What Are the Causes of Shaking or Vibration in the Front End of a 1996 Dodge Stratus?

by Tony Oldhand

Some will testify that the 1996 Dodge Stratus is a great car. Unfortunately, it is still a car, and like all cars, parts wear out. When suspension parts start to wear out, some symptoms become apparent. One of the chief symptoms is a shimmy or a vibration when driving. This can start at one speed, and stop at a higher speed. Conversely, it may just start only when a certain speed is reached. Knowing and understanding the problem is the first step in correcting it.

Ball Joints

The ball joints could be going bad. As the ball wears into the socket, it becomes sloppy. When the car is driven, they rattle inside the socket, causing vibration. If the ball becomes too worn, it will "pop" out of the socket, causing the entire front suspension to be lost. This is extremely dangerous, so the balls joints should be inspected closely by a qualified mechanic to determine if they are the cause.

Tie Rod Ends

Tie rod ends look similar to ball joints, and they go bad in much the same way. The balls start to rattle in the socket, and if they pop out of socket, all steering will be lost.The ends should be inspected closely for any looseness. If they are indeed going bad, they should be replaced immediately.

Bushings

Rubber bushings that hold the suspension bolts to the body could be aging. When a bushing goes bad, it becomes spongy. A spongy bushing cannot hold stresses well, and as a result cause the suspension components to rattle. These should be inspected closely. Things to look for are cracking, dry rotting, and a dull finish instead of a glossy one.

Loose Bolts

Loose suspension bolts cause rattling. Bolts loosen up due to vibration over time. If a bolt is loose, then the part its supposed to hold rattles. Some bolts to tighten up are top McPherson strut bolts, main lower arm bolts and anti-sway bar bolts.

Tires Out of Balance

As tires wear, over time they may go out of balance. Conversely, a lead balancing weight could have rattled off. An out of balance tire causes severe vibration. The only way to check for this is to remove the tires, and have them checked and balanced

Bent Rim

A bent rim can also cause the Dodge Stratus to shake. Though it may not appear bent, looks can be deceiving. A bend as small as 1/8 inch can cause the car to shake. Again, the only way to check for this is to remove the tire/rim combination, and have them professionally checked out.

Bad Axles

Autozone states that the CV halfshafts (constant velocity joint axles, or axles) may be a cause. The axles wear out in the joints over time and start to rattle. If you happen to notice a clicking noise every time you turn right or left, this is a sign the CV joints are going bad. These should be attended to immediately.

References

About the Author

Tony Oldhand has been technical writing since 1995. He has worked in the skilled trades and diversified into Human Services in 1998, working with the developmentally disabled. He is also heavily involved in auto restoration and in the do-it-yourself sector of craftsman trades. Oldhand has an associate degree in electronics and has studied management at the State University of New York.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera stack of old tires image by JoLin from Fotolia.com