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I was doing a routine maintenance on my spouses car (not the Crosstour) this morning. She had complained about a strong vibration in the steering wheel. Well, knowing how her car is like a magnet to curbs and potholes I really didn’t give it too much thought. I test drove her car down the street, and yes, it did have a very noticeable vibration that got worse with speed.

Well, I got the car up on the lift and started looking over the steering and suspension. No problems. I then checked the wheels for lost weights or curb dents. Nothing found. I then examined the tires. Wow, I don’t know where she found so many gravel roads, but the tires both front and rear were full of small rocks and pebbles lodged in the tread. Seems some tires have the perfect tread for attracting small rocks and pebbles. I spent about an hour digging all the rocks out. There had to be at least 4 or 5 ounces or more of rocks and pebbles dug out of each tire.

I got thinking about this (strange where your mind goes when doing a mundane job like pulling rocks out of tires) and started calculating how much of the tire was covered by rocks and then calculating how much less rubber is contacting the road (rocks and pebbles have very little stopping force when applying the brakes). I mindlessly calculated that there was probably between 5 and 8 percent less rubber on the road due to these rocks and pebbles. Braking time would certainly be affected. How much longer would it take to stop the car? Well, after deciding the many factors involved such as road surface, weight of the car, tire air pressure, type of rocks, etc. etc. I decided to let this calculation go, but might go back to it when she next drives over a new road and I’m spending hours wiping the tar off the car.

The point being, always check your tires for rocks and foreign material, these foreign items can easily affect the balance of your tires and cause a vibration. I also found two screws and one nail (but they did not puncture the tread). Also make sure to tell your spouse to stay off gravel roads!!!
 

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Excellent points crashmaster!

In my last vehicle I had the unfortunate experience of driving through a freshly crack-sealed parking lot.

My tires picked up a fair amount of tar inside the treads which resulted in some nasty shaking at speed.

Your point about decreased rubber surface area on the road is a very important point. It is also important to remember that the shaking and vibration means the tire is not in contact with the road evenly all the time, which also effect braking and handling.
 
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