The steering wheel is hard to turn can result from a few different factors, all of which play a key role in the vehicle’s braking, suspension, and wheel system. By knowing the main causes of steering wheel issues, you can prevent these problems from getting worse over time, making it impossible and unsafe to continue driving your car.
Causes of Steering Wheel Hard To Turn
To figure out why you are having problems with your steering wheel, you need to determine your steering issues’ main cause. There are main reasons why this might occur in your car, and knowing the causes can help you find the solution promptly.
Damaged Front Wheel Bearing
A wheel bearing is a set of steel balls held together by a metal ring called a rise. They help wheels spin fast, smoothly, and with title friction as possible to go the right speeds and glide smoothly. They are used on all kinds of cars, trucks, sedans, coupes, bicycles, and aircraft.
On your vehicle, they are generally on a metal axle shaft and fit tightly inside of the hub, which is a hollow chunk of metal at the center of the wheel. The hub then is in charge of holding the lug bolts that you use to connect the tire on the wheel – the wheel bearing pressed into the wheel hub from the back of the front wheel bearing.
If you have damage from wheel bearing or know that they are damaged and making noise, it can be hard to diagnose since you have to drive the vehicle to notice when the sound occurs and what kind of sound it is. Here are some tips that can help you find the source of the issue.
First, when the seal on the wheel bearing is broken or damaged, the noise might start out very faint and then grow over time when the front wheel bearing becomes more damaged. It sounds like a similar nose that your tires make when you hit a very uneven patch on the road while driving, just not quite as loud as when you hit significant potholes. The loud noises can be a sign that something is making the steering wheel hard to turn.
Noises When You Turn The Wheel
Second, when you are driving down the road and driving at least a speed of about 40 miles per hour, move the car side to side slowly, shifting the vehicle’s weight from one side to the other. Do not swerve side to side at high speeds, but just sway the car gently side to side. Notice whether the noise gets louder or softer in the front wheel bearing. If the noise is less when you turn to ascertain the side, the damaged front wheel bearing might be on that side or vice versa.
If you notice that your front wheel bearings are damaged, note if your tires are worn in specific patches and make a rhythmic noise that increases speed. This can sound similar to a bad front wheel bearing, but make sure you check the uneven tread wear when you hear this noise. Once you hear the noise while turning the wheel, you might also notice that the steering wheel is hard to turn.
You can determine if you have uneven tread wear based on a few different causes, like bad wheel alignment, improper tire inflation, unbalanced wheels, and bent or broken wheels. Bad wheel alignment can be caused by a suspension system that is not set to the manufacturer’s proper specifications, resulting in different irregular tire wear and front wheel alignment patterns. Suspension issues can cause the steering wheel to be hard to turn.
Improper Tire Inflation
Next, improper tire inflation can cause irregular tire wear across the width of the tire tread. If your tire shows more wear in the center of the tread than on the two sides, it is overinflated, but if the tread’s two sides are worn more than the center, then the tire is underinflated, causing poor front wheel bearing problems. Improper tire inflation is a direct reason why your steering wheel is hard to turn.
In addition, unbalanced wheels can happen when your wheel and tire assembly is not balanced, causing vibration and the tires not to hop up and down or wobble side to side as it rotates. Lastly, bent or broken wheels can be caused due to driving hazards like potholes and can cause a crack to form in the wheel portion.
Poor Wheel Alignment
The purpose of making a wheel alignment adjustment is to reduce tire wear, preventing uneven wear, and ensuring that the vehicle is straight and in line. Wheel alignment ensures the tires do not roll unevenly or lopsided, causing the tires to wear down incorrectly. This also can prevent the car from pulling to one side when you are trying to steer your vehicle in one straight line.
The alignment angle can be changed to accept the maker’s specifications and ensure that it goes with the right markers. More modern vehicles today have driver assistance systems like electronic stability, anti-lock brakes, lane departure warnings, and traction control, with these systems depending on and also aiding in mechanical adjustments and wheel alignments.
What are some common signs of bad wheel alignment? There are many causes of the wheel alignment being uneven.
Vehicle Pulls to One Side
The first one is the vehicle pulls to one side, with the car driving in a crooked line when you don’t have your hands on the steering wheel. This can make it difficult to drive in a straight line when you do not force the steering wheel to stay in one spot.
Steering Wheel Does Not Recenter
The second sign of bad wheel alignment is that the steering wheel doesn’t return to the center after being led to one side. The steering wheel’s inability to re-center goes hand in hand with the steering wheel hard to turn.
Steering Wheel Center Position Is Off-Centered
The third sign of bad wheel alignment is that the steering wheel is in its resting position off-center. As the steering wheel cannot re-center, if the steering wheel goes back to its resting position, it will be off-center. This makes it difficult to steer the wheel and drive in a straight line.
Excessive Tire Wear
Next, another show that the wheel alignment is poor is excessive tire wear in certain spots, due to the tires wearing down unevenly. The uneven and excessive tire wear can cause improper wheel alignment, leading to the steering wheel being hard to turn.
The last reason that wheel alignment could be damaged is loose steering. Loose steering makes it difficult to safely make turns, pull into a parking spot, switch lanes, and drive safely without worrying about over-turning the wheel.
Vibrating Steering Wheel Due To Lower Control Arm Damage
When the lower control arm bushings begin to fail in your car, one of the first symptoms you will notice is an increased vibration felt through the steering wheel while the vehicle is running. Typically, these vibrations will increase while the vehicle is accelerating.
These driving conditions occur when you drive uphill, revving your engine, or driving at highway speeds, like trying to pass another car. This increased vibration is the result of the uneven and unsteady wheels, which are caused by the lack of sturdiness and strength within the suspension system. This lack of strength in the system makes the steering wheel hard to turn.
A vibrating steering wheel can also occur due to other reasons in your vehicle. If your tires are unbalanced, extra pressure and weight add onto the new wheel. However, this added weight can shift or fall off, resulting in an unbalanced wheel, causing the car to shake while driving at high speeds and jerk while accelerating. This unbalanced wheel and tire can be due to the lower arm bushings not having a secure connection, resulting in the steering wheel being hard to turn.
Also, wheel misalignment is the leading cause of the vibrating steering wheel. One of the fastest and easiest ways to determine any misalignment is by analyzing the tire’s tread. If you notice that the tires wear out unevenly and break down more on the outside than the inside, this is a sure sign that the wheels are misaligned.
Along with the misaligned tires and uneven wear, if the steering wheel shakes while you are handling the wheel, you need to check the wheel bearing. The wheel bearings can make the steering wheel hard to turn.
The wheel bearing has the primary function of securing the wheel hub and permitting the vehicle’s wheels to turn at the right time and angle. If the wheel bearings wear down from consistent driving on rough roads, this can be a sign that the bearings need immediate replacement to fix the suspension.
A damaged suspension is easy to notice, seen by a shaky steering wheel, strange noises from under the wheel, wobbly steering, and a malfunctioning ABS sensor. These causes of a vibrating steering wheel directly relate to an inadequate control arm bushing and can influence the total price of a lower replacement cost.
Bad Steering Rack
The steering rack consists of the pinion and rack – unfortunately, these parts can be worn down over the years from consistent use. If this happens, you will be able to notice the problems by stiff steering that lessens as you drive the car. Consider getting the steering rack replaced to avoid the steering wheel being hard to turn.
Low Power Steering Fluid
This is possibly the most common cause of the steering wheel being hard to turn in your car. If you do not have enough power steering fluid, the pump will not be lubricated, and the system will lack pressure. The car might be able to run, but if you don’t fix the leak, the steering wheel will become more damaged over time, leading to an expensive replacement.
Old Power Steering Fluid
Along with the low power steering fluid causing the steering wheel damage, old and thick power steering fluid might not be thin enough to lubricate the system. The lack of usable power steering fluid causes the steering wheel to be hard to turn.
Broken Serpentine Belt
One of the most common causes of the steering wheel hard to turn is that the serpentine belt can lack stiffness. If the serpentine belt is not at the right tightness, it will cause the car to become undrivable.
Power Steering Pump Failure
The power steering pump is in charge of producing pressure to smoothly turn the wheel at the right time and angle. If the pump stops working, then it will be very difficult to turn the wheel at low speeds. In these situations the steering wheel is hard to turn and control.
As we know now, the control arm bushings are essential for additional driving comfort and safe handling. The lower control arm bushings are in charge of cushioning and padding the suspension system. The lower control arm bushings control the noise and vibrations by adding some padding and provide a soft ride over the bumps in the road and uneven terrain.
Furthermore, the front wheel bearing is a key part of your braking and suspension system that directly affects the steering wheel being hard to turn. The wheel bearing is an essential part of the assembly that connects the wheel to the axle, ensuring the hubs, tires, and wheels’ proper function. Reducing friction and keeping your car running can prevent the steering wheel from being hard to turn.
Lastly, a proper wheel alignment ensures that the wheel angles are set to the specific standard, reducing tire wear, preventing uneven tread wear, and making sure the vehicle can roll in a straight line without having to adjust the steering wheel. By paying for a wheel alignment, you can reduce the chance of the steering wheel hard to turn and the vehicle pulling to one side.