this next paragraph as what I think could be wrong. This is a possibility, but without proper, complete diagnostics during one of the events it has no bearing on your cars condition.

Your car could have a condition that is causing a brake to hang up and overheat. This would result in a brake rotor warping, and that results in a vibration. Upon sitting and cooling, the brake rotor's warpage reduces to a minimal amount, and the vibration go's away.

The problem is, even with as accurate as this might be, I have no real information to corroborate this "assumption". I would need to feel the symptom. Test brake pad and rotor temperatures. Measure runout, and thickness variation of the rotor, and test for a brake caliper not releasing and if confirmed, then test for the cause of the caliper not releasing.

Auto repair has never been a field where a simple description of a symptom is all that we need to know in order to know what is wrong. For the dealer technician to diagnose this. He/She will need to know, the exact conditions that cause the symptom. Mileage driven, type of traffic, and road conditions. In town or on the highway. Weather conditions. Ect. Ect. Then once confirmed, testing can be done, and then a repair performed. Anything else might be successful, but again is little more than a guess.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 7:12AM
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John, thanks for your reply. We've been on a long cruise and just got back. You are indeed correct that any "guess" is only an assumption. It hasn't done the shaking since the last time. We have taken it to three different auto repair dealers and all of them say they need to "experience" what is happening. Since it does it randomly, looks like we will have to wait until the problem gets worse.

The engine light is coming on, stays on sometimes for a week, then will go off for a few days, come back on....randomly just like the vibrating problem. My son said take it to Auto Zone and they can diagnose why the "check engine" light is on.

Sears guessed it might be the balancer on the rack and pinion. It does have a cracked axle boot but Sears said this would not be the cause of the vibration problem.

We didn't take it to Toyota yet as we are trying to see if the vibrating gets worse so they can see what it does. I'll let you know when we determine the problem.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2007 at 7:41AM
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