97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph - Bad lower ball joint? - Honda-Tech


     
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97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph - Bad lower ball joint?

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Old 07-14-2011, 10:56 AM   #1
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Default 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph - Bad lower ball joint?

Well maintained bone-stock 97 Civic DX with ~140K miles.

I have been experiencing some steering wheel jitter/vibration for a while now. The tires are relatively new. The problem has persisted after balancing and rotating the wheels a few times, making me suspect an issue with the suspension. My first thought is to replace the driver's side lower ball joint as I have separated it numerous times to replace the axle and to do other work.

I'm looking for ideas on how to pinpoint the problem and suggestions on other front end suspension components to check.
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:23 AM   #2
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

I had the same issue with the right ball joint, mine would also shake when going over a bumpy road. Typical problem. Put the car on a lift and see if there is play with tire, grab tire one hand on top and one hand on bottom and and see if there is play. Make sure if you replace get an alignment. There is not much to the suspension on these cars.
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:27 AM   #3
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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mine would also shake when going over a bumpy road.
I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary there^, only at ~70 mph. With that said, raising the front end on stands and checking for excessive free play in the suspension is on my to-do list. My thinking is, however, that it won't be easy to detect as the vibration is only felt at 70 mph.
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:42 AM   #4
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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I haven't noticed anything out of the ordinary there^, only at ~70 mph. With that said, raising the front end on stands and checking for excessive free play in the suspension is on my to-do list. My thinking is, however, that it won't be easy to detect as the vibration is only felt at 70 mph.
Also, just look at the ball joint itself, it is original chances are it is shot.
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:44 AM   #5
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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Also, just look at the ball joint itself, it is original chances are it is shot.
It is definitely the original. In this case, does one replace it or just repack the boot with grease?
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:06 PM   #6
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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It is definitely the original. In this case, does one replace it or just repack the boot with grease?
Replace it. The seat is worn.

With the weight of the vehicle on the wheels pry between the LCA and the knuckle to check for play in the lower ball joints, use a large bar, like 3' long, and pry pretty hard. If there's any play, replace the ball joint. OEM balljoints will last a really, really long time, very worth the extra money.
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:13 PM   #7
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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It is definitely the original. In this case, does one replace it or just repack the boot with grease?
It is a little involved typically replaced, when you google it there are some pics, you might need a press.
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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Replace it. The seat is worn.

With the weight of the vehicle on the wheels pry between the LCA and the knuckle to check for play in the lower ball joints, use a large bar, like 3' long, and pry pretty hard. If there's any play, replace the ball joint. OEM balljoints will last a really, really long time, very worth the extra money.
Thanks. Any other suspension components to check for a problem like mine?
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:27 PM   #9
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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you might need a press.
I planned to rent the C-clamp ball joint press from AutoZone, if available. Can the job be done with the knuckle in place or must one remove the knuckle to replace the ball joint?

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Old 07-14-2011, 12:30 PM   #10
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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I planned to rent the C-clamp ball press from AutoZone, if available. Can the job be done with the knuckle in place or must one remove the knuckle to replace the ball joint?
Looks like the easiest way is to remove it, but there might be a work around.

Just to give you an idea.

http://www.honda-tech.com/showthread.php?t=1567042
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:31 PM   #11
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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Originally Posted by RonJ@HT View Post
Thanks. Any other suspension components to check for a problem like mine?
Rack bushings, inner and outer tie rod ends, wheel bearings, upper balljoints.

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Originally Posted by RonJ@HT View Post
I planned to rent the C-clamp ball press from AutoZone, if available. Can the job be done with the knuckle in place or must one remove the knuckle to replace the ball joint?
You don't have to remove it, but you have to separate the tie rod end at least to get the axle out so you aren't really saving much time by not removing the whole knuckle.
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:59 PM   #12
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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Rack bushings
Where are those located in the diagram below and how do I check them?



Quote:
inner and outer tie rod ends
Just grab the tie rods firmly and check for any free play?

Quote:
wheel bearings
I haven't noticed any growling. Just grab the wheel firmly and check for free play in different directions?


Quote:
upper balljoints
I guess I should just replace these too while the knuckle is out.

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You don't have to remove it, but you have to separate the tie rod end at least to get the axle out so you aren't really saving much time by not removing the whole knuckle.
Good point.
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Old 07-14-2011, 01:09 PM   #13
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

When was the last alignment? Even if the wheel is straight and drives straight with no pull, a little bit too much of toe will cause vibrations...
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Old 07-14-2011, 01:20 PM   #14
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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When was the last alignment?
May 2007

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Even if the wheel is straight and drives straight with no pull, a little bit too much of toe will cause vibrations...
It drives perfectly straight and also I haven't noticed any unusual tire wear.
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Old 07-14-2011, 01:29 PM   #15
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

Then I would blame the UBJ's for having too much play in them... Keep in mind the UCA and UBJ are one piece from Honda and can be quite expensive...
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Old 07-14-2011, 01:36 PM   #16
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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Originally Posted by RonJ@HT View Post
Where are those located in the diagram below and how do I check them?
Right next to where it says steering gearbox is one, the other 2 are at the other end of the rack where it bolts to the subframe, it's really not something I've ever had an issue with on a Civic (Toyota Tacomas are another story)

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Just grab the tie rods firmly and check for any free play?
Ideally get someone else to turn the wheel back and forth a little while you hold the tie rod with the vehicle weight on the wheels, if there's any play you'll feel it.

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Originally Posted by RonJ@HT View Post
I haven't noticed any growling. Just grab the wheel firmly and check for free play in different directions?
Yes.

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I guess I should just replace these too while the knuckle is out.
Check them first, they last a very long time for the most part. I've got 380,000kms (228,000 miles) on my '94 Civic right no, upper ball joints and inner and outer tie rod ends are still original with no play. If there's nothing wrong with them I'd leave the alone, if you are going to replace them I highly recommend buying OEM ones from Honda.
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Old 07-21-2011, 09:46 PM   #17
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

I'm getting ready to install my new OEM lower ball joints that just arrived from Majestic Honda. I have already rented (free) the AutoZone ball joint press tool and the Honda adaptors for the press.

OEM Ball Joint/U Joint Press Set (AutoZone part number: 27023)


OEM Honda Ball Joint Adapter Set (AutoZone part number: 27164)


I presume that I need the 2 right adapters and the 1 left adapter. Does anyone know what the center adapter is used for?

Another question is that the service manual says that I need a Ball Joint Boot Clip Guide tool to install the boot and set ring on the ball joint (see step 8 below). Is this Guide tool necessary or is there another way to do this without damaging the boot?


Last edited by Former User; 07-24-2011 at 06:59 AM.
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Old 07-22-2011, 03:56 AM   #18
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

You can put the boot on without the tool. That said I've never seen anyone take the boot off to install the balljoint in the first place.
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Old 07-22-2011, 05:54 AM   #19
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

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You can put the boot on without the tool. That said I've never seen anyone take the boot off to install the balljoint in the first place.
Thanks. I'll definitely try this^. Maybe that's what the larger center adapter is for?
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Old 07-23-2011, 07:24 PM   #20
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph

Description of the job:

I first needed to remove the knuckle. This was done as per the service manual. The impact driver set used to remove the brake rotor screws (below) was very handy and only costs about $10 at Harbor Freight Tools.





You can buy a similar ball joint separating tool from Harbor Freight Tools (see picture below). It costs $20, or less if on sale or you use discount coupons. It was very handy for popping the upper and lower ball joints and the tie rod ball joint -- better than the Pitman tool I have used previously.

Harbor Freight Ball Joint Separator Tool:





I replaced the lower ball joint on both sides. The two new spindle/axle nuts cost $1.30 each, and two lower ball joints cost $37 each from Majestic Honda. The picture below shows how I secured the knuckle to a bench-top vice to remove and install each ball joint using the free-rental AutoZone ball joint press tool (part number: 27023) and Honda adapters (part number: 27164).




The ball joint press/Honda adapter tool configurations that I used to remove the old ball joints and install the new ones are shown below. The ball joint press and Honda adapters were all that were needed -- no hammering was done. The job was very easy with these tools.

The ball joint set clip and boot were removed from old ball joint prior to assembly into press and adapters shown below.

Removing old ball joint:


Below, the new ball joint was pressed into knuckle with its boot on.

Installing new ball joint:

Last edited by Former User; 07-24-2011 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 09-11-2011, 06:24 PM   #21
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Default Re: 97 Civic DX - Steering wheel jitter at ~70mph - Bad lower ball joint?

Update:

After replacing the lower ball joints, a fluid-leaking steering rack with a loose inner tie rod, and a bad driver's side brake caliper, and having a wheel alignment and balance done, my steering is now rock steady at all speeds.

Replacing the ball joints alone led to some improvement and at least one of the other jobs sealed the deal.
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