What Can Lead to Steering Wheel Vibration?

Steering wheel vibration annoys a driver enough; moreover, premature failure of other components can be resulted. The problems you feel with your steering wheel can relate to different parts of the car. Tire and wheel troubles, braking system failures and even worn engine mounts can be experienced by the driver when they hold the steering wheel. If you want to make an accurate diagnosis, first of all, you should have a fully understanding of when the vibration happens from the driver’s complaints. In the following article, we’ll reveal common reasons of steering wheel vibration and the signs that coming along with the problem.
Symptoms of a Bent Wheel
Today’s fancy and stylish wheels are made mostly from aluminum. Although it’s a reliable and strong metal, it’s not nearly as strong as the steel wheels used in the past. Aluminum wheels can be bent from low-speed collisions into curbs, slamming pot holes and bumping parking stops. A bent rim can exhibit some of the same symptoms as a tire that is out of balance. If the wheel is bent severely enough drivers often complain about a slow speed wobble in the steering wheel.
As an example of this, if one were to drive in a straight line at about 10 mph in a deserted parking lot with their hands off of the steering wheel, they could actually see the steering wheel physically moving left to right as the car wobbles. Diagnosing a bent rim is best done off the car. It is easiest to see the severity when the tire is mounted to a balancing machine.
As the wheel is slowly rotated radial run out can be seen and measured with a dial indicator. Auto repair shops often recommend replacing wheels that fall outside of a normal run out specification. With the cost of these rims being extreme, companies have launched that have the capability to repair bent rims. This is a viable option for those on a budget.
Tire Balance Problems
When it comes to common causes of steering wheel vibration while driving, tire balance issues are often the leading cause of the condition. Wheels are balanced from the factory when the car is new and again when tires are replaced. In between these two points, tread wears down and wheel weights can fall off, causing out of balance situations. This can cause drivers to report vibration in the steering wheel at Highway speeds.
Although this is not always the case, generally speaking, the faster one goes the more violent the vibration can become. Sometimes an out of balance tire will vibrate at speeds around 20 to 30 miles an hour and then subside until speeds reach over 60 mph. Since wheel balancing is a relatively inexpensive automotive service, coming in at around $15 a wheel, it can be worth having the front tires balanced to see if it alleviates the condition.
Symptoms of Bad Motor Mounts
Sometimes you’ll get a steering wheel vibration when the car is sitting still and idling in Park. This is one of the leading complaints when a car has bad motor Mounts. Keep in mind that even though the mounts are made of rubber and meant to isolate engine vibration, some small amount can be a normal condition. When in doubt, sitting behind the wheel of a like year, make and model automobile can help determine whether it’s operating as per design intent.
Vehicles with bad motor Mounts usually have high mileage on them. Worn engine mounts are diagnosed by noting how bad movement and vibration is in park and then comparing it to the vibration when in drive and reverse. Often a bad engine mount will reduce in vibration felt in the steering wheel, when the gear selector is put in reverse. This is only a quick test and confirmation should be done with a close visual inspection with the automobile on a lift. This way a professional mechanic can examine the engine mounts for deterioration and breakage.
Vibration when Braking
Another common cause of a steering wheel vibration is severely warped brake rotors. This is more common on some models than others, and has largely to do with the construction and thickness of the rotor. The act of braking produces a tremendous amount of heat and this can cause the rotors to warp. Generally speaking, the thicker the rotor the better its ability to hold up to heat and resist warping. Rotors can also become warped from improper lug nut torque.
What sets this steering wheel vibration aside from the others is the condition is only present when the brakes are applied. Vibration in the steering wheel will often coincide with a brake pedal pulsation where it feels like the brake pedal is actually pushing back against the foot.
This is another case where the faster you go, the worse the vibration will feel. Brake rotors can also be measured for radial run out with a dial indicator just like a wheel. This measurement will help guide the plan of action and ultimately making the decision on whether to resurface the rotors or just replace them.
When it comes to resolving steering wheel vibration problems mechanics have the capability of approaching the situation with a tremendous degree of scientific accuracy. Using their automotive measuring devices they can provide definitive diagnoses backed up by manufactures specifications. A properly equipped mechanic won’t have to guess at the problem if they take the time to understand the complaint and make the measurements.
The driver’s responsibility is to seek repairs and resolution of the situation as soon as possible. When vehicle owners put off the repairs the problems can become more than annoying. A wobble or shimmy caused by a damaged wheel or severely out of balance tire can eventually damage the wheel bearing. On some modern vehicles these are sealed assemblies that might contain the ABS wheel speed sensor. Sealed hub and bearing assemblies can be very expensive.






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