: Tramlining, aka The (Un)Happy Wanderer



RADman2000
10-09-06, 07:54 PM
Now that I've been driving my "new" 30K mi Catera for a week (inherited from Mother), I've been reminded of the one problem encountered in my earlier drives with the car: the tendency to wander, lead, or jump to the side suddenly in rutted roads (by rutted, I mean tracks dished out from years of studded tires or heavy truck traffic, not potholes). The term is tramlining, and it's been described in this forum, as well as over on Yahoo! and in Omega forums.

There is a conclusion by some, including threads on this forum, that Cateras suffer this problem due to worn control arm bushings, but I know that my car has had this problem since before 10K mi. For cause, I'm leaning more toward subtleties of alignment (toe in?), tire tread type/sidewall stiffness/grip/pressure (the car has the original Goodyears), and tire width (all information seems to indicate that wide tires are more prone to this problem). While I can play with tire pressures (and have, without success), I can't try on tires like I would tennis shoes. So I'm looking for anyone who has the solution. Note that I did run across one poster (UK) who was going to try the narrower 205/60R16 to replace the stock 225/55R16--virtually the same circumference--but no follow-up on whether that solved the problem. Any more ideas?

aldi
10-10-06, 05:24 AM
The problem results in the construction of the suspension and cannot be resolved totally. With my winter tires in 195/65R15 the car runs fine (tramlining only under braking) but with the summer tires in 235/40R18 it shows the problem everytime. Toe and camber of my car ist properly set and all bushings are o.k.
Every car tends to tramlining with wider tires, but the Omega/Catera is above the average. Narrower tires will help definitely, also stiffer bushings (PU) and a narrower track. Check also the tie rods and the other parts of the steering, they can also increase the problem.

RADman2000
10-10-06, 11:57 AM
The problem results in the construction of the suspension and cannot be resolved totally. With my winter tires in 195/65R15 the car runs fine (tramlining only under braking) but with the summer tires in 235/40R18 it shows the problem everytime. Toe and camber of my car ist properly set and all bushings are o.k.
Every car tends to tramlining with wider tires, but the Omega/Catera is above the average. Narrower tires will help definitely, also stiffer bushings (PU) and a narrower track. Check also the tie rods and the other parts of the steering, they can also increase the problem.

Forgot to mention: my car is a 2000 Catera non-sport with factory 16" chrome wheels and original P225/55 R16 Goodyear tires.

It looks like Catera suspension geometry/design leads to this problem (pun intended), and it can only be mitigated, not eliminated, at least using the 16" wheels. Your experience with the narrow winter tires versus the wide summer tires jibes with what I've read about the problem on a variety of cars--the wider the tire, the more pronounced the problem. A lot of the complaints on the web about tramlining are from owners of high-performance BMW M3s and Audi S4s with wide, low-profile tires.

It seems from the European Omega forums that the tramlining problem is confined to the V6 models with low profile tires on 16" and 17" wheels. I remember driving a rental 99 4-cyl Opel Omega (I assume 15" wheels with narrow tires) around Austria for 2 weeks and didn't have a problem.

To emphasize to forum members, this problem is not subtle on my car. You think twice on the freeway when changing into the rutted right lane--firmly grip wheel with both hands, change lanes rapidly to keep from "jumping" into the rutted lane. Once in the lane, keep both hands firmly on wheel and try to stay a bit to one side or the other of the ruts, keeping pressure on the wheel (away from center of lane) to avoid slinking down to middle of rut. If you get down in middle of the rut, car can easily jump a foot or more to left or right without notice.

Though it may be sacrilege to sacrifice handling by going to a narrower, higher-profile tire, I really feel uncomfortable and almost unsafe on some road surfaces. I'm looking at moving to a 205/60 R16. Does anyone know the width of the chrome wheels on this car? I'm guessing they're 7.5", but I'm not sure.

wamanning
10-10-06, 12:55 PM
i have this problem on my 2001 sport w/ ~55k miles. alignment didnt really seem to help.

w/ the OEM 17x7.5 wheels, i had a slow leak in the LF tire, and when it got below 30psi, the tramlining got REAL BAD. but when i kept the tire-pressure near 40psi, tramlining was mimimal to nonexistent.

i recently fitted 18x8 wheels, and it seems to be a little more prone to tramlining. w/ all 4 tires aired up properly, it still tramlines a little.

i'm going to have the shop check out the front end steering/suspension again soon, but from the sounds of it that may not offer any hope.

walter

investor74
10-10-06, 07:28 PM
Though it may be sacrilege to sacrifice handling by going to a narrower, higher-profile tire, I really feel uncomfortable and almost unsafe on some road surfaces. I'm looking at moving to a 205/60 R16. Does anyone know the width of the chrome wheels on this car? I'm guessing they're 7.5", but I'm not sure.

I would be very cautious about changing to a skinnier tire on the Catera. This is a heavy car and the tire size and profile is designed for the weight. In addition, your beautiful catera will look like an economy car with the skinny tires.

I have had a '97 for almost 10 years and have not noticed the problem you are talking about. However, I have changed tires more frequently. I am on my fourth set of tires and have 86K. Each time, I noticed that the car handles much better when I put on new tires. With 30K on your 6 year old tires, there is a good chance that new tires, maybe with a different tread design might work, but I would stick with factory recommendations for tire size. Just my opinion.

Barry

aldi
10-11-06, 11:37 AM
In Europe the factory dimensions were 195/65R15 and 205/65R15 back in 1994 and they work fine, even at top speed. So its nothing wrong with narrower tires, besides the look of them.

@RADman2000
If the tramlining is so extrem that you feel unsafe, than there is something wrong with the suspension or the steering. Even on rutted roads I can control the car with one hand on the steering wheel.

RADman2000
10-11-06, 12:31 PM
In Europe the factory dimensions were 195/65R15 and 205/65R15 back in 1994 and they work fine, even at top speed. So its nothing wrong with narrower tires, besides the look of them.

@RADman2000
If the tramlining is so extrem that you feel unsafe, than there is something wrong with the suspension or the steering. Even on rutted roads I can control the car with one hand on the steering wheel.

What I believe is the factory spare tire in my car is a 205/65 R15. I can get a Michelin 205/60 R16 with the same 94H load index as my current tires.

I just had an alignment done yesterday at an independent shop I've used before that does only alignments. I had the guy go thru the suspension and he did point out a bit of play in the left horizontal bushing of the lower control arm (one of the common wear points in the suspension of this car--discussed ad nauseum in Catera and Omega forums). But certainly nothing too bad, and, like I mentioned, this car has had the characteristic for years. By my statement of feeling unsafe, it's nothing having to do with feeling like I'm going to lose control of the car--it's suddenly finding yourself two feet closer to the truck in the next lane that bothers me. By the way, the alignment didn't appear to change anything.

It's possible that almost the entire problem is with the design of the Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires. I guess I won't know until I replace them.

wamanning
10-11-06, 08:37 PM
i had bridgestones on the OEM 17x7.5 rims and i'm running nexen on my 18x8 rims. both exhibit very moderate tramlining when tires are properly inflated.

RADman2000
10-12-06, 10:53 AM
i had bridgestones on the OEM 17x7.5 rims and i'm running nexen on my 18x8 rims. both exhibit very moderate tramlining when tires are properly inflated.

Since this thread hasn't generated more comments, i.e., other Catera owners with severe tramlining on stock rims, and since I just had alignment redone and the suspension checked out OK, I'll assume that the problem is most likely the tires. They aren't dead yet, so I'll wait until next year to replace them (roads on my daily commute aren't bad). If that doesn't at least mitigate the problem, it looks like I'll have to take a closer look at steering and suspension components. If new tires remedy the problem, I'll post back here in case anybody else encouters the issue.

Thanks for your experiences and advice.

investor74
10-12-06, 06:38 PM
RADman,

Here's one other thing to double check, especially since you have so many miles on the tires. Make sure that the front tires are not worn out on the inside. There was some confusion about the alignment specs during the lifetime of the Catera, and I actually had a tire down to the metal on the inside once where I could not see it. :bomb: . Very very scary. I was afraid to even go over and get tires when I saw that, and I was just on the highway at 75 MPH.

Barry

RADman2000
10-13-06, 02:27 PM
RADman,

Here's one other thing to double check, especially since you have so many miles on the tires. Make sure that the front tires are not worn out on the inside. There was some confusion about the alignment specs during the lifetime of the Catera, and I actually had a tire down to the metal on the inside once where I could not see it. :bomb: . Very very scary. I was afraid to even go over and get tires when I saw that, and I was just on the highway at 75 MPH.

Barry

I had read about the alignment issue, but if there's any execessive wear spot on the front tires, it's on the outside of the left front. Unfortunately, I'm not sure of the tire rotation history except that they were rotated 5,000 miles ago. I know that the tires on the rear are very evenly worn, and that the front right isn't too bad. Overall, looking at the wear on these tires after 30K miles, I would say the alignment wasn't ever too bad.

Catera V
10-16-06, 01:08 AM
I live in michigan and many of the surfaces do induce tramming. The production car has quite a bit. On a car like mine with 8.5 inchx17 with 245-45 tires it was very annoying. There are three contributors the spindle lenght is long on a strut car and wider wheels make it longer still. Spindle length puts torque on the steering and thus the suspension bushings. The bushings are soft on the catera for ride and to reduce tire shake sensitivity. Roll understeer is built into the front suspension to provide safety and handle build variation. I have fixed it on my car but it is not easy to duplicate for the average enthusiast.

wamanning
10-16-06, 07:47 AM
I have fixed it on my car but it is not easy to duplicate for the average enthusiast.

what did you do to fix it, at a high-level?

walter

Catera V
10-17-06, 01:19 AM
To reduce understeer I moved the front lower control arm at the rear outboard 3/4 inch this moves the spindle forward at the bottom, increases castor about 1 deg and lowers the steering arm which reduces understeer (amount of toe change with wheel travel). I added a travel stop on the back side of both control arm bushings to restrain their motion laterally. I believe very stiff bushings would also offer improvement but would cause other compromises in road noise, ride harshness and possibly smooth road shake. Sounds easy, but was a pain to do. The result was worth it. As you pointed out, for a high speed German car, this was a strange malady, but they generally have smother roads than we do. I do know the bushings were not changed for the US car.

hekso
10-17-06, 02:35 AM
Hey Guy's I have A 2001 Catera Sport With 75k on it i had this problem when i got the car and found nothing wrong with the car so I bought a set of 4 YOKOHAMA 235-50-17's directional about 135 a tire and have not had a bit of trouble with the wandering or tramelling whatsoever it is just about having the alignment as close to perfect as possible and spending a little bit of money on some good High End Tires for a car that was considered a High end Vehicle

oh yeah and this is my second Catera i also had a 1998 Catera which had the same Problem when the tires on it got hard is when it started doing it but it stopped as well when i put a nice higher end softer composite tire on it as well
hope this help's you guy's solve this problem

It worked on both of my Catera's

investor74
10-17-06, 09:51 PM
Hi,

I just can't duplicate the tramlining phenomenon on my '97 which I have had for 10 years, never any work done on the suspension. I just went out and tried to drop the right wheel off onto the shoulder. I have driven on roads where each lane is a different level and you have to step up or down to change lanes. I driven over the rutted steel deck bridges in NYC. In every case, rock solid.

I can't help but think the problem is tires - age, tread design, remaining tread, inflation, quality.

Barry

wamanning
10-17-06, 11:35 PM
I can't help but think the problem is tires - age, tread design, remaining tread, inflation, quality.


2001 catera (my 2nd one). 55k miles. new tires. aligned last year. fully inflated.

as in all things man-made, there is a range of variability. you apparently got a good one. much like my 1st 2001 catera, which didnt have any propensity to tramline.

RADman2000
10-18-06, 12:07 PM
Hi,
I just can't duplicate the tramlining phenomenon on my '97 which I have had for 10 years, never any work done on the suspension. I just went out and tried to drop the right wheel off onto the shoulder. I have driven on roads where each lane is a different level and you have to step up or down to change lanes. I driven over the rutted steel deck bridges in NYC. In every case, rock solid.

I can't help but think the problem is tires - age, tread design, remaining tread, inflation, quality.
Barry

Seems like if you had the problem, you'd have noticed it. May I ask what size/brand/model tires you're running and the size of your wheels?

investor74
10-18-06, 09:40 PM
Radman,

I bought the Khumo Solus tires at Sears. In the standard Catera size, 225 55 16 they were only $80 per tire. So far, I am really happy. The ride is very smooth and quiet, and the handling seems fine.

In the past I have had the original Goodyears, Perelli, and Michelin. All of those are much more expensive. I had pre-mature wear out of some of the tires because of the bad alignment specs.


Barry