We as car owners and drivers always look for a smooth driving experience. We look to get from our points A to points B, without any issue. But now you have a problem which is leading you to wonder, “Why is my steering wheel hard to turn?” Did the stiffness happen all of a sudden? Have you tried to remedy the issue on your own to no avail? We have the most common causes and some solutions that will help you now!
Your vehicle’s steering system is vital part of your vehicle’s control mechanism. Your steering system also provides complete control over the direction in which you guide your vehicle. So, when you have the issue of a stiff steering wheel, then you are encountering a dangerous situation. You may be on a highway, and have to stop due to a traffic accident. Then, you have to steer yourself off of the highway, but you’re not able to. Having control of your steering wheel system at all times keeps you safe and secure. Let’s check out some of the most common causes that your steering wheel will become stiff.
Why Is My Steering Wheel Hard To Turn?
Check out some of the most common reasons that you have a steering wheel that is difficult to turn.
Faulty Steering Rack
Your vehicle’s steering rack is connected to the wheel through a series of U-joints and shafts. These components, along with the rack, can become damaged and fractured, due to daily driving. If you find that your steering wheel becomes stiff after you start your car, then you can just about count on the rack being the source of the problem. Your steering wheel will begin to gradually feel less stiff once you continue driving. Why does this happen? It’s due to the rack becoming hotter after the engine runs for a bit. Additionally, the lubricant will begin to settle. While you are able to drive with this condition, you should not drive with a deteriorating steering rack- as the problem will worsen with time.
Broken Or Cracked Serpentine Belt
Another common cause of a stiff steering wheel, may be due to a fractured or cracked serpentine belt. Over time- just like other car parts, the serpentine belt will become worn due to all of the work and strain it has to endure. Your steering wheel will begin to show signs of stiffness, after the belt begins to break and erode. That serpentine belt can also become loose. If you choose to wait to get this fixed, then you risk severe breaks in the belt, resulting in your steering wheel going completely out.
You read the heading, and you are left scratching your head. Tire pressure can contribute to a stiff steering wheel? It sure can. It may come as a surprise, but improper or lack of air pressure can cause your steering wheel stiff and difficult to turn. Lack of tire pressure, or improper tire pressure, -specifically deflated tires- can trigger a stiff steering wheel. This should serve as yet another reason to keep your vehicle tires properly inflated at all times.
You should keep all of your vehicle’s tires properly inflated according to the recommended PSI.
Bad front-end alignment can also cause a steering wheel to become still too!
Did you know that faulty front-end alignment can also affect your steering wheel? If you have unbalanced or uneven wear on your front tires, your car may pull to one side, and may also result in your steering wheel becoming stiff. Uneven tire tread can lead to misaligned wheels- and can trigger a stiff steering wheel- which is truly noticeable when you decide to turn a corner.
Inadequate Or Leaking Fluid
Inadequate levels of fluid or leaking fluid can also make a vehicle’s steering wheel stiff. The issues with vehicle fluid can happen once the pressurized hose area gets loose or develops a leak in it. Fluid will leak through that crack, leading to a reduction in pressure in the system – while also drying out the pump. The result? A steering wheel that is not getting enough supply of fluid to perform in a free, non confined manner.
Fluids That Are Thick
Not only can leaking or inadequate fluid levels contribute to a stiff steering wheel, but thick fluids can also cause a steering wheel to become difficult to maneuver too. Just like other kinds of fluids in a vehicle, your vehicle’s power steering fluid can also collect debris and dirt over time. The fluid can then become thick and stagnant and fail to flow freely. This also results in insufficient lubrication of parts too.
Because of this issue, you have a stiff steering wheel to content with. You will especially feel the stiffness of your steering wheel at low speeds. The solution to this issue, is to flush out that power steering fluid and replenish your car with fresh power steering fluid.
How Do You Fix A Hard Steering Wheel?
We discussed the causes of a difficult steering wheel, now let’s talk solutions. How to you remedy a stiff steering wheel?
Look and Check your Air Pressure in Your Tires
Are you finding it difficult to turn your steering as you drive at low speeds? Then check the air pressure of your tires. All of your tires should be filled with air at the recommended PSI for your tire size and vehicle. You don’t want improper air amounts – that can lead to stiff steering wheels.
Evaluate The Pulley On The Power Steering Unit
Another remedy for a stiff steering wheel, is giving a thorough inspection of the pulley located on the power steering unit. Make sure that you check the pulley ONLY when the engine is off on your car. The normal proper tension on your pully should not exceed one inch or three quarters of play. To check the tension, just take your thumb and press it down on the belt. Ensure that your pulley is in good condition by checking for fractures, cracks, tears or even edges that are frayed or getting to that point. You can also ask a mechanic to do a visual check as the car engine runs, ensuring that you have a strong and sturdy pulley belt is running well. If there is any slippage of the belt, this can result in not only a stiff steering wheel, but erratic and unstable steering.
Check Your Power Steering Fluid
As we mentioned earlier, your power steering fluid can be fluid that houses dirt and debris in it. if this is the case, then you can just about count on difficulty for steering. Get a power steering flush and replenish that power steering fluid. The average cost of this treatment is between $100 and $130- give or take a few dollars here and there.
Don’t Forget To Look At Your Power Steering Unit Too!
In addition to getting flush of your power steering fluid, you also want to take the time to inspect your power steering fluid unit. If you have any sort of leak from connecting pressure hoses, this will consequently decrease your pressure- leading to difficulty with steering.
Inspect Your Front-End Parts
Another remedy for combatting a stiff steering wheel, is a thorough inspection of your vehicle’s front-end parts. Your vehicle’s ball joints and tie rod ends should be inspected for proper lubrication and wear. If there is too much wear detected or seen, then this can cause danger while you’re driving and a stiff steering wheel. You want to inspect these parts, to ensure that your vehicle has the proper alignment in the front as well as the end. A “red flag” would be irregular tire wear of the front tires. You will notice that your car is gravitating or pulling to one side as you drive it. Your car should never pull you to one side. So, get that checked ASAP!
You may encounter stiff steering, especially, when you choose to turn a corner. Your vehicle’s tires are not aligned properly. A good way to keep your car in working order is to take it to a trusted mechanic and get regular checkups. You can avoid huge problems-not to mention huge repair bills down the road! Your mechanic will also want to check your fluid levels to ensure they are intact. If you sense something is wrong or not what it should be, bring that up to your mechanic, so he or she can look at it and make a proper diagnosis. It’s better to pay a little money for preventive maintenance, than to pay thousands of dollars for a huge repair later.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix A Steering Wheel That’s Stiff? What’s The Cost of A Power Steering Pump?
The cost of replacing a power steering pump will vary on were you take your car. Your mechanic will look at the vehicle and take the time to properly diagnose the issue. The general cost of replacing a power steering pump will be between $400 and $650. Of course, your final price will be comprised of both power steering pump parts and labor costs. The typical cost of labor for a power steering pump repair can range from $200 and $300 dollars. Parts can cost you $200 at the least and $400 at the most. It’s recommended that a certified mechanic repair the power steering pump. You want someone to properly diagnose the issue, and repair it so that the fix lasts over time.