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6 Common Steering Problems and How to Diagnose Them

Kevin V


Taking your vehicle out for a spin should be a relaxing experience, especially when you know you’re in control. When you’re able to manoeuvre your vehicle with ease, you’ll feel comfortable & safe behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, there are times when your vehicle becomes unresponsive to your control. In particular, steering problems can make it difficult for you to operate your vehicle. They can also indicate that a component in your steering system is old or damaged.

Although some steering issues may appear mild, you shouldn’t take them lightly. If left unattended, they can make your vehicle difficult to steer and leave permanent damage. Fortunately, many of these problems can be easily caught, diagnosed, and addressed through repairs and steering upgrades. 

Let’s take a look at the 6 most common steering problems, so you know what to do if you suspect that your car, ute, or Jeep is experiencing issues.

Noisy Steering

It isn’t normal for your vehicle to make noise when turning. That’s why if you hear a grinding, screeching, or whining noise whenever you’re making a turn, there’s likely something wrong with your vehicle’s steering system.

Possible culprits could include a loose, worn, or damaged power steering belt, low power steering fluid levels, or issues with the steering gear.

If there’s an issue with the power steering belt, a quick replacement can be the solution. Meanwhile, if your power steering fluid is low, you can patch up the leak and top up the reservoir with more fluid.

However, if the problem is the steering gear, it’s best to let your mechanic look at your vehicle and handle the repairs. Most steering gear problems need to be taken care of by professionals to ensure that the issue is properly resolved, and no damage is done to your vehicle.

Excessive Vibrations of the Steering Wheel

Some steering problems can come from other areas of your vehicle. When you feel your steering wheel vibrating excessively when turning the wheel, for example, the possible causes could be:

  • Engine problems
  • Wheel alignment problems
  • Worn and faulty brake pads and callipers

If your brake pads and callipers are worn, you can easily install replacements or aftermarket upgrades. For wheel alignment problems, a power steering flush will help.

As for engine problems, you should take your vehicle to your trusted mechanic and have them perform a thorough inspection.

The Steering Wheel Is Slipping or Feels Loose

When your steering wheel is pulling left or right even when you’re driving straight, it’s an indication of a steering wheel slip. If you notice this problem, you need to get it fixed pronto. Driving with a slipping or loose steering wheel can cause your vehicle to turn unexpectedly, putting you at a higher risk for accidents.

The most common causes behind slipping or loose steering wheels are worn steering belts, leaking or faulty steering pumps, and worn steering rack mounts. Having them replaced with original equipment-quality or even high-quality upgrades is a great way to solve the steering issue.

Slow Steering Wheel Returnability

Typically, your steering wheel will return to the centre once you’ve let go of it after turning. If it takes some time to re-centre itself or you have to manually turn it back to centre, then your steering wheel is experiencing what is called poor returnability.

Not only is it a hassle to wait or manually turn the steering wheel to its centre position, but you’ll also need to correct your vehicle’s lane placement constantly. This is both tiring and stressful, especially if you drive often.

There are several factors that can lead to poor wheel returnability. These include friction in the steering system, poor steering lubrication, power steering system issues, and excessive negative camber.

Resistance When Turning the Wheel

It’s difficult to achieve a smooth and stable ride when you need to exert more effort in turning the steering wheel. Aside from being awkward or uncomfortable, driving your car, ute, or Jeep when the steering wheel is stiff also isn’t safe – unexpected resistance can make your vehicle less responsive to turns and increased accidents as a result.

The most common reason behind hard steering is low power steering fluid. Other notable causes include uneven tyre pressure, friction in the steering gear, and excessive wheel and tyre positive caster.

Power Steering Fluid Problems

Your vehicle’s power steering fluid ensures that your vehicle’s steering system components are properly lubricated. When everything is working as it should, you can turn your vehicle without any issues.

However, power steering fluid leaks and contamination can prevent you from steering your vehicle with ease. Depending on the condition of your power steering fluid, repairing the leak and refilling the reservoir will sometimes do the trick. In some cases, the power steering fluid needs to be flushed and changed.

Making sure that your vehicle’s steering system is in good condition is part of being a responsible driver. When you can turn your vehicle as smoothly and as easily as possible, you’ll avoid getting into accidents and drive with greater peace of mind.