Car Steering Wheel Shaking? 8 Most-Common Reasons

A shaky or vibrating steering wheel is one of the more common issues you’ll face driving your car. It can range from being slightly annoying to dangerous, so you’ll want to correct the issues as soon as they are detected.

There can be many different reasons for the vibration, and we’ll cover why each can occur and how to fix them.

#1 – You Have Unbalanced or Damaged Tires

Unbalanced tires can be caused by missing wheel weights or differing air pressures between the tires.

It doesn’t matter if the tires are on one side or the other or if they are front to back. Either of these conditions can shake the steering wheel at any speed you drive.

How to Fix It

The easiest fix on the tires is to check the air pressure first. It just requires a simple air pressure gauge to verify that the tires are at the proper inflation level.

Check each tire and adjust the air pressure if required. If you still feel a vibration or shake after checking the air pressure, the tires may need to be balanced by a shop.

They can remove each tire, balance the tire and wheel assembly, and inspect the mounting surfaces for debris or corrosion that could also add to the vibration issue.

Another cause of the vibration could be worn or damaged tires. You may notice that your tires are worn significantly more on one edge of the tire, or they have damage from the missing tread.

These two issues can vibrate more as you drive faster, but they can be fixed. The suspension alignment may need to be checked and adjusted if it is causing significant tire wear. Any damaged tire should be replaced.

#2 – Your Wheel Alignment Needs Adjustment

Driving with an alignment issue may or may not be noticeable depending on how bad it is.

If the toe alignment is off, but the tires are equally bad side to side, you may only feel a slight vibration. If one is off significantly from the other, you may feel a mild to violent shaking through the steering wheel.

How to Fix It

The toe alignment setting can be done at home in your driveway or garage, but it requires simple tools and patience to adjust everything on the suspension and steering.

If you are unsure of the process, take your car to a shop that can check and adjust the alignment. The shop can verify the toe setting and adjust the caster and camber settings if they are out of specification from the manufacturer’s settings.

#3 – You Have Worn Suspension Components

Everything on your car ages with use, including your suspension components.

Each connection point of the suspension uses a rubber bushing from the manufacturer and those decay over time. When they start to degrade, they will allow more NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) to pass through the suspension and into the steering wheel.

How to Fix It

Suspension components and bushings are replaceable. You will need to lift the vehicle and support it on jackstands to inspect the suspension system.

Then you can look for worn bushings that could be passing vibration directly to the steering wheel. Any worn bushings can be replaced with a new suspension component or an aftermarket bushing.

Many bushings are available in rubber to directly replace the manufacturer’s bushing or upgrade to polyurethane or Delrin. They are a firmer material and will transmit more vibration but may last longer than their rubber counterparts.

#4 – Your Wheels are Damaged

Large-diameter wheels are more prone to being damaged by potholes and road debris. They typically use a tire with a smaller sidewall that won’t absorb bumps and potholes as well as a tire with a taller sidewall.

Potholes and debris can bend the wheel or damage the face of the wheel and that can generate a vibration or shake when the car is driven. The faster you drive; the more vibration will be felt through the steering wheel.

How to Fix It

Damaged wheels can be fixed, but it may be more economical to replace the wheel entirely. There are original wheels available through the dealer and secondary suppliers to replace a manufacturer’s wheel.

If they aren’t available, you can find a wheel repair shop that can fix your damaged wheel. They will need to inspect the wheel to ensure it can safely be fixed before the repair process begins.

#5 – Your Brake Rotors are Warped or Worn Out

Brake rotors help slow your car down when you apply the brakes. If the rotors are warped or worn out, applying the brakes can generate a vibration that transmits through the steering wheel.

Warping can occur with heavy use of the brakes, such as going down a long hill carrying a heavy load or leaving the brakes applied while driving.

How to Fix It

Brake rotors have a minimum safe thickness that must be maintained. If they are warped, a local auto parts store or machine shop can turn the faces of the rotor if the thickness is greater than the minimum required. If the rotor is too thin, it needs to be replaced with a new one.

You should also check the brake pads for thickness and replace those with new pads if they are too thin. It’s easier and more economical to replace all worn components at the same time.

Read Also: Do All Cars Have ABS Braking Systems Today? (Checked)

#6 – You Have Worn Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings wear out with use and worn bearings can allow metal-to-metal contact that generates a vibration when driving. They can make a chirping noise or a grinding sound when driving.

You may also notice extra up-and-down movement in the wheel because the bearings are worn out. Wheel bearings last approximately 85,000–100,000 miles (137,000–161,000 km), but they can wear out sooner if you consistently drive in poor road conditions or frequent moisture.

How to Fix It

Wheel bearings can be replaced, but it may require a specific bearing-pulling tool to complete the work.

Most bearings are pressed into the steering knuckle or hub and will require a hydraulic press to remove and replace with a new one. It may be more economical to replace the steering knuckle or hub with a new one that has a new bearing already installed.

If one bearing is worn out, be sure to inspect the others as well. If one has gone bad, the others may be close to wearing out too. It will be more economical to replace multiple bearings at the same time instead of doing each at separate times.

#7 – You Have a Bent Drive Axle

Your car may have axles that transmit the power from the transmission to the wheels.

If you recently hit a pothole, were involved in an accident, or hit debris in the road, you may have bent an axle. Bent drive axles generate a vibration when you’re driving, and that can be transmitted to the steering wheel.

How to Fix It

Axles can be repaired, but it requires specialized machinery to bend the axle back straight and then measure the vibration as it spins. It may be more economical to replace the damaged axle with a new one if they are available for purchase.

#8 – You Have Worn Engine and Transmission Mounts

Your engine and transmission naturally generate vibrations while the engine is running. Each has mounting points that use rubber to isolate the vibrations from the car and the steering wheel.

If the mounts have worn out, the vibration will transmit to the car body and to the steering wheel while idling or at speed.

If your engine is idling poorly or has a misfire, it may generate more vibration than normal. That excessive vibration can be transmitted more through the mounts than previously detected.

How to Fix It

The engine and transmission mounts can be replaced with new units. New rubber mounts should better isolate the natural vibrations from the engine and transmission.

If the engine has a rough idle or a misfire, that should be diagnosed and fixed to prevent excessive vibration from occurring.

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