Low speed front end shimmy - it's not a dance! - Subaru Forester Owners Forum
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Old 05-14-2008, 10:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Low speed front end shimmy - it's not a dance!

Please help me here you geniuses of Foresters. I have a 2002 Forester L, with 105,000 miles. I replaced both front axles recently. Actually I replaced both front axles twice recently because of this problem. I'll explain more. After the first round of replacements I noticed a shimmy in the front end at low speed, 15-25 mph. After that speed if it's there it's much less noticeable, to me. It feels like a bent wheel, but I rotated the four tires and the spare several times and it never went away or changed. So I asked some local mechanics about it and they suggested I might have an out-of-balance new axle. To be sure I changed both of them, AGAIN. The dreaded shimmy is still there.

Here's my theory. It's either bad lower ball joints or bad tie rod ends, and I may have damaged one or more of them during the replacement processes. I'm considering replacing both on both sides to eliminate that possibility.

Give me your best guess if you've got one.
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Old 05-14-2008, 11:18 AM   #2 (permalink)
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My best guess is that you are going to NAPA to get your axles and that's why you keep getting bad ones. If it is your tie rod ends, you should be able to see some play in your steering when you to a dry park test. You should have someone get in the car with the car in park and with wheels on the ground and turn the wheel. Get under the car and check for looseness in the steering linkages.
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Old 05-14-2008, 06:10 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Something may be bent CA or rod end (inner or outer). Just jack up the front end and wiggle the wheels side to side with your hands. Have someone look for movement in the rod ends. Visually inspect for anything bent. By shimmy you mean it wanders or there is a vibration in the steering wheel/seat?
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Old 05-15-2008, 01:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The movement is felt through out the whole front of the car not just the steering wheel. It's a side to side feeling very much like you would feel if you had a bent wheel or bad tire. But like I said, I removed every tire and replaced it with the spare 4 times as a test to rule out the wheels/tires. The odd thing is that it goes away after 20/25 mph.
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Old 05-16-2008, 10:50 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Saw this post and had to reply. Ive been lurking here for almost a year now. I recently replaced both my drive axles in my 2000 forester 4EAT and have the exact problem you described. I only replaced them because the mag-chloride used on the roads here in Colorado ate through both the boots, so the axles were still fine. I thought for sure it was unballanced axels. Ive reinstalled them about 4 times, but no luck so far. Every time I reinstall, its drives slightly different. The shimmy is only an issue at very low speeds, but i've been driving with it like that for almost 1000 miles (bad probably) and its become a lot smoother. My thought is the axle didnt seat very well into the hub due to brake crud and rusted junk. After I finish the head gasket job thats half 3/4 finished (PIA), I plan on removing the axles and cleaning everything out in there. Thats my thought anyway.
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Old 05-16-2008, 11:27 AM   #6 (permalink)
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What axles are you using? Napa and similiar reman axles are known for having issues in subarus.
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Old 05-16-2008, 12:07 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Im using new EMPI replacements. This problem has been a little mysterious because the car drove perfectly, I replaced the axles, and it had the shimmy. I put the old axles back in, the ones that worked fine, and it had the same shimmy. So i though i screwed something up like ball joints or tie rods, but the weirdest thing is it drives perfect sometimes. It seems like its intermittently out of balance.
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Old 05-19-2008, 05:00 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Misery loves company. It sounds like we are having exactly the same problem. It's a real mystery. I can't believe that out of 4 brand new axles, not reman's there haven't been two good ones. At first I bought reman's and they clanked alot when going in and out of gear, and shifting, but didn't shimmy. So I went with new GSP axles and have tried 4 different axles, 2 in each side and still the frickin wobble is still there.

czr01, let me know if you ever figure this out. I'm still looking for the answer.
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Old 05-19-2008, 06:31 AM   #9 (permalink)
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This may not be so encouraging, but I remember reading something about the removal and re-installation of axles where you are supposed to make a mark on the retainer clip and the axle housing and count the number of turns made removing the retainer so that when you reassemble the axle you put it back the same way it came apart. If you don't put it on exactly the same as it came off, the backlash could be off. I believe this might be what has happened in both cases here.
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Old 05-19-2008, 02:35 PM   #10 (permalink)
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on sort of a side note, I'm curious what process you used to remove your axles. I read a write-up just before I did mine and what I did was bust off the axle nut, remove the wheel, disconnect the sway bar end and punch out the roll pin. Then you can push out on the control arm and the axle pops out. I never did anything with the ball joint. I cant seem to find that write up anywhere now either. Has anyone ever heard of that?

Also, what is the retainer clip your talking about?
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Old 05-22-2008, 09:35 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Yes, heard of it, and my last post in this thread has links to doing just that:

axle/half shaft question...

I'm curious as I have a shimmy at higher speeds that sounds VERY similar, comes and goes it seems. Usually it goes away with new tires but eventually comes back. My wife's 95 Legacy (we used to have) had the slow version as yall are describing.

I'm hoping someone finds an answer!
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Old 05-24-2008, 07:39 AM   #12 (permalink)
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"This may not be so encouraging, but I remember reading something about the removal and re-installation of axles where you are supposed to make a mark on the retainer clip and the axle housing and count the number of turns made removing the retainer so that when you reassemble the axle you put it back the same way it came apart. If you don't put it on exactly the same as it came off, the backlash could be off. I believe this might be what has happened in both cases here."

You know this may be a possibility, but I read up on the installment procedure online and used my Haynes manual when I did the job. The axles on my vehicle use a spring pin driven through the inside edge of the half axle that slips over the splined differential stub shaft that comes out of the transmission. It would seem that there is no way to put the replacement on wrong except to be 180 degrees off, if that's even possible. there are no retainer clips on this system, just the pins.

There was no mention of backlash worries in anything I read before attempting this.
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Old 01-29-2009, 01:40 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Low speed front end shimmy - Same exact problem on my '99 Forester. Took it to the shop and they put on new axles on both side, didn't fix the problem. They installed two more new axles, still didn't fix the problem. Now they say they don't know what to do... I took it to a different mechanic and he claims it's still the axle(s). Have you been able to fix yours? I am about to buy a pair of Raxles and do the job myself.
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Old 06-15-2009, 06:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Did any of you guys find a solution to or the cause of this? Replaced both my front axle shafts this past weekend and noticed the same thing as what is being described here, but it is more noticeable as torque is applied to the tranny (as i push the gas to the floor)... any insight would be appreciated!

I don't have a Forester, but a subby is a subby, right?

Thanks!
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Old 06-15-2009, 07:39 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Hello Red Wagon, and welcome from a fellow carolinian!

Another possible cause (from what your situation sounds like) is the rear drive shaft. As the U joint gets old and wears, it may begin to wobble a little. Another guy on here (huck-this or git-r-done) had the same issue and his eventually let go (as in broke apart!) though I think that's very rare.

You may check for play in that joint and/or corrosion. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that's really hard to pinpoint. I sold my 99 and have an 04 XT now, but my 99's issue was only a slight annoyance that most people wouldn't even notice. Sorry I can't be of more help!
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