Steering wheel shakes low speeds is an indication of issues in tire balance, wheel alignment, brakes problems.
Vehicles are designed to drive all the time very smoothly, especially on the right roads.
It is usual for vehicle components to start wear and tear over time and to require maintenance and probably a replacement.
The steering wheel is the connection between the driver and the vehicle and, ultimately, the road.
Your steering wheel behavior can give a lot of warnings about your vehicle's performance and put red flags on internal issues in your car.
If your steering wheel started vibrating or shaking, you need to locate the problem and fix it immediately. Some of the issues causing vibration can be very dangerous.
In this article, we will walk you through the leading causes of steering wheel vibrations at low speeds. Note that any vibrations at low speeds can be much more apparent at higher rates.
What are the leading causes of steering wheel vibration and shaking at low speeds?
The steering wheel is connected to the car's power steering, the steering racks, the suspension, the wheels, the tires, and the brakes.
Any problem with the mentioned connections can cause the steering wheel to vibrate at low speeds and high speeds.
Steering wheel vibration can happen in both new and old cars. As a result, car owners must check the common causes of steering wheel vibration every time they do an oil change or regular maintenance. For example, it is a good idea to check the tire and wheel balance, tire wear, and tire pressure regularly. Do not wait for a problem to happen first to do these housekeeping checks.
Shaking steering wheel can indicate simple problems or severe issues. Therefore, any driver needs to understand what the common causes for a steering wheel are to shake and to be able to determine the object based on the frequency and the time of shaking steering wheel.
In general, the causes can fall into one of the following five categories:
1. Vehicle's wheels problems
The vehicle's wheel problems can be further broken down into alignment issues, balancing issues, wheel bending issues, and replacement issues.
The vehicle's wheels should be aligned together. This alignment is specified by the manufacture. Over time and due to the different road environments, the wheels might start to lose the alignment.
Misaligned wheels can result in uneven wear and tear in the tires. If the tires became unevenly worn, the steering wheel would start shaking and vibrating.
Unbalanced wheels can cause the vehicle to wobble. Although this wobbling might occur a little bit at lower speeds, you can notice it at much higher rates when you drive on the highways.
If you got involved in a car accident and started to notice steering wheel vibrations, there is a high potential that your wheels or internal axels got bent.
For example, a broken driveshaft can cause the wheel to jerk left and right without you controlling it.
If you noticed any of the mentioned problems in your vehicle's wheels, the first step you must do is to repair the bikes. If the wheels were not repairable, unfortunately, you might need to replace them. You must drive a well-balanced wheels car. Otherwise, you might put yourself in a risk of car accidents.
2. Vehicle's tires problems
The vehicle's tires problems can be further broken down into wearing problems, balancing issues, uneven pressure problems, and rotation issues.
Worn front tires
In most cars, the front tires start wearing before the rear tires. As a result, the tires will have uneven wear, which might cause an overall unbalanced vehicle. In this case, you will start noticing strange steering wheel vibrations.
Tire balance problems
Any new tires must be well balanced. The manufacturer specifies the tire balance guidance. If for any reason, the tires started to be imbalanced, you will likely begin to experience shaking steering wheel.
One way to check for tire balance issues is to look for flat spots. For vehicles who did not move for a long time, you might see flat spots on some wheels but not on the others, which might affect the overall balance of the wheel.
Uneven tire pressure
The manufacturer and the vehicle's owner's manual specify precisely how much the tire should be inflated for a specific vehicle.
If any of the tires were poorly inflated, the entire vehicle would be imbalanced. As a result, you will start noticing uneven tear and wear on your tires. Therefore, the steering wheel will start shaking when driving at low and high speeds.
If your vehicle tires experienced any of the listed problems, you need to look into immediate maintenance and fix to your tires.
The first step you can do is to rotate the tires. As we mentioned before, the front tires tend to wear before the rear tires. Therefore, if you replaced the front tires by the rear tires, you will start having even tire wear, and consequently, you will stop the steering wheel from shaking.
On the other hand, if both front and rear tires are severely worn, you might need to replace all the tires to stop the steering wheel from vibrating.
If the shaking steering wheel is due to balancing and alignment issues, you need to take the vehicle to a professional mechanic and get it aligned correctly.
3. Vehicle's suspension issues
The vehicle's suspension problems can be further broken down to inner and outer rods problems, balls and joints issues, and springs problems.
Problems with the inner and outer rods
The inner and outer rods of the suspension are responsible for keeping the wheels in a specific position. With time, these rods can tear and wear, which can affect the balance of the bike and therefore result in uneven tire wear. Consequently, you can experience a shaking steering wheel when driving.
Steering wheel shaking time can confirm to you if the problem is due to the inner or outer rods. For example, if your steering wheel starts shaking when you turn around the corners but not when you drive straight, then this is a problem in your tie rods.
Suspension ball joints issues
Bolts connect internal parts. Like any other part in the vehicle, they can wear by the time of usage. Brocken or worn suspension bolts can cause the steering wheel to shake and will make clunky noise whenever you drive.
Like the inner rods affect on steering wheels, the time when the steering wheel shakes can confirm to you if the problem is coming from the ball joints. For example, if the steering wheel shakes when you drive straight but not when you turn, then the problem is coming from the ball joints.
Worn control arm bushing
In any vehicle, there is a control arm bushing in the front and rear suspensions. This control bushing is responsible for connecting the wheel hub with the vehicle frame.
If there were issues with the control arm bushing, the wheel would not be connected correctly to the vehicle. As a result, problems can happen to the wheel alignment.
Misaligned wheels can cause the steering wheel to shake, as we mentioned before.
Problems with the suspension springs
The suspension springs are responsible for supporting the vehicle when driving through bumps. If your car started bouncing after driving through a crack, there could be a problem with the vehicle's suspension springs.
Problems with suspension, in general, can cause the steering wheel to shake.
4. Vehicle's brake problems
All the listed causes for a shaking steering wheel can not be as important as problems with brakes.
The vehicle's brakes are responsible for slowing down and stopping your car. If there are any issues with the brake system in your vehicle, you need to get it fixed immediately as it can threaten your life was driving this vehicle.
Usually, a shaking steering wheel due to brake issues will happen when you hit the brakes but not when you just drive.
The vehicle's brake problems can be further broken down to issues with the rotors, problems with brake pads, and damages in the brake calipers.
Brake does not usually wear uniformly, and they also can get overheated. If the rotors experienced any of these two conditions, you would experience shaking or vibrating in your steering wheel.
The brake pads are connected to the steering wheel through a knuckle arm, then a steering rack, and finally, the steering column.
If you did not have issues with the brake's rotors, then the problem can be due to worn brake pads.
If you notice your steering wheel shaking when you hit the brake, and if you confirmed that it is not a problem with the brake rotors or the brake pads, it might be due to your brake calipers.
Problems with brake calipers can be more severe, and you might starts be smelling burnt smell every time you hit the brake.
In this case, you need to stop your vehicle immediately and request a service as soon as possible.
5. Other issues
The previously listed problems are the central commons for steering wheel shaking at low and high speeds. However, other reasons can cause a steering wheel to shake, including:
Although engine issues can be evident through other symptoms (e.g., entire vehicle shaking, illuminating check engine light), you might experience a shaking steering wheel.
Some engine problems that might cause steering wheel vibration include issues with the air inducer, issues with the fuel supply, issues with the sparks.
Engines problems affect the overall vehicle driving performance, and your car will not operate as smoothly as usual. The effect appears much more at higher speeds.
Problems in the bearings
The bearings are responsible for supporting the heavyweight of the vehicle, ensuring that the wheels are rolling on the road, reducing the friction between the metal parts, and connecting the wheels to the vehicle's body.
In theory, your bearing should last forever, and you will not need to replace them. However, in real life, the bearings might wear and tear like any other parts in the vehicle.
A loose or damaged bearing will not only cause the steering wheel to shake, but you will also start hearing grinding noise between the metal parts. Bad bearings can affect the overall function of the car as they might lead to improper pressure balance in the vehicle.
The vehicle's driveshaft is responsible for transferring the power from the engine to the wheel axel and, therefore, force the car to move.
If the driveshaft is damaged or worn, the steering wheel will start vibrating. On higher speeds, the vehicle will start shuddering.
Your can is supposed to drive all the time smoothly, especially on the right roads.
A shaking steering wheel is an indication of wheels, tires, suspension, brake, or other vehicles' problems.
Any driver should understand the reasons for shaking the steering wheel to help get the right repair promptly.
The time and frequency of steering wheel vibration can indicate the cause of the problem. For example, If the steering wheel is shaking due to difficulties in your brakes, the wave will happen only when you hit the brakes.
On the other hand, if the steering wheel is shaking when you turn but not when you drive straight, then you need to check your vehicle's tie rods. But if the steering wheel shakes when you drive straight, not when you turn, then you need to repair the vehicle's ball joints.
If you are concerned about a shaking steering wheel at low speeds, consider checking the tiers for flat spots, check the calipers, or check the rotors.
Despite the cause of the steering wheel vibration, you need to get the vehicle fixed as soon as possible to avoid getting involved in accidents or paying a lot for the repair.