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Why Does the Steering Wheel Vibrate?

By Max. D Gray. Updated: September 15, 2017
Why Does the Steering Wheel Vibrate?

There are many sounds and rattles a car can make. Some are the normal vibrations of a vehicle at speed. Unfortunately, some might mean there is a particular problem with the car. As your hands are on the wheel at all times (they at least should be), you might be more sensitive to these vibrations more than others. They might cause you to worry, so running a diagnostic check will help you know the steps you need to take to fix the problem. It's possible the vibrations are caused by something simple which you can fix on your own. Others might need the handiwork of a professional to stop them. oneHOWTO asks why does the steering wheel vibrate so that you can stay safe in a properly functioning car.

Steps to follow:
1

As we drive along, the car should be able to deal with variances in the road surface or obstructions which may be in your path. This is because the wheel balance system, suspension system and general make up of the car has been tested and workshopped to result in as smooth a drive as possible. This is particularly so with newer cars as technological advancement has found better ways for a smoother drive. The steering wheel can be a good indicator of many other problems.

If you have vibrations in a newer car, then it is likely there is something at fault in one of these systems. However, if you have vibrations in a much older car, the technology won't be as up to date and the parts will have more wear and tear.

However, even older cars shouldn't shake too much if they are in good working order. That's why we're discovering what causes vibration in the steering wheel.

One factor concerning steering wheel vibration is the speed at which the car is travelling. The two speed ranges where the car is most likely to shake are between 5 - 10 mph/8 - 16 kph and 60 - 70 mph/96 - 112 kph. Most of the vibrations your steering wheel experiences should be in this range. If you have vibration in the steering wheel while parked, then there may be something seriously wrong with the car and a visit to a mechanic is needed.

2

One of the most, if not the most, common causes for shakes in the steering wheel is the wheels on the ground. The quality of your tire and its tread are incredibly important. They are one of the first things a mechanic will check when servicing your car. If you don't have good tires, not only might you feel shakes in your steering wheel, it could lead to an accident or blow out.

If you have worn or faulty tires, they will pull the car in a certain direction as you drive. This is because the tread is not aligned to the ground and your steering wheel is trying to compensate. It won't be enough wear to actually turn the steering wheel, but it might be enough to give it the shakes. If you have had your car for a while or routinely drive it over long distances, it is very important to ensure the tread of the tire is in good shape.

3

If you see that the tread on your tires is fine, but you still feel vibrations in the steering wheel, then there are other considerations to make with the wheels. One is to do with the balance. When the wheels are first put on or when the tires are changed, the weight needs to be balanced. This is so that it isn't too heavy on either side as it can cause the car to drift.

At the same time as the wheel being balanced, they should also be aligned. This means that they are all facing the right direction so that the car can drive straight. Drifting is also a concern with improper alignment. If the wheels aren't aligned then they will confuse the steering and pull on the wheel. This may be the cause of it shaking.

If the front wheels are imbalanced or misaligned, then the steering wheel at the front will likely shake. However, the same happening in the back tires might cause more shaking in the seats or central console of the car. This may depend on whether it is front or rear wheel drive car.

While the tread of the tire is very important, it could be what you don't see which is the causde of your car shaking. If the tires seem to bounce a little, it could be the tire belt is broken or loose. If you see an uneven tread (i.e. tread is fine at the top, but worn at the bottom), this is likely due to the belt.

Also, check the wheel rims if your experience steering wheel shaking. If you see a dint or a part which is bent, it is likely a serious issue with alignment. Bring your car to the mechanic right away.

Why Does the Steering Wheel Vibrate? - Step 3
4

It is not only the wheels themselves which might cause vibration in your steering wheel. The way the wheels are attached to the car might be a factor. The suspension of your car is something car manufacturers are always trying to perfect. If the car didn't have any suspension, the tires themselves wouldn't be able to handle high speeds as they would be too rigid to take the force.

The springs in the suspension of the car are very important. They compress as they hit bumps and cracks in the road, but if they are not the correct height, or if they are too hard or too soft, they will not work effectively. This can lead to vibration in the wheel.

Shock absorbers do what they say on the tin. If they are damaged, they may not absorb the vibrations from the road. Besides being uncomfortable for the driver and passengers, it will cause the steering wheel to vibrate, especially when the road is less firm. You should always check the shock absorbers to make sure they are functioning properly. You may also need to check other parts of the suspension system like the ball-joint, tie-rod, shock mounts or the bearings. If any of these component parts are damaged or misaligned, then they make cause your steering wheel to shake.

5

If you have checked the above and are still wondering what does it mean when the steering wheel vibrates, it might be time to check the brakes. The rotor is the circular piece which the brake pads press on to in order to slow the car. If there is an accumulation of dirt or any foreign bodies on the rotor, then they can rub against the brake pads even when the brake is not engaged.

However, if brake rotors cause the steering wheel to vibrate when the brake isn't engaged, it means you have a particularly warped rotor. More commonly, you will see the steering wheel shake when you put some pressure on the brake. The harder the vibration, the more damaged the rotor (or even the brake pads) might be.

The same can happen when the brake pads or damaged or misaligned. This is one of the most dangerous causes of vibration in the steering wheel. If the brakes do not work correctly, they can cause a very serious accident, especially when travelling at high speeds. If you need more information on this matter, learn how to know when you should replace your brake rotors.

Why Does the Steering Wheel Vibrate? - Step 5
6

The cause of the steering wheel vibration may also be an engine malfunction. This is a very complex operation and there are many reasons why this can cause this movement, such as problems with spark plugs, which may prevent the appropriate levels of air to the engine, among other potential faults.

If you have an engine malfunction, it can lead to some serious issues. It could also end up being complicated and even result in some costly repairs. There are many different reasons why the steering wheel might vibrate. You should not ignore this symptom and you should go to a respected mechanic so he can have a look at your car and confirm the cause of the fault.

You might also be interested in finding out why your car is jerking.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does the Steering Wheel Vibrate?, we recommend you visit our Car Maintenance and Repair category.

Write a comment about Why Does the Steering Wheel Vibrate?

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2 comments
ApoGar
hi when my car is running or in park, my car engine vibrate and vibrate the front of the car and also my steering wheel. what is the problem ? i have a scion xd 2008
Michael Riley (oneHOWTO editor)
Hi ApoGar, It sounds like an engine issue, there may be something loose somewhere in your drive-train. Either way, it's probably best to have someone take a look at it and they should be able to diagnose the issue.
mux
My steering vibrates only when am on gear1 what could be the reason??
Michael Riley (oneHOWTO editor)
Hi Mux, If it only vibrates when you are in gear 1 then unfortunately it sounds like it could be a fault within the engine or gearbox. We would recommend going to a mechanic to get it checked out!

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