Your car’s steering wheel wobbles. You might think it’s just you, but the chances are that plenty of other drivers have experienced the same thing. What’s going on? Why does your steering wheel shake? Is there anything you can do about it? In this article, we’ll answer all those questions and more.
We’ll look at what causes shaking steering wheel, what components make up a steering system, and how to fix the issue. So read on to learn everything you need to know about steering wheel vibration!
Table of Contents
Main Components of Steering System
Before we dive into the reasons behind a shaky steering wheel, it is important to get familiar with the working and components of the steering system.
The five main components of a steering system are the steering wheel, the steering column, steering linkages, wheels, and the steering box.
1. Steering Wheel: The steering wheel is the primary interface between the driver and the vehicle. It is attached to the steering column, which in turn is connected to the steering gear.
2. Steering Column: The steering column transmits the driver’s input (turning the wheel) to the steering gear. It consists of an inner shaft connected to the steering wheel and an outer shaft connected to the steering gear.
3. Steering Gear: The steering gear converts the driver’s input (turning the wheel) into a rotational force that turns the wheels. It consists of a rack and pinion or a recirculating ball mechanism.
4. Steering Linkage: The steering linkage connects the steering gear to the wheels. It consists of a series of rods and joints that transmit the rotational force from the steering gear to the wheels.
5. Wheels: The wheels are the final component of the steering system. They are connected to the steering linkage and rotate in response to the steering input.
How Does Steering Systems Work?
A car’s steering system is what allows the driver to control the direction of the vehicle. The system is made up of many components, including the steering wheel, column, rack and pinion, and tie rods. Each of these parts works together to allow the driver to turn the car in the desired direction.
The steering wheel is the first part of the system that the driver interacts with. The wheel is connected to the steering column, which runs down to the rack and pinion. The rack and pinion is a gear system that converts the driver’s input from the steering wheel into motion that turns the car’s wheels. The motion from the rack and pinion is then transferred to the car’s wheels via the tie rods.
The steering system allows drivers to control their vehicles and keep them safe on the road. If a steering wheel shakes, a car would be very difficult to drive.
What Cause a Vibrating Steering Wheel?
Whenever there is a problem related to the vibration of the steering wheel, it is usually due to three major parts or systems. The tires, brakes, or suspension. Let us list down these causes:
1. Tire and Wheel Assembly
- Unbalanced Tires
- Wheel Alignment
- Out of Center Wheel Bearings
- Improper Installation
- Low Tire Pressure
- Bent Rims
- Uneven Tire Wear
2. Suspension Components
- Damaged Control Arms Bushings
- Bent Control Arms
- Damaged Ball Joints
- Worn Out Suspension Rods
- Worn Out Bearings
- Bent Axle
- Air Bubbles in hydraulic Lines
- Overheating of Brake Pads
- Worn Out Brake Rotors
- Damaged Brake Calipers
4. Other Issues
- Bad Driving Habits
- Engine Compartment Issues
Let us explain the causes and sub-causes of steering wheel vibration in detail.
1. Tire and Wheel Assembly
Tires that are not properly balanced create a vibration that is felt in the steering wheel. The main reason for this problem is that the weight of the tire and wheel assembly is not evenly distributed.
If the wheels are not aligned properly, it can also cause a steering wheel vibration. This is because the tires will be making contact with the ground unevenly, which will create vibrations.
Out of Center Wheel Bearings:
Another problem that can cause a steering wheel vibration is out-of-center wheel bearings located in the wheel hub. This means that the bearings are not sitting in the middle of the wheel. This can happen if the wheels are not installed properly or if they become damaged.
If the tires or wheels are not installed properly, it can also lead to a steering wheel vibration. This is because the components will not be able to function correctly if they are not installed correctly.
Low Tire Pressure:
If your car’s tires are low on air pressure, it can cause the steering wheel to vibrate. This is because the low tire pressure makes the tires less round, and as they rotate, they can start to wobble. This can make the steering wheel shake as well.
One common reason for a vibrating steering wheel is bent rims. When your rims are bent, it can cause your tires to wobble as they rotate. This can, in turn, cause your steering wheel to vibrate.
Uneven Tire Wear:
If your tires are wearing down unevenly, it can also lead to a steering wheel vibration. As the tread on the tires wears down, it can cause them to become unbalanced. This can make your steering wheel shake as well.
2. Suspension Components
Damaged Control Arms Bushings:
If your car’s control arm bushings are damaged, it can cause a steering wheel vibration. This is because the bushings act as a cushion between the control arm and the car’s frame. If they are damaged, it can allow the control arm and tie rod ends to move around more freely, leading to vibrations.
Bent Control Arms:
Another suspension component that can cause steering wheel vibrations is a bent control arm. This is because the control arm is responsible for keeping the wheels in alignment. If it is bent, it can cause the wheels to become out of alignment, leading to vibrations.
Damaged Ball Joints:
If the steering wheel is shaking, damaged ball joints might be the culprit. Ball joints connect the control arms to the wheels and allow them to move up and down. If they are damaged, it can cause the control arms to move around more freely, leading to vibrations.
Worn Out Suspension Rods:
Suspension rods are responsible for absorbing the shocks from bumps in the road. If they are worn out, it can cause the car to ride rougher, which can lead to a steering wheel vibration.
Worn Out Bearings:
Bearings allow the suspension components to move smoothly. If they are worn out, it can cause the suspension components to move around more freely, which can lead to vibrations.
If your car’s axle is bent, it can also cause a steering wheel vibration. This is because the axle is responsible for holding the wheels in place. If it is bent, it can cause the wheels to become out of alignment, which can lead to vibrations.
3. Braking System
Air Bubbles in hydraulic Lines:
The main reason why air bubbles in hydraulic lines of the steering system cause a vibrating steering wheel is that they can cause a loss of hydraulic pressure. When this happens, and you press the brake pedal, the steering wheel will start to vibrate because it is not getting the proper amount of hydraulic pressure that it needs to function properly. In some cases, the vibration can be so severe that it can cause the steering wheel to give proper jerks. In other cases, the vibration may just be annoying and not pose any serious safety hazard.
Overheating of Brake Pads:
Another reason for a vibrating steering wheel is overheating of brake pads. When the brake pads get too hot, they can start to break down and cause a vibration. This is because the brake pads clamp is made of a material that is designed to absorb heat. When they get too hot, they can start to break down and cause a vibration.
Worn Out Brake Rotors:
Worn-out brake rotors can cause a vibrating steering wheel for a few reasons. First, if the rotors are not perfectly flat, they can cause the brake pads to wobble and vibrate when applied. Second, if the rotors are warped, they can cause the pads to bind and grab, which also leads to vibration. Finally, if the rotors are simply worn out, they may not provide enough stopping power, which can also cause vibration. In any case, it’s important to have brake rotors checked and replaced as needed to avoid these issues.
Damaged Brake Calipers:
The calipers on your brakes are what press the brake pads against the rotors to create the friction that slows and stops your vehicle. If you have a stuck brake caliper, it can cause a vibration in your steering wheel as you brake. This is typically caused by the calipers not being able to apply even pressure to both sides of the rotor. This can be due to a stuck piston, leaky seals, or debris lodged in the caliper. If you notice a vibration in your steering wheel while braking, have your brakes checked by a qualified mechanic to ensure that the calipers are in good working order.
4. Other Issues
Bad Driving Habits:
One of the most common causes of a vibrating steering wheel is simply bad driving habits. Things like riding the brakes, making sudden stops, and driving over bumps can all lead to a vibration in the steering wheel. If you find that your steering wheel is vibrating, take a look at your driving habits and see if there’s anything you can change.
Engine Compartment Issues:
Several engine compartment issues can cause a vibrating steering wheel. Things like an engine misfire, worn-out motor mounts, or an imbalanced engine can all lead to vibration. If you suspect that one of these issues is the cause of your vibration, have your vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic.
How To Fix the Problem of Vibrating Steering Wheel?
You can try the following remedies to solve the problem of steering wheel shimmy:
1. Check Tire Pressure:
One of the reasons for a vibrating steering wheel is uneven tire pressure. To check whether this is the reason, you should measure the pressure in all four tires with a tire gauge. The right amount of pressure will be mentioned on the placard, generally present on the driver’s doorjamb. If any of your tires is low on air, fill it up to the right amount.
2. Check Wheel Alignment and Balance:
If your tires are properly inflated and the steering wheel is still vibrating, it might be due to an issue with wheel alignment or balance issues. For this, you will have to take your car to a mechanic. They will be able to tell you whether your car’s wheels need to be aligned or balanced.
3. Check for Worn Out Suspension Components:
Another reason for a vibrating steering wheel could be worn-out suspension components. To check whether this is the problem, you can look at your car’s shocks and struts. If they are leaking or if they seem to be damaged, then it is best to replace them.
4. Check for Obstructions in the Steering System:
Another possibility is that there might be an obstruction in the steering system. To check for this, you can have a look at the steering column and the steering rack. If something is blocking the path of the steering, then it will need to be removed.
5. Check Engine Mounts:
Another potential cause of a vibrating steering wheel is damaged engine mounts. To check whether this is the problem, you can take a look at the engine mounts. If they are broken or worn out, they will need to be replaced.
How Much Will it Cost To Fix a Vibrating Steering Wheel?
You might need to employ several fixes or replace various parts to resolve the issue of steering vibration. The cost of some of the common replacements is:
1. Wheel Balancing and Alignment:
The cost of wheel balancing and aligning your car’s steering wheel can range from $50 to $200. Balancing involves adding small weights to the wheel to ensure that it turns smoothly. Aligning adjusts the wheel’s angle so that it points in the same direction as the rest of the car. This can help improve your car’s handling and fuel efficiency.
2. Brake Pads Replacement:
Another potential cause of a vibrating steering wheel is worn brake pads. Replacing your brake pads can cost anywhere from $150 to $300, depending on the make and model of your car.
3. Replacing Brake Rotors:
If your brake pads are worn down, it may also be necessary to replace your brake rotors. Rotors can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 each, so this is definitely a more expensive repair.
4. Wheel Bearings:
Another potential issue could be worn wheel bearings. Bearings help the wheels spin smoothly, so if they are worn out, it can cause your steering wheel to vibrate. Replacing bearings can cost between $1800 and $500.
5. Control Arm Bushings:
Your car’s control arms connect the wheels to the vehicle’s frame. Over time, the bushings that support the control arms can wear out, causing vibration in the steering wheel. Replacing worn bushings can cost between $150 and $500.
One final potential cause of steering wheel vibration is worn tires. Tires can wear out over time from normal use, and they can also become damaged from hitting potholes or other objects. If your tires are worn out, they will need to be replaced. Depending on the size and type of tire, this can cost anywhere from $150 to $250 each.
It is important to have a good steering system in a car for several reasons. First, it helps the driver to control the car. Second, it helps to keep the car stable on the road. Third, it helps to reduce wear and tear on the tires. Fourth, it helps to improve fuel economy. Finally, it helps to improve the safety of the car.
There are many potential causes of steering wheel vibration. The most common causes are worn tires, out-of-balance wheels, or worn suspension components. You can often fix these problems yourself by simply replacing the worn parts. However, if the problem is more serious, you may need to take your car to a mechanic for further diagnosis and repair.
Frequently Asked Question
Is it safe to drive with a vibrating steering wheel?
A vibrating steering wheel can be a sign of a problem with your car, and it is important to get it checked out by a mechanic. It could be something as simple as an unbalanced tire, or it could be a more serious issue like a problem with the suspension.
Either way, it’s not something you should ignore, and it’s definitely not safe to drive with a vibrating steering wheel. If you’re not sure what the problem is, have your car checked out by a professional as soon as possible.
How long can you drive with a vibrating steering wheel?
It is not recommended to drive with a vibrating steering wheel for an extended period, as this can be a sign of a serious problem with your vehicle. You should not drive more than a few miles or a few hundred miles, depending upon the severity of symptoms. It is best to have your vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible to determine the cause and avoid further damage.
Why does your steering wheel shake only at certain speeds?
The most common reason for a steering wheel to shake only at certain speeds is because of an issue with the tires. If the tires are unbalanced or if the tread is wearing down unevenly, it can cause the steering wheel to shake. Another possibility is that there is something wrong with the suspension.
What to do if your steering wheel starts vibrating while on a highway?
If your steering wheel starts vibrating while you’re driving on a highway, don’t panic. Try to stay calm and focus on the road ahead. If the vibration is severe, it’s best to pull over to the side of the road and stop. Once you’re safely off the road, check your tires to see if they’re inflated properly.
If they’re not, inflate them to the proper pressure and see if that stops the vibration. If the vibration persists, it’s possible that you have a wheel imbalance or a problem with your suspension. In either case, it’s best to have your vehicle checked by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.
Is the conventional steering system better as compared to the power steering system?
There are several reasons why the conventional steering system is considered to be better than the power steering system.
One of the main reasons for this is that the conventional steering system provides drivers with more feedback about the road and their surroundings. This is because the driver’s hands are in direct contact with the steering wheel, which allows them to feel any bumps or irregularities in the road surface.
Another reason why the conventional steering system is often preferred is that it generally requires less maintenance than power steering systems. Power steering systems tend to be more complex, which means that more parts can potentially break or wear out over time.