Why Is My Steering Wheel Vibrating?
May 20, 2016 at 11:26 AM
It can be a worrying experience to find your steering wheel vibrating while you are driving, especially if it starts to happen when you are picking up speed.
There are a number of potential causes of your vibrating steering wheel, anywhere from your tyres, to the suspension, and the systems that link the steering mechanism to the wheels of your car.
Most steering wheel vibration is due to a problem with your car’s wheels. For example, the rims may be damaged, or the tyre pressure uneven. These faults are relatively easy to detect.
The commonest cause of a steering wheel vibration is the wheels being out of balance. The assembly of tyres and wheels will never be completely uniform, and the irregularities can change over time as the tyre gets used and bears unevenly. Eventually, these irregularities can result in the tyres spinning unevenly, which can result in vibration at the steering wheel.
In order to correct this problem, you can get the tyres rebalanced. The tyres are tested with a machine called a balancer. Standard balancers spin the wheel at high speed to determine the heaviest point, which tells the operator where and how many weights to attach to the opposite side to compensate.
A more precise and sophisticated form of balancing is known as road force balancing. In this system, a roller is lowered onto the wheel that replicates the forces applied to it on the road, a sort of simulated road test. This results in more precise measurements and also allows lateral forces to be measured. With road force balancing, the process allows the position of the tyre on the rim to be adjusted (known as match mounting), which makes for more precise balancing, with less additional weight attached.
The low profile tyres often found in high-end vehicles are more easily damaged, and may be more susceptible to balance problems. However, although wheel balance is the most common cause of steering wheel vibration, it is not the only one.
If the tyre balance is not the problem, then other causes will have to be investigated. You will need to have the suspension looked at.
The suspension of a car is a complex system of rods, pistons, ball joints, control arms, link bars and so on. Vibrations can be caused by loose or faulty connections, or by cylinders that are worn and corroded. Although technical expertise is required to diagnose suspension problems, they are usually straightforward to rectify once they have been identified.
Of course, it’s possible that the cause of the vibration could be the steering column itself. There could be loose screws, or the linkage components may be worn. So it’s important to make sure this part of the system is properly checked.
If the vibrations appear only when you apply the brakes, then the brakes are likely to be the cause of the problem. This does not necessarily mean that the brakes are about to fail, but they might be warped or distorted.
Whatever the cause, if you find your steering wheel vibrating, it’s something you should take seriously and have attended to as soon as possible.
You don’t want to get into a dangerous situation by losing control of the vehicle at speed, nor do you want the parts of the car to wear out rapidly. In order to assist the workshop in diagnosing the problem, you should note when the problem appears. Is it only when you reach a certain speed, for instance, or is it there all the time? Or does it only occur when you apply the brakes?
The most common cause of a vibrating steering wheel is poor tyre balance, so your tyres are probably the first thing your mechanic will want to check. For the best results, the workshop should have a road force balancer, so it’s worth checking with them that they have this equipment in advance of your visit.
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