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Steering wheel/columm vibrating and rattling when driving on rough road

Discussion in 'Gen 3 Prius Care, Maintenance & Troubleshooting' started by Sean-C, Feb 2, 2024.

  1. Sean-C

    Sean-C Junior Member

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    Hi everyone,

    I've been experiencing an issue and the mechanic I took my car to, suggested I replace a few parts without doing a diagnosis to check what the issue was for sure. So I wanted to post on here and see if you guys thought the parts recommend to be replaced would fix the issue.

    Basically, I took my Gen 3 2012 Prius Two to get new tires and an alignment, and ended up having to bring the car back to the shop that did the alignment twice after the first alignment.

    After the first alignment, they didn't give me a printout of the results and the car was pulling to the right after I left so I went back and asked them to check out the alignment and for a printout that time. The owner said their printer for their machine is broken so he has to take a Pic on his phone and email it to me. He sent me the Pic of the alignment results and I can post them if you guys need to see them!

    The 2nd time I went back, the alignment was a little better but still pulling a tiny bit to the right, and I noticed my steering wheel/steering column was vibrating and shaking when I'd drive over any rough ground or a speed bump. It almost sounds like something is loose in the front left area of the car by the tire. But I couldn't figure out if my car had been doing that or if it started after the alignments.

    When I took it back to the shop the 2nd time, the mechanic test drove my car a little bit, and then came back and said my alignment is fine and that the issue is my suspension. I asked if they could put the car up on a lift and confirm the parts that he recommended were needing to be replaced and he said he didn't need to because he sees the same problem a lot and he's confident it's a broken sway bar link and messed up front left strut.

    He recommend I replace both struts in the front, and the sway bar link.

    Would replacing those parts most likely fix the issue?

    Or is the mechanic just trying throw parts at the issue?

    Is there any chance that the issue could be being caused by something not being tightened enough during the alignment? I thought it was weird the mechanic wasn't even willing to double check that the alignment was done right and didn't look to confirm what the issue was before recommending replacing some parts.

    I'm trying to avoid paying for unnecessary parts and labor since money is really tight at the moment. My concern is if I buy those parts and have them replaced and they weren't the issue, I'll be bummed and too broke to fix the real root of the problem at that point.

    And I'm hoping the shop I went to isn't being sketchy. The only thing that was positive about the experience is that the owner of the shop gave me a great deal on a full set of tires and a free warranty that usually is extra, and a big discount on the alignment. But them not wanting to double check the alignment job the 2nd time, and not wanting to put the car on the lift to confirm parts that needed to be replaced was weird to me. And I'm not confident enough in my own knowledge of cars to make an informed decision on what to do lol.

    Any help would be really appreciated! I figured I'd ask the experts here for some advice
     
    #1 Sean-C, Feb 2, 2024
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2024
  2. ASRDogman

    ASRDogman Senior Member

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    Sound like a scammer. You should go to the police and tell them the story.
    And hopefully they'll direct you to the proper place to file a legal complaint.

    Hopefully, you paid by credit card. If so, contact them and tell them the story
    and you want to stop payment.

    It sounds obvious they screwed something up.

     
  3. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    I have this problem on mine and I am suspecting bad sway bar end links. So you can try to replace those first, quality of the part matters so don’t get cheap parts
     
    Sean-C likes this.
  4. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Senior Member

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    This problem isn't something that is going to lead to you broke down on the side of the road unless you drive like a race car driver, in which case you need to slow down and stop beating up your Prius. But if you're a typical slow lane Prius driver that has no need for speed if I were you I'd engage in as many conversations as possible in coming months until you find a shop that is more interested in saving rather than spending your money.

    And if you have a friend or family member who likes to work on cars we could get the price down to just a few hundred dollars for parts and this website can assist them with any questions/challenges.

    Keep in mind, you're driving a 12 year old car and it's normal for it to have a bunch of minor issues. If it's still pulling to the left or the right while you wait for your finances to get better and find a more reliable mechanic you can adjust that by changing tire pressure up front, as in boosting the air pressure on the side the car is pulling towards and letting out a little air pressure out on the other side.

    And yes, It makes sense the mechanic doesn't want to check their work because you've already made them do that by bringing it back and sadly most mechanics aren't curious about how to do a better job, just how to make more money rather than be certain the job is done as affordably as possible.
     
  5. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Senior Member

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    Although, it's not always true that higher price equals higher quality... You have to study the materials and overall quality of the design to confirm.

    For example, I just bought a sway bar kit for Toyota Corrolla for $99: Front Suspension Sway Bar w/ Bushing Kit for Toyota Corolla 03-19 Matrix Pontiac | eBay It's a 24mm sway bar rather than a 19mm like Prius and according to all the PriusChat threads it will fit my Prius. It also comes with the two smaller bars that attach the main sway bar to the axle area.

    As in sometimes you really can have super cheap as well as an upgrade in quality at the same time!
     
  6. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    Certain things you can get away with a cheaper part, but sway bar links, that's one items you definitely don't want to go cheap. You continue getting undesired noises/vibrations after installation and you'll end up spending tons more chasing down the problem by replacing other parts that are not the issue.
     
  7. Sean-C

    Sean-C Junior Member

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    I was worried they were playing me or something. It just felt off.

    I'm definitely considering filing a complaint regarding the work they did and if it turns out that the issue was caused by a bad alignment job, then that'll be part of the complaint as well.

    I paid with a card luckily. But am I able to dispute the charges since they gave me proof that they did an alignment and I received the new tires I had paid for? Since I received the new tires at least, I would only want to dispute the alignment I can find out if they truly did a bad or negligent alignment job.

    I want to make sure I have grounds to take that kind of action before going that route. Especially since I haven't ever had to dispute a charge with my credit card company so idk how much of a process it is lol.
     
    #7 Sean-C, Feb 3, 2024
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2024
  8. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    You paid for an alignment, and you paid for new tires. You got an alignment and new tires. What's the dispute? Workmanship dispute?
     
  9. Sean-C

    Sean-C Junior Member

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    Is the labor to replace that part pretty extensive? And in that situation would it be best to replace the sway bar end links and the sway bar? Or would only replacing the sway bar link be necessary? And could the struts possibly be part of the issue?
     
  10. Sean-C

    Sean-C Junior Member

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    Could the issue be what the mechanic who did my alignment said? He said I need to replace my struts on both sides and the sway bar link.

    I use my car for work so I drive relatively chill to maximize my mpg. But I honestly always drive the car in PWR mode because in normal mode I feel like I'm constantly flooring it to get up to speed so i'm not causing a road hazard haha:LOL:

    Luckily a gentlemen at a local Big O Tires who did my oil change recently, offered to help diagnose the issue for free after hearing the story of what all happened. I am super grateful and I hope whatever the issue is, isn't an expensive fix lol. But I use my car for work so it's very necessary.

    After an alignment, is it possible for the car to still be pulling to the side if the alignment was done properly? I only ask because i'm curious if there's a possibility that something else could be causing the pull and maybe the mechanic really did a proper alignment?

    When I brought it back to the shop after the first alignment and new tires, the owner test drove my car and came back in and apologized and said one of his other techs did the alignment and must have messed up so he had his main mechanic re-do the alignment. After that visit I noticed the shaking and vibrating in the steering wheel column and it was still pulling to the same side, just not as severely as before but it was still noticeable. And when I brought it back after that 2nd visit, it seemed like the mechanic didn't want to recheck his work. Which was super frustrating for me because I get that it's the 3rd time I brought it in but the mechanic would only be checking his work once. After test driving it he refused to recheck the alignment and kept saying I was confused or over analyzing my alignment because he thought it was stick straight. And on top of that, after only test driving it and not looking at it, he recommended I replace the struts on both sides and sway bar links. And when I asked if he could confirm those are the parts I need before I buy them and get the work done, he said they'd have to charge for a full diagnostic.

    I feel swindled lol. And even if I wasn't and i'm just trippin, it all felt weird and like I was getting the runaround or something.

    So I think you're right and I need to find a reputable mechanic. I'm hoping the guy from Big O Tires is the mechanic I need right now lol
     
  11. Sean-C

    Sean-C Junior Member

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    Pretty much regarding the workmanship. And there's the possibility that the issue i'm experiencing could have been caused by a bad alignment job or something like that when they were working on it.

    Since I got the tires and the only thing I had an issue with was the alignment, I would only want to dispute the alignment and i'd only want to do that if I can figure out if they really did a bad alignment job and caused the issue i'm experiencing. If not i'd just want to complain about the mechanics sketchy work and find a new reliable mechanic that's not just trying to milk me for whatever money they think they can squeeze out of me lol.
     
  12. ASRDogman

    ASRDogman Senior Member

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    You can dispute just the alignment, not the tires.
    You can also try swopping the front tires, left to right, right to left.
    I have a set that caused the car to pull more to the right. My Prius "eases" to the right.
    LIkely because of the 5 or so degree slant of the road for rain run off.
    I swopped them and now it is back to the ease pull to the right, which is okay for me.
    There is no caster adjustment on the car so there isn't much they can do. Camber can only
    do so much. The rear can be adjusted, but it's kind of a pain, and I doubt they will do it,
    or know how to do it.
    If you have vibration, make them check the balance. If you didn't have it before, and now you do,
    it is highly unlikey it's supension parts. How many miles do you have on it?

     
    #12 ASRDogman, Feb 3, 2024
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2024
  13. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    The alignment is all labor, it's them giving their best effort to do that job. You are not guarantee a perfect result (although they did give you a print out of the specs afterwards). Maybe it's the balance of the tires that are off, not alignment?
     
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  14. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    The suspension is a tricky part, it could be any items in your suspension that's causing your issue. That's why you need a good proper diagnosis. Many mechanics can't determine the actual failed part, so they just start tell you to replace everything
     
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  15. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Senior Member

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    Was there anything amiss with the steering prior to the alignment, tipped you to getting it? Or was it at the tire place, and they suggested it?

    What's the miles on it?
     
  16. PriusCamper

    PriusCamper Senior Member

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    yeah, as other poster said, if you paid with a credit card you could reverse the charge pretty easily because they didn't fix it. My main point is that they aren't gonna help you and it's time to move on.
     
    #16 PriusCamper, Feb 3, 2024
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2024
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  17. Sean-C

    Sean-C Junior Member

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    I brought it in originally because one of my tires had a big nail in it. They said they couldn't patch it, and 2 out of the other 3 tires needed to be replaced so I just had them replace all 4 tires.

    My alignment had been pulling to the right before I took it in. If I let go of my steering wheel while driving it would start to veer off to the right after a few short seconds.

    But when I took my wife's car in for new tires shortly after my tire replacement and alignment, they said she needed an alignment because hers was terrible but when I drive her car, the alignment is pretty much perfect and doesn't pull to either side so they keep on sketching me out lol.

    The steering wheel vibration is pretty intense and I didn't notice it until after I got the car back. I'm not positive if it started after they worked on it or before, but it's such an abrupt shaking and feels like something is gonna break when I drive on rough road, so I don't think I could have been driving around without noticing it.

    I drive for work all day long in my prius so I'm confident I would've noticed that issue prior to the visit if it had been going on beforehand.

    After the 2nd alignment they gave me a printout but idk how to read it so I'm not sure if the alignment job was solid or not lol.

    My Prius has about 165,000 miles on it at the moment and when I got it at the end of 2019 it had about 148,000 miles on it.
     
    #17 Sean-C, Feb 3, 2024
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2024
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  18. Sean-C

    Sean-C Junior Member

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    The guy from Big O Tires said it could be the tire balance that's off too. When I brought it back I mentioned that to the mechanic that did my alignment and that's another thing he refused to check up on. After driving it he kept saying it's driving stick straight but when I drive it, it obviously pulls to the right when you let go of the steering wheel and it has to he cocked to the left to drive straight so idk what he's on about lol. It seemed like he was just saying that so I'd pay for the service I didn't need, and he didn't expect me to be able to tell if the car needed an alignment or not.

    I didn't know all that stuff you mentioned about alignments! That definitely makes the situation more tricky because if an alignment isn't a guaranteed thing, can the shop just say that they did their best even if they didn't if I try to dispute the charge?

    Also, should I post the alignment printout so you guys can check it out? I'm lost when I look at it so maybe you guys can tell if it was a decent alignment job or not lol
     
    #18 Sean-C, Feb 3, 2024
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2024
  19. Sean-C

    Sean-C Junior Member

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    My wife and I are definitely considering reversing the charge for the alignment. I'm pretty wary of going back to that shop and luckily a gentlemen from a local Big O Tires is going to take a look at my Prius and help me diagnose the issue today for free. I'm beyond grateful and I'm glad to be taking a step in the right direction towards getting this issue diagnosed and fixed

    And you are so right!! It's definitely time to move on to another shop because that shop has a sketchy mechanic. The owner is super nice but it doesn't matter if his mechanic is not doing solid work and giving customers the run around. It's super frustrating that the owner is super nice and gives good prices but his mechanic sucks haha.
     
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  20. JC91006

    JC91006 Senior Member

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    Nobody diagnose anything for free, prepare yourself for the “fix”, regardless if it’ll work or fix your problem.
     
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