Steering wheel shaking

Why is my steering wheel shaking?

And what might be causing other steering wheel problems

Does your car’s steering wheel vibrate or are you experiencing other issues with it?

Below we explain some of the reasons for a shaking steering wheel and other steering problems, and what you can do about them.

In this article

Woman in car with hands on steering wheel

Why does my steering wheel shake when braking?

If you notice your steering wheel tends to vibrate as you’re slowing or stopping the car, it could mean there’s an issue with your brakes.

Your brake discs may have started to wear out and lose their shape, which means the brake pads are pressing against an uneven surface, causing the shaking. If this is the case, you might also notice a vibration from the brake pedal.

It's very important for your brakes to work correctly, so if you notice a shaking steering wheel while braking, you should get this looked at as soon as possible.

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Why does my steering wheel shake when driving at high speeds?

Out-of-balance tyres are one of the most common causes of a shaking steering wheel.

If this is the cause, although you might notice a bit of a wobble at lower speeds, you’re more likely to experience vibrations when driving at higher speeds.

If you suspect out-of-balance tyres are causing the problem, here are some of the things you could do:

  • Check the tyres are all properly inflated. A flat tyre can create an imbalance which might lead to a shaky steering wheel.

  • Consider the tread of the tyres – if one is worn or you can see any flat spots on the front tyres, this could be the cause of the shaking. You may be able to get them rotated or you might need to pay for new tyres.

  • Look for bulges in the tyres, which can occur when the sidewall is damaged. If there are are any, particularly in the front wheels, this could be causing a vibrating steering wheel and you should get the tyre replaced immediately by a tyre specialist, as bulges can lead to a tyre blowout.

If the tyres look okay, there might be an issue with the connection from them to your steering wheel. Steering wheel vibrations at high speeds may also be due to damage to the wheel bearings, tie road ends or ball joints.

Why does my steering wheel shake when driving at low speeds?

If you’re noticing significant vibrations when driving at lower speeds, then it could be related to brake, wheel, suspension or tyre issues (although imbalanced tyres are more likely to cause problems at higher speeds).

You should ask a mechanic to take a look at it to diagnose and resolve the issue.

How to fix a shaking steering wheel

In many cases, you will need a mechanic to fix the problem that is causing a shaking steering wheel. To help them diagnose the fault, you should:

  1. Make a note of when you experience the vibrations (for example, when braking or driving at high speeds).

  2. If you suspect out-of-balance tyres could be the cause, make sure these are fully inflated and see if the shaking continues after that.

  3. If it does, take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible and provide them with information as to when the vibrations occur.

Is it safe to drive with a shaking steering wheel?

A shaking steering wheel could be a sign of a problem with your brakes, tyres or another important part of your car. It might also distract you from the road.

And while a vibrating steering wheel itself won’t cause a failed MOT, the underlying cause (such as brake issues) might.

It’s therefore important to get the problem diagnosed and fixed as soon as possible so you can continue to drive your vehicle safely.

Other steering wheel problems

Steering wheel alignment problems

If you’re noticing your car drifting to the left or right or uneven tyre wear, there might be a problem with the alignment of the steering or wheels.

This can often be caused by driving over potholes and bumpy roads. Wheel alignment is important as it helps your tyres last longer and makes driving smoother.

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Steering wheel problems when turning

Is your steering wheel hard to turn? There could be a few different reasons behind this.

A lot of cars are now built with an Electric Power Steering (EPS) systems, but some vehicles have hydraulic systems.

An EPS system has:

  • An electric motor to help you with steering the vehicle.
  • Sensors that detect the steering column’s torque and position.
  • A mechanical connection to the steering wheel that serves as a back-up in case one of the electronic components fails.

An EPS can be affected by a car’s battery or charging system. If there's an alternator fault or the 12 volt battery has failed, this may lead to the EPS system shutting down. A steering wheel can become hard to turn if the EPS system has failed and one of the steering components is faulty.

The parts that can cause a hard-to-turn steering wheel can vary between cars with EPS and hydraulic systems, but here are some of the most common reasons for a steering wheel that’s hard to turn.

1. Problems with the steering rack

Damage or wear to your steering rack can make it difficult to turn.

2. Damaged serpentine belt

You may start to notice difficulty with turning the steering wheel if the serpentine belt has worn out and become slack. This will need to be repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

3. Low power steering fluid

This is a common reason for heavy steering. This can be caused if there’s a leak, causing the fluid levels to drop.

You can add more fluid to help with the problem, but a leak will need to be fixed if that’s what causing it.

A power steering fluid leak will also cause an MOT failure.

4. Faulty power steering pump

If there is a problem with the pump, it may not be producing enough pressure to assist with the steering, which will be more noticeable at low speeds.

5. Low tyre pressure

Low or uneven tyre pressure can create difficulties with steering. If pressure is too low on one side, this may make the steering pull to one side.

Read our top tips on car maintenance and basic car checks you can do to keep your vehicle in good condition. 

Published: 29 September 2021 | Updated: 29 September 2021 | Author: The AA

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