steering wheel shakes while driving

steering wheel shakes while driving

steering wheel shakes while driving

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A steering wheel (also called a driving wheel, a hand wheel, or simply wheel) is a type of steering control in vehicles.

Steering wheels are used in most modern land vehicles, including all mass-production automobiles, buses, light and heavy trucks, as well as tractors. The steering wheel is the part of the steering system that is manipulated by the driver; the rest of the steering system responds to such driver inputs.

This can be through direct mechanical contact as in recirculating ball or rack and pinion steering gears, without or with the assistance of hydraulic power steering, HPS, or as in some modern production cars with the assistance of computer-controlled motors, known as electric power steering.

History

Near the start of the 18th century, a large number of sea vessels appeared using the ship’s wheel design, but historians are unclear when that approach to steering was first used. The first automobiles were steered with a tiller, but in 1894, Alfred Vacheron took part in the Paris–Rouen race with a Panhard 4 hp model which he had fitted with a steering wheel. That is believed to be one of the earliest employments of the principle.

From 1898, the Panhard et Levassor cars were equipped as standard with steering wheels. Charles Rolls introduced the first car in Britain fitted with a steering wheel when he imported a 6 hp Panhard from France in 1898. Arthur Constantin Krebs replaced the tiller with an inclined steering wheel for the Panhard car he designed for the 1898 Paris–Amsterdam–Paris race which ran 7–13 July 1898.

In 1898, Thomas B. Jeffery and his son, Charles T. Jeffery, developed two advanced experimental cars featuring a front-mounted engine, as well as a steering wheel that was mounted on the left-hand side. However, the early automaker adopted a more “conventional” rear-engine and tiller-steering layout for its first mass-produced Ramblers in 1902.

 The following year, the Rambler Model E was largely unchanged, except that it came equipped with a tiller early in the year, but with a steering wheel by the end of 1903. By 1904, all Ramblers featured steering wheels. Within a decade, the steering wheel had entirely replaced the tiller in automobiles.

At the insistence of Thomas B. Jeffery, the position of the driver was also moved to the left-hand side of the car during the 1903 Rambler production. Most other car makers began offering cars with left-hand drive in 1910. Soon after, most cars in the U.S. converted to left hand drive.

Passenger cars

Steering wheels for passenger automobiles are generally circular and are mounted to the steering column by a hub connected to the outer ring of the steering wheel by one or more spokes (single spoke wheels being a rather rare exception). Other types of vehicles may use the circular design, a butterfly shape, or some other shape.

In countries where cars must drive on the left side of the road, the steering wheel is typically on the right side of the car (right-hand drive or RHD); the converse applies in countries where cars drive on the right side of the road (left-hand drive or LHD).

In addition to its use in steering, the steering wheel is the usual location for a button to activate the car’s horn. Modern automobiles may have other controls, such as cruise control, audio system, and telephone controls, as well as paddle-shifters, built into the steering wheel to minimize the extent to which the driver must take their hands off the wheel.

The steering wheels were rigid and mounted on non-collapsible steering columns. This arrangement increased the risk of impaling the driver in case of a severe crash. The first collapsible steering column was invented in 1934 but was never successfully marketed.

1956-1968

By 1956, Ford came out with a safety steering wheel that was set high above the post with spokes that would flex, but the column was still rigid. In 1968, United States regulations (FMVSS Standard No. 204) were implemented concerning the acceptable rearward movement of the steering wheel in case of crash. Collapsible steering columns were required to meet that standard.

Power steering gives the driver an easier means by which the steering of a car can be accomplished. Modern power steering has almost universally relied on a hydraulic system, although electrical systems are steadily replacing this technology. Mechanical power steering systems were introduced, such as on 1953 Studebakers. However, hydraulically assisted systems have prevailed.

While other methods of steering passenger cars have resulted from experiments, for example the “wrist-twist” steering of the 1965 Mercury Park Lane concept car was controlled by two 5-inch (127 mm) rings, none have yet been deployed as successfully as the conventional large steering wheel.

Passenger automobile regulations implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation required the locking of steering wheel rotation (or transmission locked in “park”) to hinder motor vehicle theft; in most vehicles, this is accomplished when the ignition key is removed from the ignition lock. See steering lock.

steering wheel shakes while driving
steering wheel shakes while driving

3 Common Causes for a 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. Either way, it will be worth it to have your car drive more smoothly and safely.

steering wheel shakes while driving
steering wheel shakes while driving

when the tires look fine

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.

steering wheel shakes while driving
steering wheel shakes while driving

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.

Other causes

1. Tire Alignment Troubles

Your vehicle’s suspension system is designed to align your tires, helping them evenly meet the road’s pavement. Over time, road turbulence, rough driving, and other hazards can throw off this alignment—causing one or more of your wheels to rest at a skewed angle. Even slight alignment issues can cause steering wheel shaking or vibrations.

In addition to steering wheel shaking, wheel alignment troubles can cause uneven and accelerated wear on your tires. A quick wheel alignment service can address this issue and its symptoms. If you are unsure whether or not you need an alignment service. Bring your vehicle in for a free alignment inspection.

2. Warped Brake Rotors

Have you noticed your steering wheel shaking when you slow or stop your vehicle? This could be a sign of warped brake rotors. Your brake rotors are the smooth, flat surface that your brake pads press to slow or stop your movement. Over time, this pressure can bend your rotors—especially without maintaining proper brake pad replacements.

When your rotors become bent, the brake pads will press against an uneven surface when braking, which creates steering wheel shaking. Thankfully, this can be fixed with a set of brake rotor replacements.

3. Damaged or worn wheel bearings

If the steering wheel only shakes while turning, your next go-to part should be the wheel bearing. Designed to secure the wheel hub to the vehicle’s suspension. And allow the wheels to turn properly, these safety critical components can cause steering wheel vibration if damaged or not lubricated sufficiently.

Wheel bearings can be worn from driving regularly on rough roads.  Or they can be damaged from hitting potholes, speed bumps, or curbs at higher speeds. Modifications to steering and/or suspension systems can also cause unnecessary wear on the wheel bearing.

Other signs of a worn wheel bearing aside from a shaky steering wheel can be abnormal noises coming from the affected wheel that gets louder while accelerating, loose or vague steering, and/or a malfunctioning ABS sensor.

Here is a quick method in determining if an abnormal noise while driving may be due to a worn out/faulty front wheel bearing. ““Drive the vehicle while listening for the abnormal noise”“. Check your surroundings while driving and if conditions allow, make a quick lane change/turn in one direction.

listening to the noise

Listen for the noise to get louder. If the noise stays the same try a lane change/turn in the other direction. If the noise changes with a directional change the noise is likely a worn out/faulty front wheel bearing. Whichever direction you turned tells you which wheel bearing may need to be replaced. For example, if you turned left you increased the weight load on the right side and vice versa. If the noise was increased in volume while turning left then the right front wheel bearing may be your culprit.

For a final determination on the wheel bearing being worn or damaged, securely raise the vehicle. Next, with both hands on the tire, in the 12 and 6 o’clock position, rock the wheel. There should be minimal movement. If it moves more than it should, or you hear a grinding noise when rotating, it’s likely that the wheel bearing is damaged. Wheel bearings should be replaced as soon as there are signs of wear or damage. If the damaged wheel bearing fails completely, the wheel could seize, causing catastrophic damage if driving.

4. Forgetting to use turn signals when changing lanes

This almost sounds crazy but if your vehicle is equipped with an ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) feature such as LKA (Lane Keep Assist), LDW (Lane Departure Warning) or similar system the vehicle is watching the road (via a smart camera) while you drive.

If you attempt to change lanes without using your turn signals the vehicle’s ADAS system simply thinks you’re drifting into another lane inadvertently. This can result in the EPS (Electric Power Steering) being activated by the ADAS related system to either keep the vehicle within the lane or at least alert the driver via a vibrating seat, audible alarm or vibrating steering wheel.

The fix for this problem is simply remembering to use your turn signals when changing lanes. Probably a good idea even if you don’t have a vehicle with ADAS!

Steering wheel shake can be caused by any one or more, of these, and other issues. For example, a worn joint leading to excessive tire wear. This can complicate diagnosis somewhat. It’s therefore important to diagnose and repair any faults quickly.

While vibration issues can be caused by something as simple as a loose bolt or a deflated tire, they can also signal a much bigger problem. If ignored, these could negatively impact the vehicle’s safety and stability. By following these steps, you can rule out any such issues in a logical order. Or you can saving valuable time, money and frustration.

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.

steering wheel shakes while driving
steering wheel shakes while driving

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 they take corrective action to extend the life of your vehicle. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

I hope you enjoyed this post “steering wheel shakes while driving”.

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