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2003 - Noise, uneven tire wear, hard to drive straight? - Updated!

2006 Views 15 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  bobk25
My 2003 Forester, 114k, has been making noise when I drive on bad roads. The tires seem to be wearing unevenly. Driving on highway seems hard to keep straight, and going over bad roads or railroad crossing impact is harsh, feel like there is no suspension at all. I replaced shocks at 70k, Excel-g, also had a local shop replace sway bar links and some bushings(I wish I asked the details). Recently complained to the dealer and they couldn't find anything wrong. Are they just not interested in this kind of work? I know something is definitely wrong. Now I am planning to work on it myself, but on a limited budget, I am looking for suggestion troubleshooting, and what to replace first, given I can't afford to replace everything at once. Can the shocks be bad again? I am planning to keep the car for another 100k. I am not a mechanic, but have lots of tools and no fear.
Thank you all.
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I wonder how tishenglu got on...

After all the responses, it would be nice if he came back and told us.
Hi Ray,l.and everyone,
I am sorry I wasn't getting notifications and thought nobody responded. Just saw all the replies. in summary, i took the car to a shop near my work, and told him the same thing. He asked me to pay for a wheel alignmnent first and if we do any suspension work, he will align again free of charge.
The car felt much better doing just the alignment at least staying straight on the highways. Changed new tires to see if they were part of the problem. The noise is still there, specially when the wheels are pushed up, rather then when they drop down.
He quoted $400+ for front end and $700+ for rear end. His shop is always packed with nice cars and he is being there since the 70's
Trying to decide if I should fix or trade.
Return to the place you bought the tires for a tire rotation (complimentary perhaps) mention your symptoms and ask for their opinion. Thank them, ask for a written repair quote and say you'll consider it. If your tire store doesn't exist anymore, I'd go to a large tire guy near you and pay for a tire rotation (with same repair estimate); out here rotation is ~$20.
I am always hesitant to return to a place that i think didn't do the job right the first time.
First - you have my sympathies - harsh rides are the norm here ;-)
@UhOh is spot on. After that do a wheel alignment.
Also high profile tires help a lot - I use 205/70 R15 at 32 -34psi

For the harshness check your front sway bar end links and bushes.
These are low cost (see
Did the wheel alignment, it definitely improved.
Rotating tyres won't do anything other than make sure they all wear out as quickly as each other.

Has your steering rack come loose?

He says he's got new sway bar links, it won't be those even if they were worn out, they just make a little clonking noise constantly.

Jack a front wheel and see if you can wobble it around, if so look and see where it's loose. I agree that you need to explain where on the tyre it's wearing, too.

Another thing that's possible is if you've somehow got too little caster. It would feel very light in the steering, wander like it's on holidays.

But getting it up on jacks and looking at things is going to be your first objective.
I got it on a jack and tried to wobble, but didnt feel like, but again, i dint have any experience in it. The wearing is on the inner should and steering felt heavier, not light, but improved after wheel alignment. I have cloncking noise also. The shop where i did the suspension work went out of business.
I probably drive the same roads that you do, or at least most of them. I also have about half the mileage on my XS that you do. Harsh ride? Always. My Michelins were harsh and now my Pirelli Cinturato p7's are pretty much the same. I just make sure the radio is on when I drive. Actually my Subaru is smoother than my previous ride; that one had 31" tires.

Remember our roads are crap. I think they lay down the asphalt for maximum roughness and noise.

No one mentioned it, but it is possible that your tires have a manufacturer's defect. It does happen. Other than that, how old are your tires/ mileage? As tires wear they get harder/stiffer. If there is a pattern emerging on the tire surface that should help you determine what's wrong as opposed to just changing parts hoping to get lucky. A bad tire pattern will not get better if you fix the underlying problem, it will stay bad. The only answer is to replace the tires.

uneven tire wear patterns - Google Search
Honestly, i suspect the last shop that worked on my suspension never did an alignment after the work.
Where is the uneven wear at on the tires? Outer shoulder, inner shoulder, center of the tread? Does the tire look like it's been scrubbing across the ground? Depending on the where the wear is will tell much about which steering/suspension component(s) might be bad. Got a pic?
The wear was on the inner shoulder, got new tires and wheel alignment, but still looking to stop the clonking noise.
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