Shake, rattle, and roll. Throw in a catchy beat, and you have the makings of a great song.
But if you start feeling your steering wheel shaking while you drive, that can be the start of something you won’t be singing about for very long.
A shaking steering wheel is a symptom of a bigger problem. From bad tires to worn out brakes, there are a variety of issues that could be causing your steering wheel to shake. If you feel shaking, start noticing when it occurs. That can help lead to where the problem lies.
Tires out of balance
One of the most common reasons that might start your steering wheel shaking starts with your tires. They may be out of alignment or out of balance, which sends shaking through your vehicle and into your steering wheel.
If your tires are out of balance, you won’t notice this as you’re pulling out of the driveway, or moving at low speeds due to traffic. But as you pick up speed, the shaking will increase. That’s because tires out of balance start becoming a bigger problem the faster you drive. Slow down, and it goes away.
The first thing to check is a visual inspection of all four tires. Are they properly inflated? Is one of them flat? Your car is designed to operate with all four tires evenly connected to the road as you drive. If one of them has lower air pressure than the others, it can throw the balance of your car off.
If all tires are inflated correctly, the next thing to check is the tread on the tires. In order to keep the tread even on all four tires, it’s important to get them rotated periodically throughout the year. You can have this done at the same time as an oil change. This will ensure even wear for the life of your tires. It also keeps your car evenly connected to the road, meaning a smoother, safer drive for you.
If the problem persists, it’s time to look at other potential problems.
Worn brake pads
Have you noticed that your steering wheel shakes only after you press down on the brake pedal? It might be a sign of worn brake pads.
As you apply the brake pedal, a caliper applies pressure to the brake pad, which in turn connects with the rotor to slow you down. This slows you down until ultimately, you come to a stop. If anything happens during this process, you might feel a shake coming through the steering wheel.
If it’s your brake pads, it’s usually because they are old, work, or dirty and can no longer grip the rotor effectively to bring your vehicle to a stop. The brake pad connects unevenly, which causes the skipping movement which vibrates up into your steering wheel.
Calipers are designed to last. The problem usually stems from the brake pads, which have to be replaced on average about every 10,000 to 20,000 miles. It can also be from the brake rotors, which may need replacing every 70,000 or so miles. This depends on your driving conditions, how you drive, the weight of your vehicle, among other things.
The suspension can also be a common occurrence for a shaking steering wheel. This is especially true with vehicles that aren’t properly maintained, and haven’t been closely evaluated by a mechanic over time. That’s because suspension problems rarely surface overnight. Instead, they develop slowly over time.
What can cause it? It might be a loose tie rod, or a ball joint that wiggles out of position. It might start with an odd, subtle noise, one you put off because you don’t notice changes right away in the way your car operates. This is also why it’s important to pay attention to any changes in the way your vehicle operates, and provide any noticeable differences to the mechanic in charge of working on your car. It can lead to pinpointing a problem that might not have surfaced without it.
Dry guide pins
Guide pins are part of the brake calipers. Over time, they can slow down from dirt and lack of lubrication. To keep them performing well, they need to be periodically cleaned and lubricated or they become dry and corroded. This means they don’t apply the correct pressure as you press down on the brake pedal, which can cause the brake pad to connect with the rotor at the wrong angle. And when that happens, it produces a vibrating steering wheel.
This is detailed work. A trusted mechanic will inspect the entire brake system, including the caliper housing to ensure it’s handling the lubricant correctly throughout the process. If a problem exists, correcting it early will ensure parts don’t wear down before their time.
Do you have a shaking steering wheel?
Once you notice even a slight shake, it’s hard to ignore it. Don’t. Even a slight shake from time to time is a warning sign of future problems.
Do a search online and you’ll find all kinds of horror stories about faulty equipment. In almost every case, horror stories are caused by people who ignored the warning signals.
Even a tiny shake is trying to alert you to a problem. Take note of the details and bring it in. We can properly diagnose it, find the origination point of the problem, and fix it before it has a chance to grow.
The best course of action will depend on the specific problem. But if you catch it early, you’ll reduce the chances of having an expensive problem that moves to different locations throughout your vehicle.
While every part of your vehicle is important in helping to keep you safe and secure, any indication of a problem with your braking system should be checked immediately. If a problem threatens the longevity or safety of your car, fix it early to ensure you’re back on the road safely again.
Just in time to turn up the radio and start singing your favorite tunes once again.