When you’re driving with a loose steering wheel, not only does it make you feel like you don’t have full control of the vehicle, but it also makes you a hazard on the road. Your steering wheel controls the car’s direction and wheel movement, therefore, if your steering system is not fully responsive, it can be dangerous. Imagine you’re travelling down some winding roads and you cannot accurately determine what position your wheels are in, there’s a higher risk of you not making a sharp turn safely.
Your steering wheel should be sturdy and dependable so that you have full control of the vehicle under any circumstances. To test whether you have a loose steering wheel or not, try to turn your wheel 1 or 1.5 inches to the left or to the right and if the tyres do not move, you know there is an issue.
Most vehicles have two different kinds of steering wheel systems to assist with the control of the movement of the car. A rack and pinion system is found on cars, small trucks and other reasonable sized vehicles, whilst recirculating-ball steering systems are used in larger and heavier vehicles. Both systems contain components that are subject to wear and tear, so if they start to fail, you will begin to feel play in the steering wheel.
Causes Of Excessive Play In Steering Wheel
- Damaged Pitman Arm: This component is only present in recirculating ball steering systems. The pitman arm connects the steering rack and the steering box sector shaft, and it rotates in order to turn the wheels left and right. If you have a pitman arm that doesn’t work properly, it could cause many problems when you try to steer your car, and the wheels will not respond properly.
- Worn Tie Rods: The tyres and the steering unit are connected by tie rods and these rods are found in both steering systems; rack and pinion and recirculating-ball setups. When this component becomes worn, it will become loose and this allows there to be excessive play in the steering wheel. Problems with your front suspension’s alignment and uneven tyre wear are also signs of a worn tie rod.
- Ball Joint is Bad or Failing: This component has a ball and socket design that connects the suspension system to the car’s wheel hubs. Some cars have two, an upper and lower one, while others only have a lower joint. When these aren’t working properly, your car steering wheel will feel loose, your tyres will wear out unevenly and you may even hear loud banging noises while driving your vehicle over bumps on the roads.
How To Figure Out The Cause Of A Loose Steering Wheel
You should never take risks with your steering system; if there is an issue, you need to find out what it is and repair it as soon as possible. Therefore, with a loose steering wheel, you should stop driving immediately to avoid losing control of your vehicle and causing an accident. Continuing to drive your vehicle when there is too much play in the steering, is not only a danger to yourself but to other drivers on the road. The sensible option is to have your vehicle look at by a professional so that they can diagnose the cause of the looseness and ensure that there aren’t any worn steering components. When you take your vehicle to the mechanic, they will carry out a series of steps to investigate where the problem lies.
- First, they will lift the car and remove the wheels. This is so that they can access the suspension and steering components and check what condition the components listed above are in, in order to determine what may need repairing or replacing.
- If worn tie rods are the issue, they will inspect them and see if there is any surface damage, and if the tie rod is the cause of the problem, they will remove it and replace it with a new one. They will also ensure that the new rod is well lubricated after the installation has been completed.
- If the mechanic thinks that the pitman arm is quite worn, they will remove it from the track bar and replace it with a new one. Also, the pitman arm should be tightened properly. Once the replacement is completed, the vehicle should be thoroughly tested to ensure the new component is working effectively.
- In the event that your vehicle has worn ball joints, your mechanic will remove the control arms, in order to reach the faulty ball joint. They will replace the damaged one with a new one and they should ensure that the new ball joint is well lubricated to extend its lifespan.
The mechanic should make sure that all the new parts to your vehicle suspension or steering wheel component are installed correctly, and that they are well lubricated. Furthermore, they should also test drive your vehicle to make sure that there is no more excess play in the steering wheel. If when they are driving your vehicle and the steering system seems off or they can feel an issue, they will investigate again to make sure there are no other underlying issues.
Importance Of Fixing A Loose Steering Wheel
With so many vehicles on the road when you’re driving, being able to fully control your car’s movement and direction is essential! Therefore, as we have emphasised, you shouldn’t delay fixing a loose steering wheel, as your safety could be at risk. Also, it is important that you read your vehicle’s manual and ensure that you’re following all the service recommendations. It’s the only way you can prevent components from prematurely wearing, causing further damage and eventually, needing to be replaced.
At Power Steering Services, we can inspect your vehicle, determine what the cause of your loose steering wheel is and provide the necessary repairs or replacements. Call us today to book your vehicle in or you can fill in our easy, online form!