The steering wheel is a direct connection between you and your car, and by extension, between you and the road. Therefore, it’s natural that you get an indication through this contact when something in the car is out of place. So, when you feel that your steering is shaking even while you’re driving on a very smooth road, here are the causes and fixes you could apply.
However, before delving into the causes here, there are two conditions we would be considering. The first is when the car is at low or high speeds, and the other is when braking. For both conditions, there are very different causes and different approaches to fixing them as explained thus;
1). When Driving at Low or High Speeds
- The Tires
The first logical thing that comes to mind certainly is the tires. However, there quite a few tire problems that could cause your wheel to shake. If your tires are out of balance, they might not give any serious indications when you’re running on low speeds, but the it begins to reflect when you drive a bit faster – say at about 55 – 60mph.
Also, flat spots on your tire caused from an uneven wear could cause vibrations in the wheels when it is on motion. If you notice that one of your tires is more worn out than the others, you could rotate the uneven one to match the others and this could reduce the effect on your steering till you fix another one on.
Another tire problem in this category is if one of the tires isn’t properly inflated (especially with large tires). A deflated tire could shake the vehicle through the steering.
- Wheel Areas
If you’ve checked the tires and the problem still isn’t there, then you should check the wheel area considering the fact that they are the centerpiece of the tires themselves. The wheel bearings should be your first stop.
Normally, they could last the entire duration of your use of the car, but then again, if worn out or damaged, they are most likely to have that kind of effect on your steering. You’d have to replace them to fix this problem.
The ball joints or tie rod ends of the wheels could be the problem too. However, for the tie rod ends, it is most likely that the steering wheel only vibrates when you’re driving through corners and not significantly when on a straight lane.
You get the opposite of that when the problem is with the ball joints- i.e., it only shakes when you’re driving on a straight road, and not in corners.
- The Axle
If both the tires and the wheels have been properly checked, and the problem isn’t from that area, then it’s more likely the axle area. This is most likely to happen if your car was involved in an accident and the axle got bent or damaged. In this case, the vibrations increase as you drive faster, and still tend to be significant even when you’re driving slow. If this is the case, tow the vehicle to a certified mechanic – don’t drive.
2). When Braking
- Rotor discs
If you notice that the vibrations only occur when you apply pressure to your brake pedal, there’s a pretty clear sign that the brake rotors are not in good shape.
Normally, when you press the brake pedal, the brake pads clamp together and reduce the speed of the car. However, if for some reason, they (rotor discs or brake pads) are not installed correctly, or they are worn out unevenly, the calipers of the entire braking system tend to vibrate and this is felt through the steering wheel.
Let your mechanic be the judge of that.
The calipers too could cause this problem, mostly in much older vehicles, followed by a burning smell. If for any reason, the vibrations are caused as a result of a fault in the braking system, it’s very important that you stop driving the vehicle at once, and tow it to a certified auto mechanic.
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