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Steering Wheel Shakes at High Speeds! Oh No!

Car Shakes When Accelerating but Not When Coasting

When the steering wheel begins trembling at high speeds, something’s wrong with the vehicle. It could be the steering column which costs up to $900 to repair. It’s important to get the repair done quickly as the shaking could indicate that a more serious problem is bound to stop you in your tracks soon.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

Not many drivers pay adequate attention to the steering column in their car these days. The steering column manages the direction of the vehicle as indicated by the wheel (controlled by the driver). In other words, it’s the part of the vehicle that steers the wheels.

In general, a steering wheel column operates without issue. However, if there’s shaking or other problems occurring, you may become curious about the cost of parts and repair. The parts themselves can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 depending on the make, model, and year of the vehicle.

The labor costs more, driving up the total cost toward $1000. Most older cars are prone to problems, so if you can’t afford a $1000 repair on your old vehicle, it might be time to consider replacing the ride.

In some cases, the shaking isn’t caused by the steering column itself. It could be that tires are out of balance, for example. This article will explore the causes and cures for a shaky steering wheel as well as the associated costs related to various repair needs.

Why Does My Steering Wheel Shake when I Hit 70 MPH?

Having a steering wheel that shakes while driving at high speeds can be scary. This is especially true for people who rarely let the car surpass 55 MPH due to city driving habits.

In some busy cities, the flow of traffic means getting the car into last gear or above 55 MPH can be a real challenge. The cars move slowly through intersection after intersection. Traffic crawls on the expressway. 

Then, bam, you’re in the country or the suburbs, riding high, and the steering wheel starts shaking like nothing you’ve ever experienced before as soon as you hit 70 MPH. What in the world is going on?

The shaking steering wheel is a signal that’s something amiss with the automobile. If there’s no reason or the car to shake (like rough terrain or speed bumps), the vibrations mean something is wrong with the vehicle. Visit the garage ASAP.

By the way, this isn’t the type of problem that goes away on its own. In fact, it might be tempting to just not drive the car above a certain speed limit. This isn’t only illogical and inefficient, it’s dangerous. 

If your car requires repair, it’s important to respond quickly so that an accident or breakdown don’t ruin your day.

There are three main reasons why a car’s steering wheel starts shaking when you hit the gas:

  1. Tires are out of balance
  2. The suspension is tired and worn
  3. Brake rotors require attention

There could be additional issues resulting in a shaky steering wheel, but they’re less common.

Shaking Steering Wheel Caused by Tires When Driving Fast

Perhaps the most common cause of steering wheel shaking while driving at high speeds, unbalanced wheels is the likely culprit. Tires that are unaligned can cause a lot of shaking when speeding down the expressway.

The shaking doesn’t regularly occur at low speeds when this is the problem. In general, the vibrating starts when the car passes 50 or 55 MPH. Sometimes, though, when the car reaches even higher speeds, the shaking subsides. This doesn’t mean you just have to avoid the shaking range.

You must instead concern yourself over getting the vehicle repaired so that the steering wheel doesn’t shake at any speed.

Sometimes you can fix the problem for less than a dollar! 

If the tires don’t have the right amount of air pressure inside, this can cause the balance problems that result in the shaking steering wheel. People don’t check the tire pressure enough. It’s a major safety concern if the tire pressure is out of whack. 

Sometimes it’s just poorly installed lug nuts, too.

If this doesn’t do the trick, then it’s important to see if the tires are worn evenly. Check the tread. Check for bald spots or uneven patterns. Maybe you’re overdue for a tire rotation.

Finally, if these problems aren’t the cause, it’s important to get the car to a mechanic to check out the integrity of the tires. It could be a different problem, too. For instance, a bad axle could be bent out of shape. This often results in a sputtering/jerking motion happening when driving.

There are actually many problems with the wheels that can lead to a shaky steering wheel while accelerating:

  • Tie rod ends (up to $200 per tie rod)
  • Ball joints (up to $200 ball joint)
  • Wheel bearings (about $350 per wheel)

If your car has other problems besides the shaking, like steering to the wrong direction, or making noise when coming around corners, it’s time to call a mechanic (and as soon as possible).

Steering Wheel Shakes Because of Bad Suspension

Steering wheel vibration can occur at high speeds if the suspension has problems.

Suspension parts can break down over time, especially in older cars. Suspension shaking often occurs at a lower speed (45 MPH). When it comes to suspension problems, don’t put off the repair! 

This type of repair can cost anywhere from $1000 to $5000.

Brake Rotors Causing Steering Wheel to Vibrate at High Speeds

Another problem that can lead to steering wheel shaking at high speeds is brake rotors in disrepair. 

If the steering wheel shaking happens when you hit the brakes, the rotors could be crying for attention. The rotors can break down overtime and lead to vibration. Because brakes are such an important safety feature in a vehicle, this problem cannot be ignored.

Some mechanics warn not to write off this type of shaking just because the brakes have been recently installed! In fact, the shaking could be a sign that they weren’t installed correctly, putting your safety at risk. The average cost is $350 to $500 for a total brake job although this varies based on many factors.

Is Driving with a Shaky Steering Wheel Safe?

The short answer is no, driving with a steering wheel that shakes when driving at high speeds is anything but safe.

If you have problems with the tires or wheels, the car could steer off course, leading to an accident. If the steering wheel shakes because of suspension problems, a similar danger presents itself. If the steering wheel shaking is actually caused by bad brakes, that’s unsafe as well.

All in all, the best response to a shaking steering wheel is visiting a mechanic, garage, or service department at a local dealership. 

Situations and Scenarios with a Shaking Steering Wheel

Sometimes the situation is specific to the make and model (and year) of a vehicle. When dealing with a shaking steering wheel at high speeds, you might want to research if the problem is typical with your specific vehicle. If there are recalls, for example, it might be time to cash out on the service.

One driver reported having a steering wheel shaking problem when hitting 70 MPH. The problem was that sometimes the shaking was bad, if not violent, and other days, there was none at all. Mechanics jumped in asking what work had been done on the car in the past.

The driver explained that there had been a wheel bearing replaced and that the tires were are in good condition. The rotors had recently been done, so it wasn’t the brakes. The shaking didn’t occur when the drive applied pressure to the brakes.

Finally, a tire balance job helped fix the problem, but not entirely.

A professional weighed in as well, suggesting that when the tire conditions are the cause, the range of shaking is actually quite wide (in terms of MPH). Sometimes, the pro says, the problem is a slipped belt that can cause the tire to feel wobbly. Other times, the problem is the suspension or alignment.

Fun fact: one way to identify a worn wheel bearing is to listen for a high-pitched whine. Later on, the sound becomes grinding and the vibrations kick in. If these sounds aren’t at play, the problem isn’t likely to be the bearing.

You should check out the car before calling the mechanic or garage so you know what details to provide. For example, the mechanic needs to know if the tires have flat or bald spots. The repair person may want to check out the shocks as well (although a quick push down on the hood test tells all at home).

The control arm could also be causing the problem, causing the steering to seem to drift back and forth while on the road.

Most who contributed to the discussion pointed to the tires, suggesting air pressure, balance, or realignment.

What’s Better for Shaking Steering Wheel: Junkyard or Repair?

When your car starts to shake violently while you’re driving, panic mode can set in.

First, it’s the thoughts about the car driving off the road into oncoming traffic or an unsuspecting pedestrian. Later, it’s the cost of the repair. Finally, people start to add up the costs and ask themselves if the repair is even worth it in the end.

When it comes to the vibrating steering wheel, it’s hard to say which is which.

Send your car to the junkyard if:

  • The car is over twelve years old, AND/OR
  • The car has way more miles than is average for the specific make, model, and year, AND/OR
  • The total cost of repairs (especially if there are many) is higher than value of the vehicle

Get the repair done if:

  • The cost of the repair is covered under recall or warranty
  • The cost of the repair is lower than the value of the car
  • The car doesn’t have a laundry list of overdue repairs (this is a bad sign)
  • You’re a mechanic and feel comfortable doing the work yourself
  • The car is the only way you can transport yourself or your family

Choosing to send a car to the junkyard is a hard decision, especially if we’ve had the car for a long time, the car carries sentimental value, or you’ve already invested a lot into its repairs.

You have to be careful of the sunk cost fallacy, though. Steering wheel shaking can cost a lot of money to repair depending on the problems. Sometimes the symptom is an indication of a lot of problems with the wheels, axels, joints, suspension, and/or brakes. 

Imagine getting an estimate for $5000 repairs for a car that you only purchased for $2400. This happens to people who buy used cars all the time. This is why research is important. Additionally, when buying a used car, bring a mechanic friend to scope things out before singing on the dotted line.

If it’s too late in your case, you can take solace in the fact that junkyards will recycle your car, keep that death trap off the road, and pay you cash money in exchange for the vehicle.

When the Steering Wheel Shaking Stops…

The shaking in the steering wheel at high speeds isn’t normal, not even for an old car.

It is a sign that the car requires urgent attention. Don’t try to avoid driving at certain speeds or ignoring the problem. Instead, handle the situation promptly. Do a quick sight inspection of the parts outlined in this article (tire condition, shocks, brakes, etc.) and refer to a mechanic for assistance. 

If you’re certain that the shaking steering wheel is the sign you’ve been waiting for to send the car to the junkyard, there’s no better time than the present!

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