3 Common Causes for a Shaky Steering Wheel

No driver likes it when their steering wheel starts shaking. This is a sure sign that there’s something going wrong with your vehicle, and it can also make driving unnecessarily stressful and scary. If the road is smooth and your ride still feels jerky, there’s nothing to blame except for the vehicle itself. Waiting for the problem to take care of itself will only make things worse, so we strongly suggest that you take action as soon as possible when you notice that your steering wheel is shaking. 

There are multiple potential causes for a shaking steering wheel, and some of them may even surprise you. Depending on how your car is shaking, it may provide clues that can help a car repair professional resolve the issue. Once you notice the problem, take note of when it gets worse. For example, is it worse at high speeds or low speeds? Is it worse when you’re braking? All of this information can help a mechanic determine the cause of your shaky steering wheel.

1. Tires out of Balance

This is the most obvious and the most common reason that you might experience a shaking steering wheel. If your tires are out of alignment or out of balance, they may send shakes through your vehicle and to the steering wheel.

If this is your problem, you aren’t as likely to notice the shaking at lower speeds as you are at high speeds. Shaking from tires that are out of balance is likely to start when you’re going around 50 miles per hour or faster, though it may start to become less noticeable again at higher speeds.

The first thing to check in this situation is whether or not all of your tires are properly inflated. If one or more of your tires is flat, it will create a lack of balance that affects your ability to steer the vehicle properly.

If all the tires are inflated to an appropriate level, the next thing to consider is the tread on the tire. If your tires are worn unevenly, you may be able to get them rotated, or you may have to pay for all new tires. Either way, it will be worth it to have your car drive more smoothly and safely.

If the tires themselves look fine but the problem persists, it could be possible that the issue lies somewhere in between the tires themselves and your steering wheel. For example, your axle could have become bent or otherwise damaged by an accident, and this will prevent the tires and steering wheel from communicating properly through the drivetrain. If you notice sudden jerks in the steering wheel, this could be the problem.

Finally, the actual wheels could be responsible for shakiness resulting from poor control between the steering wheel and the tires. If your steering wheel is wobbling too much, it could be a sign that the wheel bearings, tie rod ends, or ball joints are damaged. To help a mechanic diagnose and resolve this problem, take note of when you’re experiencing the most shake while driving. Is the shaking worse when you’re cornering or when you’re driving straight?


2. Problems With Brake Rotors

If your steering wheel shakes a lot while you’re braking, that could mean that your rotors are out of round. In other words, the rotors have started to wear out, lose their shape, and become warped. In this instance, you’re also likely to feel some vibrations through the brake pedal whenever you press your foot down on it. The brakes are an extremely important component of your vehicle since they allow you to stop safely, so it’s important to get this issue looked at as soon as you possibly can.

Even if you just got new brakes installed, vibrations while braking is a sign of a serious problem. It’s possible that the rotors weren’t installed correctly, and an inability for the brake pads to clamp together efficiently is what’s causing the vehicle to vibrate. Take your vehicle to the auto shop as soon as possible, and the mechanics will take a look to determine if your brake rotors need to be resurfaced, replaced, or simply adjusted.

Alternatively, the problem could be because of the brake pads. If the rotor is still in good condition, then it’s time to look at the pads themselves. If the vibration gets worse when you apply the brakes, it means the problem is almost definitely somewhere in the braking system. The rotors and the pads are the most likely culprits, but it’s important to investigate the entire system until the problem can be identified and resolved.


3. Worn Suspension Components 

Unlike problems with the tires and brake rotors, it’s also possible for suspension and alignment problems to cause shaking while driving. Shaking as a result of a worn ball joint or tie rod is more common in older vehicles than newer ones, so this deserves some extra consideration if you’ve been driving the same car for a while. 

Basically, the suspension components can become loose and develop play, so you’ll start to notice some pretty severe vibrations once you get your car above 45 miles per hour or so. If that sounds like what’s been happening with your vehicle, it’s best to stop driving the car and take it into a shop as soon as possible to avoid making the problems even more severe.


How to Diagnose a Shaking Steering Wheel

While the three causes of a shaky steering wheel listed above are the most common, they’re not the only reasons you could be experiencing this problem. There are a whole range of engine problems that can shake the entire vehicle, but you may just be noticing the shake through the steering wheel. These problems could be with the spark, air introduction, or fuel delivery systems, among other things. If you’ve read the list above and still aren’t sure why your steering wheel is shaking, it’s a good idea to take your car to a professional mechanic as soon as possible.


What to Do When Your Steering Wheel Shakes

The best exact course of action will depend on the specific problem, but there’s one general thing you should always do when your steering wheel starts shaking: seek immediate help. The symptoms you’re noticing could be signs of a severe problem that threatens the longevity or safety of your vehicle. Take it to a qualified car mechanic so they can tell you what’s going wrong and what you need to do to fix it.


Auto Repairs Western Washington

Here at Greg’s Japanese Auto, we have eight locations all over Western Washington. We only work with Japanese makes and models, so you can count on our specialized experience whenever you have a shaking steering wheel. Our knowledgeable staff will be able to diagnose your issue quickly then take corrective action to extend the life of your vehicle. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

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Greg’s Japanese Auto

Tired of auto repair shops that don't understand your car? Want a car mechanic who does? Come to Greg's Japanese Auto.

We only work on Japanese makes and models, and we have the experience and knowhow to give your car the service it deserves. Call us today to schedule your appointment.

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