Q: front passenger wheel well smoking

asked by on January 31, 2017

I'm not sure the mileage but it's over 100K (without going back outside). It has been driving funny for a couple days. I do have winter tires on but the roads are good now (live in BC) but won't change them until I know it's to going to snow again. I noticed a couple of the tires were low yesterday so filed them to specs. Once I get to 60 km/h the steering wheel starts shaking and gets worse with speed. Today was better than yesterday as it still shook but not as bad, until this evening. Getting home it really started to shake at 70km/h and I could smell rubber burning. Thankfully, I wasn't far from home. When I got out of the car I checked all tires and the front passenger wheel well is radiating heat, the rim is looking black compared to the rest. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and went back to check on it and it's still really hot. Do you know what it could be?
My car has an automatic transmission. It's a2007 not 2009.

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The unusual high heat on the right front side could be due to a failed wheel bearing and/or a stuck brake caliper. If you compare the brake rotor temperature, left versus right, using an infrared thermometer you can determine if a caliper is sticking. If a caliper is stuck, that may or may not be implicated in the steering wheel vibration you are experiencing. Usually, vibration in the steering wheel is due to dynamic imbalance of the wheel/tire assembly and/or a rim is bent. Wireless chassis ears can be helpful in the diagnostic as they can pinpoint if one side, versus the other, is the origin of the noise. Wheel bearing failure could be a possibility. Certain tire defects, particularly internal belt damage or separations, as well as irregular tire wear will cause vibration as well. Indeed, defective tires will vibrate no matter how "well" balanced they are and some brand new tires with irregularities in sidewall stiffness and excessive radial force variation will vibrate no matter how well balanced. Contributing factors in the circumstance you are describing could be worn struts in the suspension, other suspension deficiencies and even loose engine mounts. If there are flat spots on the tire tread for example, that would be indicative of worn struts. If you request a vibration diagnostic, a certified mechanic from YourMechanic would evaluate all of the possible causes, including tire balance, and resolve this for you.

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