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Old 07-11-2003, 11:32 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 75
Question Vibration coming through steering column

Guys, what is the symptom for a bad steering damper? I've had the tires balanced, bushings replaced on my wife's 91 300TE 4M and I can still feel vibration coming through the steering column. It feels like it's isolated to the column and not through the body. My steering damper was replaced about 3-4 years ago. I am wondering if it is bad now....

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Old 07-11-2003, 11:57 AM
Posts: n/a
Things such as steering linkage, shocks, steering dampers and suspension components do not VIBRATE. They can TRANSMIT vibration.

The SOURCE of vibration has to be a rotating part. In the case of vibration felt in the steering wheel it is a 99% certainty that it is tire or wheel related.

Proper balance does not always take away such vibration. BTW to PROPERLY balance wheels, weights must be used inboard AND outboard on the wheels.

Even if properly balanced tires can cause terrible vibration if the have excessive road force vibration (stiff spots.) The only way to identify such a problem short of replacing the tires is to find a shop with a Hunter GSP9700 machine. This machine can check for excessive road force variation.

To find one in your area go to and click on the locator.

Good luck,
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Old 07-11-2003, 12:14 PM
junior member
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 592
for what its worth

i have been balancing my own tires for years. i use, honest to god, a bubble balancer. i use 'stick on' weights and apply them not to the lip of the rim but rather to the flat portion between the front and back lip. i have a miata in my collection of six cars. scoop is that the miata is very sensitive to tire imbalance. no problems on the miata either.
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Old 07-11-2003, 01:31 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: SoCal
Posts: 1,303
While it is true a vibration is usually the result of a rotating source, it is not always the case. E.g., the rhythmic drumming caused by an open window in some circumstances is caused by air pressure oscillations from linear motion in a non-linear medium. Also, there are rotating sources for vibration other than the tires, and that is where determining the frequency is important. In particuar, there is some minute vibration in our steering wheel at engine rotation frequency, and others might get it at driveshaft speed.

Even if wheels are the source, balance might not be the issue. Uneven rotor wear can cause uneven frictional contact with the pads, causing an oscillation. Although I am not recommending routine driving with the steering damper removed, as a DIY check for the real source of the problem, this can aid diagnosis.

'91 MB 190E 2.3
'08 RAV4 Ltd 3.5
'83 Lazy Daze m'home 5.7
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Old 07-11-2003, 02:12 PM
Posts: n/a
If it were brake rotors, the vibration would be present ONLY when braking and I think the complaint would have included that information.

Since he feels it only through the steering wheel, the odds of the problem being anything other than front wheels is highly unlikely.

Yes, you must determine if the frequency is wheel speed, driveshaft speed or engine speed, but that is usually quite obvious.

If the vibration is indeed static parts in harmonic oscillation it will be at one particular speed.

Believe me the odds are about 98 out of 100 that the problem is wheel/tire related.

In the old days I used to do a reasonably good job with a bubble balancer. I had a good one and used tape weights in the center line of the rim if possible, or split the weight among inboard and outboard. On a Benz if you put all the weight on the inboard or outboard of the wheel being balanced, vibration is almost guaranteed unless the amount of weight required is very minimal.

That said, the computer balancers are an absolute god send. I got so tired of fighting with the tire stores to get proper balancing done that I searched and found a used Coats 1001 balancer. I have it setup for gram display and can balance to about 2 gram resolution in Fine mode. Now if I have wheel vibration it is a stiff spot or a bent wheel, not imbalance. These machines are fabulous inventions.

I gave away my bubble balancer and would never consider using one again.

Have a great day,
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Old 07-11-2003, 02:41 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Pennsylvania
Posts: 75
Larry, I looked up your link to GSP9700 and found my shop did have one. Assuming they did it correctly then my tire/wheels should be balanced. It feels like it is transmitting road imperfections, because I don't have it on smooth surface roads, or very little, I should say. Removing the steering damper may tell me more. I'll try it this weekend.

Thanks for all your help
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Old 07-13-2003, 10:15 AM
Posts: n/a
Just because your shop has a 9700 doesn't mean that they used it. Most shops have another quicker machine for general use. The 9700 is there for the "problem children."

If you have no vibration on a smooth road, then don't bother with the steering damper.

Good luck,
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Old 07-13-2003, 10:42 AM
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Gainesville FL
Posts: 6,844
One other area that a typical MB tech might not look for on your car could be inner CV joints. As a rear wheel drive kinda guy I was amazed when I first saw the vibrations that can occur in a straight line due to loose CVs under load.

Since we have absolutely no 4matics in Florida I can't say how this will affect a MB. If the CVs were a factor the vibration would occur only under some form of loading.
Steve Brotherton
Continental Imports
Gainesville FL
Bosch Master, ASE Master, L1
33 years MB technician
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