What causes vibration in my car’s steering column?
AAA Northeast Automotive Physician John Paul answers a question from a reader who feels vibrations in the steering column of his car.
Q I own a 2013 Infiniti JX35 (today’s QX60) and recently had a suspension issue. When driving at high speed, as well as when the car goes over a bump or a pothole, I feel a vibration in the steering column. It’s as if the wheels were vibrating. I replaced the shocks (genuine Infiniti parts) as well as the lower control arms and stabilizer bars (also genuine parts). I had the tie rods checked by a mechanic. I also had the tires balanced and the alignment checked. Although the ride improved with the replacement of the suspension parts, the problem was not solved. The mechanic also checked the steering column itself. You wonder what else could be causing that feeling of the wheels vibrating through the steering column.
A. This Infiniti model is very picky about wheel balance and suspension wear. There are several technical bulletins on the proper wheel balancing procedure. Additionally, there are notes on checking the ball joints and suspension arms (cross link). Even the slightest movement must be replaced. Since these items have been replaced, the next step is to examine the power steering itself. The other tip I read is that the power steering pump may need an insulator (a fancy foam ring) that isolates vibration and noise from the power steering.
Q I ordered a Chevy 2500 stretch van on April 30, 2021. You read that right, 2021. It still hasn’t been built. After finally contacting the general manager I ordered the van from, I was told the problem was that I had ordered an 8 cylinder engine. They offered to get me a 6-cylinder engine that they were reasonably sure they could order from a dealership they own in Florida. However, it would be a GMC Savana. I have no problem with a Savana. (There was a $5,000 increase in vans since I ordered mine). I followed a GMC blog and someone posted that 8-cylinder engines are no longer offered in vans, but I can’t find any information indicating that. After showing me the buildsheet, I noticed that Bluetooth was not listed. When I asked the question, I was informed that it is only available with the 8 cylinder engine. It doesn’t seem fair to me because I don’t see what one has to do with the other. My questions for you are; are 8-cylinder engines more available in vans? Do you have any thoughts on the 6 cylinder engine for a stretched van? What, if anything, does Bluetooth have to do with an 8-cylinder? Do you know what is the delay on the construction of these vehicles after almost 2 years? Have you ever heard of GM Price Protection?
A. I looked on the GMC website and the 6-cylinder engine is quite robust at 276 horsepower and 296 pound-feet of torque, and it’s the standard engine in this extended wheelbase 2500 series minivan. The 8-cylinder engine develops just over 400 horsepower and is available. This is the same configuration for the Chevrolet Express minivan. The dealership is correct that the Bluetooth communications package, according to the website, is only available with the factory-optional V-8 engine. Supply chain issues and semiconductor chips are still an issue. Looking at the GMC and Chevrolet websites, there is very limited inventory of both vehicles on dealer lots or in transit to dealerships. In fact, I couldn’t find any 2022 V-8 extended wheelbase minivans in stock within 250 miles of my zip code. As far as price protection goes, from what I’ve read the large print indicates that if the vehicle has been ordered for a certain period of time the price will not increase. The small text indicates that there are exclusions, and commercial vehicles may be included.
Q I have a 2011 Chevy Traverse and just got a new AAA battery installed by a AAA technician. While installing I noticed a black tube and asked what it was for, and the tech said it was to ventilate the battery. He noted that my battery was missing the angled air unit to attach and advised me to get one as soon as possible. Do I need one of these air kits and do I have to have a technician install it?
A. All batteries give off fumes, and when they’re under the hood, that’s not a problem. In your Traverse, the battery is located in the car, so there is a vent tube to allow gases to escape and prevent corrosion. You should have the vent installed, and any mechanic or do-it-yourselfer should be able to get the vent tube assembly back in the car. These vent kits are available at most auto parts stores.
Q How about using a torque wrench on oil drain plugs? I recently saw a mechanic change oil using a battery operated impact driver. When I asked he said he set it to the right torque.
A. You cannot accurately tighten a fastener with a power tool, battery, or air. Drain plugs have different specifications. On one of my vehicles the drain plug is torqued to 25-32 foot pounds. On the other vehicle (both 4 cylinder engines), the other weighs 18 foot pounds. If in doubt, use a torque wrench.
John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Automotive Physician. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE Certified Master Technician. Email your question to [email protected]. Listen to the Car Doctor podcast on johnfpaul.podbean.com.
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