A jiggly steering wheel can be extremely noticeable to any driver, and often is extremely annoying too. All you want to do is enjoy a relaxing drive in your beloved car, but the steering wheel is dancing to the beat of its own drum.
Unfortunately, a shaky steering wheel can indicate something worse than a slightly uncomfortable driving experience.
It can often signal a fault in your vehicle, whether that’s steering, suspension, or something else entirely. Finding the root cause can be frustrating and time-consuming for even the most experienced mechanics.
This blog will discuss the main causes, symptoms, and fixes to help diagnose your shaking steering wheel and get you on track for the right repairs.
1. Your tyres might be unbalanced
The weight distribution in every tyre varies slightly, so additional weights are often added to the wheel after a new tyre is installed to compensate for this. Over time and with use, these weights can move or fall off, which then leads to an unbalanced wheel.
Even if the rest of your car is in tip-top shape, unbalanced tyres can cause the car – and your steering wheel – to shake and vibrate while driving at speeds higher than around 50 mph.
Apart from being annoying on the motorway, this can lead to worn out steering and suspension parts, bad fuel economy, and blown-out tyres.
A simple visual inspection of all wheels will help diagnose this. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for any missing or moved wheel weights, uneven tread wear, or bent rims.
If you notice any signs of imbalance on any of the wheels, take your car in to get the tyre repaired.
You should also make sure to rotate your tyres every two years, and always ask the auto shop to balance a tyre after a repair or new installation.
2. Your wheels might be aligned wrong
Similarly, any incorrect positioning of wheels can cause vibration. This is a quick fix, as a simple wheel alignment (making sure all the wheels are positioned in the same direction) will stop the shaking.
This is a fairly easy thing to spot, as a vehicle that’s out of alignment will often make tires wear unevenly. In fact, the inside tread will likely be worn much more than the outside.
If your vehicle is still pulling to either side even when your steering wheel is straight and centred, you’ve probably got an alignment problem.
Misalignment probably relates to dodgy suspension, which can be caused by general wear and tear, rough roads, or an accident.
An alignment is also necessary after a vehicle’s suspension has been raised or lowered, if a vehicle has had any new steering and suspension parts installed, and before a long drive.
3. Your wheel bearings are damaged or worn
If your steering wheel only shakes whilst you’re turning, your next port of call should be your vehicle’s wheel bearing.
The wheel bearing is made to secure the wheel hub to the suspension, allowing the wheels to turn properly.
If your wheel bearings are damaged, then this can pose a serious safety issue. Damage can be caused by rough roads, potholes, speed bumps, or hitting curbs at higher speeds. Some types of modification to steering or suspension can also cause wear and tear on your wheel bearings.
Aside from a shaky steering wheel, other signs of a damaged wheel bearing can include strange noises coming that get louder when you accelerate and loose steering.
You will likely need an experienced auto repair shop to properly diagnose the problem, however.
4. You have worn steering or suspension parts
It can take only the smallest amount of slack in steering or suspension components to make driving unsafe.
Not only will this affect your car’s control and stability, but this may also be the cause of steering wheel vibration. Therefore, it’s really important to look for loose or worn components on a fairly regular basis.
Have a repair shop check visible parts like the upper or lower ball joints, tie rod ends, shock mounts, springs, and bushings. Don’t worry, you won’t need to remember the list – a good mechanic will know exactly what to look for. They should be able to identify any signs of wear or damage and will tell you what’s faulty and needs to be replaced.
6. There are problems with your brakes
If the steering wheel only shakes when stopping, or you have a shaking brake pedal, the braking system is most likely the problem. This can also be caused by a mechanical or hydraulic fault, or by leaving the handbrake on accidentally.
There are a few causes of this brake judder, including:
Brake discs alignment
Shaky steering wheels can be caused by badly installed brake discs pulling out of alignment. This can be caused by rust or dirt build up between the disc and hub creating an uneven surface, too tight positioning screws, or fitting a disc to a warped hub.
It needs looking at since faulty brake discs can increase vehicle stopping time or even temporary brake fail.
Disc thickness variation (DTV)
When a brake disc is not properly installed or aligned, this can lead to uneven wear and tear that makes spots thinner or thicker on the disc. Deposits, rust, and dirt can even cause DTV.
When a disc surface is uneven and pressure is applied by the brake pads, this might cause vibration in the steering wheel. Much like a dodgy brake disc alignment, a warped brake disc will increase stopping time and brake failure, so if DTV is suspected then the brakes should be looked at immediately.
Disc overheating and distortion
Repetitive, hard braking can sometimes mean that brake discs do not have time to cool down, leading to overheating. Overheated discs tend to warp, which can be a cause of shaking in the steering wheel and brake pedal whilst braking.
If there is any disc distortion or damage to the brake pads, they will need to be replaced immediately.
If you’re experiencing a shaky wheel, get in touch with our team today to find out how we can help you.