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Why does my car feel unstable?

Braking with new tires

Just driven a new car off the lot? Or perhaps you’ve got new tires, fresh off the manufacturing line, to replace your well-worn set?

Before you hit the gas to see what those new tires can do, there’s something you should know: just like a new pair of shoes, new tires need to go through a breaking-in period before they can drive at their best. Discover why and follow our tips to help safely ready your new tires for long-term service.

What’s different about new tires?

There are a number of factors that will make your new tires perform a little differently to your older ones.

Lubricants. During manufacturing, a release lubricant is used to help remove tires from their molds. This substance remains on the tread until it wears off on the road. Before it has completely worn off, it could reduce your traction.

Antioxidants. These are applied to help keep the tire rubber from breaking down when exposed to environmental factors such as fluctuating temperatures and oxygen. They may make tires feel slick at first.

Tread depth. New tires will naturally feature maximum tread depth. This fresh tread is stiff, smooth, deep, and could feel like unyielding, thick cushioning between you and the road at first. This may lead to something called squirm.

What is “squirm?”

Tread squirm, or tire squirm, is a little bit of excess movement you might feel when steering a vehicle that has recently been fitted with new tires. This movement comes from the flexibility in the rubber between the tread surface and the carcass.

For comparison:

  • Slick racing tires – with no tread – have little to no squirm.
  • Snow tires – with deep tread – have a large amount of squirm.

Isn’t new, deep tread a good thing?

You’d think so. But actually, it works better once it has spent some time on the asphalt getting slightly roughed up. Once this has happened, tires are able to exert their optimal gripping and handling capabilities.

How do I break in new tires?

Focus on easy, gentle driving – smooth acceleration, braking, and cornering – for the first 500 miles. This will safely prep your tires for regular performance. After this amount of use, lubricants and other substances used in the manufacturing process will have completely worn off.

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What to do:

  • Keep to dry roads, if possible
  • Drive at moderate speed
  • Leave a larger gap between you and the vehicle in front, as your braking distances may be longer.

What not to do:

  • Accelerate sharply
  • Slam on the brakes, if you can avoid it.

Lubricants used to mount the tire to the wheel could cause some tire/rim slip if you floor it or slam on the brakes – so avoiding doing either of those things for the first few hundred miles is particularly important.

An adjustment period for tires – and drivers

Even if you’ve refitted your car with the same brand and model of tires you previously had, you might notice a difference in how driving feels. It’s likely your old tires had very little tread depth by the time you replaced them. Tires with very little tread tend to respond quicker, because there’s less tread that needs to flex during maneuvering. So, new ones might feel slightly less responsive before they’re fully broken in.

As well as enabling your tires to adjust and start performing at their best, a gentle breaking in period will give you a chance to adjust to your new tires, too.

Gentle breaking in, followed by ongoing care

Go easy on those new tires for a while, and they’ll reward you with long, reliable service. To help ensure this, even after this breaking-in period, it’s recommended that you conduct regular tire health checks. Look out for:

  • Sufficient tread depth
  • Correct inflation pressure
  • Any signs of wear or damage

Well-maintained tires will deliver top driving performance and keep you safe on the road.



From negotiating turns to maintaining a steady course, you rely upon your vehicle’s steering system every time you climb into the driver’s seat. This important system allows you to navigate your vehicle down the road to your destination. If your steering feels loose, it’s time to get to the bottom of the issue. Read on to learn the symptoms and causes of loose steering.

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Looking at the problem


The great enemy of any steering system is loose steering play, commonly called “free play.” When the steering wheel experiences excessive free play, you may find that you aren’t able to control the vehicle. The steering may feel loose and may require constant correction in order to keep the vehicle in a straight line.

There may also be a knocking noise when hitting bumps due to looseness in a steering component. Sometimes a shimmy in the steering wheel is noticeable when driving at high speeds. Additionally, your vehicle may wander from side-to-side while in motion. Any one or a combination of these symptoms is just cause to investigate the problem immediately. Ignoring the warnings signs can lead to excessive tire wear, difficulty in steering and, in severe cases of neglect, a part separation, which could result in an accident.

Causes of loose steering


The most common reasons for free play in the steering are looseness in the steering gear itself or looseness in one or more of the steering linkage sockets.

There are many different suspension and steering system designs, however they are all composed of three basic component groups:

Number One

Steering box or rack and pinion that is connected to the steering wheel by the steering column.

Number Two

Linkages that connect the steering box to the wheel assemblies at the front wheels.

Number Three

Front suspension parts that allow the wheel assemblies to pivot at the joints and hold the tires in position on the road.

The front end is connected to the steering box, or rack and pinion, through a series of linkages. The linkages connect the steering box to the wheel assemblies at the front wheels, allowing them to move back and forth when the steering wheel is turned. If these linkages wear out, they become weak and allow play in the steering system and make the steering feel sloppy.

Tooth contact inside of the steering gearbox or rack and pinion can change as the vehicle ages or may be misadjusted. In either case, looseness in the steering can result. Sometimes an adjustment may solve the condition but in cases of high mileage, the entire gearbox or rack unit may require replacement.

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Worn chassis components such as the rack and pinion, tie rod ends, control arm bushings, ball joints, steering gears, or any other parts that exhibit wear or damage can cause problems that can be detected by a visual inspection.

Diagnosing loose steering


If you suspect that there may be a problem with your steering, it’s time to make an appointment with your mechanic. Your mechanic will likely perform a dry park test on the vehicle. While sitting on the tires, an assistant slightly wiggles the steering wheel from side-to-side while the mechanic looks at each steering linkage socket. They will also raise the car on a hoist for a better look to help them diagnose and fix the problem.

Learn more about quality steering and suspension parts, find your car part, or find where to buy your auto part today.

The content contained in this article is for entertainment and informational purposes only and should not be used in lieu of seeking professional advice from a certified technician or mechanic. We encourage you to consult with a certified technician or mechanic if you have specific questions or concerns relating to any of the topics covered herein. Under no circumstances will we be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on any content.

How To Know When Shocks and Struts Start To Go Bad?

No one likes to drive on a bumpy road, it’s just plain uncomfortable. Now, try to imagine driving every day on a bumpy road. Ouch. Thankfully, the rough feeling is greatly diminished, and any jarring is minimal, with the implementation of struts and shocks in cars. There’s a common misconception on just how shocks and struts work. Many people believe that they absorb the energy created from traveling over bumps; this is a fair assumption because, well, they’ve been called shock absorbers, however, that is inaccurate. Shocks actually dampen the energy. After the spring is activated, from traveling over a bump, pothole, etc., it bounces past its affixed position and continues to oscillate until the energy is completely dissipated. However, after driving day after day, mile after mile over potholes, speed bumps, and other road imperfections, your struts and shocks can begin to wear. Below are the most common symptoms of when it’s time to replace shocks and struts:

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The primary task of shocks and struts is to reduce movement of the suspension system for a more comfortable ride. Coil springs are made to suppress energy created when traveling over bumps, potholes, and other poor road conditions. Shocks and struts control the movement of springs to prevent wheels from excessive up and down movement. While your car is engineered to tolerate some movement, an increase in bumpiness or shaking while driving is an indication struts and shocks are worn-out. When struts or shocks are damaged or worn-out, the tires lose contact with the road and produce a bumpy and unpleasant car ride.

You might be surprised to know that what causes poor steering may have nothing to do with the power steering system. Your steering system is a part of the suspension system, just as your struts and shocks. When worn, the steering wheel may become stiff making turning a difficult task. In addition to difficulty steering, turning the wheel may also produce unusual noises. Pay close attention to your vehicle during lane changes and turns. Do you notice the vehicle swaying or leaning? When the vehicle’s suspension system is unable to keep the vehicle stable using centrifugal force while turning, your vehicle produces a drifting feeling.

Shocks and struts aid instability while the vehicle is accelerating and braking. Damaged struts can make your vehicle feel unstable as well as cause your vehicle’s front end to dip down or cause the rear to squat down while braking. A lurch forward while braking is a clear sign that your vehicle should be inspected by a technician. These issues occur as these components are struggling to support the weight of the vehicle.

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Unusual tire wear often relates to an issue with the suspension of the vehicle, while it could be that the vehicle’s alignment is off, it could also be caused by failing struts or shocks. Poor suspension can cause tires to wear much faster than usual as they begin cupping on the tread. Tires with uneven tread can be extremely dangerous and may even require replacement, sooner than expected.

Manufacturers of struts and shocks will recommend replacement around 50,000 miles. Consider how much you’ve driven in 50,000 miles’ time. How many uneven roads, potholes, and speed bumps have you driven over? Too many to count. At 50,000 miles, your shocks have likely oscillated 88 million times! At the very least, once you reach this mile stone, it’s important to have the suspension system inspected to ensure everything is operating smoothly.

Inside the shocks is a piston inside a tube, filled with oil to assist with the dampening process. Over time the oil breaks down from use or the seals may rupture, causing the oil to leak. Oil found on the shocks is a good indication that replacement is necessary.

Contrary to popular belief, struts and shocks not only make your ride smoother, they also make the vehicle corner like new again. This helps improve stopping distance, increase control, and gives the driver increased confidence in emergencies.

Don’t wait for problems to be the sign you need to replace your struts or shocks . Shocks and struts help prevent long-term damage to the car. Because everything on the vehicle is connected in some way, a problem with the suspension can grow and lead to problems elsewhere. The dampening abilities of the struts or shocks decline enough to affect ride handling; however, you may not notice as the deterioration occurs gradually. Plan to have the suspension inspected on your vehicle every 50,000 miles.

You deserve a comfortable ride. By replacing your shocks or struts as needed, it will greatly improve your ride and you’ll immediately feel the difference, like driving a new car again!

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