6 Indicators of Common Steering Problems and How to Address Them

jeep steering wheel

Steering problems can compromise not just your safety, but also that of your passengers, pedestrians, and fellow drivers If you don’t address such issues immediately, they can lead to accidents that can cause serious injuries or even loss of life. This is not to mention the damage to your car that can cost thousands of dollars to fix.

Luckily, it’s easy to determine if your car has steering problems. There are certain clues you can watch out for, the most common of which are indicated below. If and when you notice these symptoms, bring your car immediately to a mechanic for inspections and necessary repairs.

1. Difficulty in Turning the Wheel or Sluggish Turning Response

Most cars nowadays have power steering, which makes the steering wheel easier to handle. With your power steering system in good shape, you don’t need to turn the steering wheel more than an inch or so before the wheels begin to turn. If you’re having difficulties in turning the steering wheel or if you feel like it doesn’t respond immediately, check the amount of power steering fluid. Top it up and see if it fixes the problem.

If topping up the fluid doesn’t work, check for leakages in the steering pump or the steering rack. You can simply check under your vehicle for a visual inspection. Another way to do this is to fill the power steering fluid reservoir, wait for a while, and then check the fluid level again. It shouldn’t go down drastically. If it did, then it’s likely that you have a leak. Bring your car to a mechanic to have things fixed.

2. Steering Wheel Vibrates When Turning

Steering wheel vibrations are usually caused by improper wheel alignment. However, excessive vibrations may also be due to worn tie rods. Luckily, tie rods and other steering system components aren’t difficult to find. Visit your trusted auto parts suppliers in NZ to get high-quality parts and then have your mechanic replace the faulty components.

Another reason that your steering wheel might vibrate or pulsate when turning is if the power steering fluid is contaminated. Check if the fluid is foamy or discoloured; if it is, flush the system to remove the contaminated fluid. Afterwards, top up the power steering fluid to the right level.

3. Steering Wheel Slips When Turning

If your steering wheel slips when you turn it or try to hold it in a turned position, it can be due to faulty pumps. Power steering fluid leakage can also cause this problem, along with worn steering belts and/or steering rack mounts. Have your mechanic check these parts to determine the problem and have it fixed immediately.

4. “Wandering” or “Loose” Steering Wheel

Another common steering wheel problem is when it wanders or keeps straying from a straight line as you drive. This is usually caused by a suspension problem, such as worn-down tie rods or strut bearings. This problem can also be caused by insufficient lubrication, so check if you have enough power steering fluid and that there aren’t any leaks.

Another indication of bad suspension is when your steering wheel feels loose. This is especially noticeable when you’re making turns. Watch out for uneven tyre wear as well. Get your car inspected for any suspension issues and have a qualified mechanic repair or replace parts as necessary.

5. Screeching Noises When Turning

When your car’s steering system is in good shape, there shouldn’t be any noises when you make a turn. If you do hear any noises, such as screeching or squeaking sounds, it could indicate a loose or damaged steering belt. (The steering belt is what connects the power steering pump to your car’s engine.) If the belt is loose, you can simply tighten it to the correct tension. If it’s damaged, better to replace it than wait for it to get completely worn down or broken.

Do note, however, that such noises can also be caused by insufficient power steering fluid. Check the fluid level and top up when necessary.

6. Heavy or “Jerky” Handling Feel

Power steering technology is designed to make your car easier and smoother to handle. As such, a heavy or jerky handling feel is a clear indication of a problem to the system. Usually, the cause is a damaged or worn-out power steering belt. It’s possible that the belt is simply loose, so it’s just a matter of tightening it. Most of the time, however, this problem can only be solved by replacing the power steering belt.

There are some car problems that can wait. For example, tiny holes in the muffler or exhaust pipes can be easily patched up with some muffler tape until you can have them replaced. Steering wheel issues, however, need to be addressed immediately. Keep these indicators in mind so that you know when to bring your car in for inspections and repairs. 

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