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Steering Wheel Vibration – Suspension Problem or Braking Issue?

Steering Wheel Vibration – Suspension Problem or Braking Issue?

Tired of holding the wheel tight as the steering wheel excessively shakes as you drive down the parkway? Constant steering wheel vibration can be incredibly frustrating especially since you likely heavily rely on your vehicle to get you to point A and point B. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


 

These days vehicles are designed to provide the smoothest riding experience. Yes, modern cars are created to drive smoothly even when road conditions aren’t so great. While some vibrations are completely normal if you’re constantly experiencing steering wheel vibrations when you are driving there could be a serious issue. 

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – Troubleshooting 

Before you head to your nearest tire shop there may be some things you can do yourself to remedy the situation. When you start feeling steering wheel vibration you should immediately take a look at the tires and rims. 

 

If you need to roll the vehicle backward and forward to get a complete view of the tires. Check for snow or ice on the tires which can cause the driver to experience steering wheel vibration. If there is an obvious build-up of mud or grit on the outer surfaces of the tire you can have your tires pressure washed clean. If snow or ice on the outer portions of your tire you’ll need to park your vehicle in a heated garage until it thaws out. 

 

Sometimes the steering wheel vibration can be due to the electronic features of your vehicle. For instance, if your car is equipped with an Advanced Driver Assistance System or Lane Keep Assist then when you attempt to make a lane change without putting on your signal it can cause the steering wheel to vibrate. Faults within these technical features can cause frequent steering wheel vibration. 

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – Dangers of Driving In This Condition

Although your car may still be operable in its current condition, it still isn’t a good idea to keep traveling in a vehicle if you’re experiencing steering wheel vibration. Oftentimes, drivers put off mechanical issues until the problem worsens and the vehicle is no longer operable. If you continue to drive a vehicle with bad steering wheel vibration you could end up losing control of the car and having an accident. Driving a vehicle in this condition is dangerous and you should seek professional help.

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – Do I Need A Wheel Alignment?

Steering wheel vibration is often misdiagnosed as an alignment problem. All too often, drivers pull into their mechanic shop for a steering wheel vibration issue believing that their vehicle needs a wheel alignment. However, the truth is that alignment has nothing to do with steering wheel vibrations. 

 

A wheel alignment ensures that all your vehicle’s wheels are centered and that they are all pointing in one direction. When a mechanic performs a wheel alignment they manually adjust the angle on each wheel to the original specs for proper road contact and long-lasting tire life.

 

Although, wheel alignment is a major maintenance procedure that should be performed annually it won’t put an end to a steering wheel vibration problem. The biggest mistake you can make is to pay for a mechanical procedure that you don’t need. Any decent mechanic will request information on what you have been experiencing while driving before doing any work. 

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – High Speeds or Low Speeds?

In order to properly diagnose a steering wheel vibration issue, it’s important to pay close attention to your car while you are driving. Steering wheel vibrations that occur at certain speeds are often related to an imbalance issue in the tires, wheels, or axles. 

 

On the other hand, if the steering wheel vibration typically occurs at relatively slow speeds the problem may lie in the wheels or seized joints. If your steering wheel starts to shake when you are braking or driving at a higher speed there could be a problem in your car’s braking system. The vibration that occurs after hitting a bump or something in the road can signal a suspension or steering system problem. 

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – Problem With the Tires or Wheels

When was the last time you replaced your tires? A brand new set of tires can last approximately 75,000 miles or about four years provided your vehicle’s suspension system is in good condition. Even if there are lots of treads left on your tires, if they are too old they won’t be able to hold up on the road. 

 

If you’ve been dealing with minor steering wheel vibration you may simply need to have your tires replaced. When the thread starts to come up from the tire or they begin to wear unevenly it can result in steering wheel vibration.

 

If your car starts to wobble or you are experiencing steering wheel vibration at 15 mph to 20mph you are more than likely dealing with severe cupping of the tire or a badly bent wheel. This issue can’t be put off. This type of tire failure almost always results in damage to the vehicle. 

 

If you’re finding that not only is not only experiencing steering wheel vibration but you’re also having to take more frequent trips to the gas station, low tire pressure could be contributing to the issue. You should have your tire pressure checked at your local tire shop. If your tires have a low tire pressure you can have them refilled with compressed air. 

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – Imbalanced Tires

Improper wheel or tire balance is also one of the most common causes of steering wheel vibration. Once properly balanced the wheel and tire assemblies don't just get off-kilter and cause steering wheel vibration on its own. Hitting a curb or a major pothole can cause 

 

When the tires are unbalanced they will hop up and down or hobble. When the two front tires haven't been properly balanced you’ll feel the steering wheel vibration much more than an imbalance of the back tires.

 

Balancing the wheels involves more than just making sure the tires are all the same size. Equal weight should be distributed on each side to restore proper balance. Did you know that even a half of an ounce difference in your car’s tires can result in steering wheel vibration?

 

As a general rule of thumb, the tires should be rotated every 7,000 miles or every two years depending upon which comes first. If the tires have been wearing unevenly you may have to invest in all-new tires and have them properly balanced. This will ensure that your wheels are properly balanced for a smooth driving experience. What if the tires are in good condition?

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – Suspension System

A vehicle’s suspension system which is located between the frame and the road is a complex structure. The system consists of struts, springs, rods, and pistons which all connect the wheels to the car. Just one loose component can cause a problem like steering wheel vibration. Faults within the suspension system affect the control and stability of the vehicle and will ultimately cause steering wheel vibration.

 

Over time, issues within your vehicle’s suspension will arise. The most common suspension problems that cause steering wheel vibration or shaking includes:

 

  • Worn or corroded parts
  • Drive Shaft imbalance
  • Old shocks
  • Wheel bearings

Worn Shocks

The shocks serve as a cushion between your vehicle and the road. When they become completely worn or lose your vehicle’s stability will be affected. Loose struts or shocks can result in vibration issues. When the shocks are due to improperly secured strut mounts. When the strut mounts are loose it will cause steering wheel vibration. You will be able to notice this immediately when you move the vehicle backward or forward. 

 

Bad Wheel Bearings

The wheel bearings are essential to the proper functioning of the tire, hub, and wheel assembly. The wheel bearings are connected to the axle. The bearings support the weight of the car, and they allow the vehicle to turn without any friction. Therefore, steering wheel vibration is caused by bad wheel bearings. 

 

The wheel bearings can become worn from regularly driving on excessively worn roads. Steering wheel vibration caused by bad bearings occurs whenever you are making turns. It’s also accompanied by a strange noise coming from the wheel. 

 

Damaged Driveshaft

Dents, dings, and any other type of physical damage to the driveshaft will cause steering wheel vibration. An out-of-balance driveshaft could also be an issue. Like wheels, the driveshaft needs to be properly balanced as well. 

 

When there is an issue with your suspension system you’ll need to have it inspected by a trusted mechanic. Your car will need to be secured to a lift and so that the suspension system can be closely analyzed. Rattling or grinding noises can be identified rather quickly. 

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – Faulty Braking System

Does the steering wheel vibration occur when you are slowing down or coming to a halt? This is a sign that a problem lies in your car’s braking system. Worn brake pads, loose connections within the braking system, or bad brake discs. 

 

Steering wheel vibration caused by faults within the braking system is much easier to pinpoint. After all, braking problems always make themselves known once the brakes are activated when pressure is applied to them. 

 

Perhaps the most common braking issue that can cause steering wheel vibration is when the rotors are out of round. When the rotors begin to wear they start to lose their shape and become warped. When the rotors are worn you’ll feel the steering wheel vibration through the brake pedal. 

What if the rotors are still in good condition? Then it’s time to look into the brake pads. If the shaking or vibration gets worse when you drive then there is a deeper problem in the braking system such as severe disc overheating and distortion. Sometimes repetitive hard braking doesn’t give the brake disc enough time to cool down. As a result, the brake discs will start to overheat. 

 

When the disc overheats, it warps causing vibration within the steering wheel and brake pedal whenever you press down on the brake pedal. Low-quality brake pads can also cause steering wheel vibration. Whenever you are replacing brake pads and discs you should invest in OEM labeled brakes and discs which are designed to handle a lot of heat. 

 

Or perhaps the brake disc has run out. An improperly installed brake disc due to rust or dirt buildup or the hub creating an uneven surface can cause steering wheel vibration. If you suspect that the brake disc has run out you should immediately stop driving the vehicle since it can lead to complete brake failure. 

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – Problems Under the Hood

In some instances, steering wheel vibration can be due to an issue underneath the hood. Bad motor mounts will definitely cause the steering wheel to shake as if the tires and wheels need to be balanced. Motor mounts are designed to adhere the engine and the transmission to the body of the vehicle. They are also designed to absorb vibrations so that the driver doesn’t feel any of the intense vibrations from the motor. 

Just like any other part of a car, the motor mounts are subject to wear over time. Worn motor mounts cause torque steer which mainly affects front wheel drive vehicles. Torque steer tends to happen during heavy acceleration typically when a driver is on the highway. Along with steering wheel vibration, the steering wheel may also veer to the left or the right. 

Some telltale signs that your motor mounts need to be replaced include:

  • Excessive noise coming from the engine
  • Misalignment 
  • Damage to the engine

 

Replacing worn motor mounts often solves torque steering. 

 

Steering Wheel Vibration – What Should You Do Next?

Steering wheel vibration can either be as small as an imbalance of car tires or costly issues such as overheated brake discs. No matter what the culprit is for steering wheel vibration, it’s best to have your vehicle inspected by a skilled and trusted mechanic who can properly diagnose the issue.