If you’re driving and suddenly notice your steering wheel shaking, it can be extremely unnerving. Not only is the motion uncomfortable, but it could also be a sign of some serious issues with your car.
The possible causes of a shaking steering wheel depend on whether it happens during high or low speeds, so there are several potential causes for this malfunction.
In this blog post, I’ll discuss the possible causes of why your steering wheel might be shaking while you drive, as well as what steps to take in order to make sure that your car remains safe on the road.
6 Causes of Steering Wheel Shaking While Driving
The most common reason a steering wheel is shaking while driving is unbalanced or damaged front wheels. It can also be due to faulty brake rotors, especially if it happens when braking. Other causes are bad wheel alignment or other bad suspension parts.
Here is a more detailed list of the five most common causes of steering wheel shakes.
1. Bad Front Tires
The most common cause of a shaking steering wheel while driving is, without a doubt, a damaged or unbalanced tire.
After installing a tire on the rim, you balance it with weights to make sure that it is perfectly balanced.
These weights could come loose after a while and cause a shaking steering wheel if the front tires lost the weights.
It can also be caused by damage to your tire. Inspect the front tires for any damages, and if you can’t find any, let a tire shop balance them for you.
This is the most common cause for both low speeds and high speeds. If it shakes at low speed though, it is more likely damage to your tire.
2. Rim or Wheel hub
Another widespread cause is a damaged rim. This might be the case if you have been in a small accident or often find yourself driving on bumpy roads.
Minor damage to the rim can be repaired, but you will maybe have to replace the whole rim if the damage is severe.
3. Brake Rotors
If your brake rotors are rusty and worn out, there is a big chance that the brake rotors are the cause of your shaking steering wheel, especially if you overheated the brake rotors at any time.
This can easily be checked by slightly press the brake pedal at higher speeds. If the problem gets worse, chances are high that the brake rotors are your problem.
4. Wheel alignment
A faulty wheel alignment can actually cause the tires to steer in different directions, resulting in a shaking steering wheel.
This is especially likely to happen if you also have other worn-out suspension parts at the same time.
5. Control arm bushings
The control arm bushings hold the tires in a fixed position to make sure they won’t start wobbling at higher speeds.
If these bushings are worn out, you are likely to experience shaking as you engage the brakes.
6. Tie rod ends
The inner and outer tie rods also hold the wheel in position while driving at higher speeds. It is pretty common that these rods get worn out and stop holding the tires at a fixed position.
It is not very common, but if you have tried everything else, there is a chance that you should check the tie rod ends.
2 Causes of Steering wheel shakes while braking
Another problem can occur, and that is when the steering wheel shakes only while braking your car. Here are the 2 common reasons for this.
1. Front Brake Rotors
The most common cause of a shaking steering wheel while braking is, without a doubt, the front brake rotors.
This is especially likely if you have overheated your brake rotors at any time or if your brake rotors are very rusty after having been left standing for an extended period of time.
Unbalanced brake rotors happen to many new cars and are a rising problem on cars like BMW & Audi.
2. Control arm bushings
If you replaced the front brake rotors and the problem still exists, there is most likely a problem with your front suspension parts, like the control arm bushings or a worn-out tie rod.
How do you fix a steering wheel that shakes?
To fix a shaking steering wheel, you’ll first have to determine what causes it to wobble. A damaged tire will cause this to happen even at low speeds, but if the steering wheel only shakes at highway speeds – between 50 and 70 mph – you might have a bent rim or a wheel that’s out of balance. On the other hand, a warped brake rotor will cause strong vibrations only while you’re braking. In the end, worn suspension components, such as bushings or tie rods, can make the whole steering assembly lose, so it could start vibrating at a certain point.
How much does it cost to fix a shaking steering wheel?
That depends on the car and what’s causing its steering wheel to shake. If one of the wheels needs to be balanced, that might set you back some $50. With prices ranging from $100 to $150, wheel alignment is a bit more expensive. Things get quite costly when replacing warped rotors and brake pads that have to go with it. You might expect to be quoted several hundred bucks for this job. And it’s not much different with replacing worn suspension components, where you also must do a wheel alignment afterward.
Is it safe to drive with a shaky steering wheel?
Driving with a shaky steering wheel is far less safe than with one that doesn’t shake. In most cases, this happens because of unbalanced wheels or bent rims, which cause vibrations. Contact between such wheel and the road between will definitely be reduced. Warped brake rotors are another likely cause, and this issue can extend the braking distance, especially at high speeds. Lastly, worn-out suspension components might make the steering feel disconnected and loose, making sudden maneuvers tricky.
Will a wheel alignment fix a shaking steering wheel?
A wheel alignment could stop the steering wheel from shaking, but only if the wheels are misaligned. This is because all wheels must point in the same direction, or they may start to shake and vibrate. Wheel misalignment will, however, usually cause increased tread wear on inner or outer tire edges. So, if you notice this and your steering wheel is shaking, maybe it’s time for a wheel alignment.
A steering wheel that shakes or wobbles while driving is a fairly common issue in modern cars. But in many cases, tracking down what’s causing this problem and solving it can sometimes be difficult, so some drivers just learn to live with it.
However, a shaking steering wheel is almost always a tell-tale sign of a more serious fault, and it shouldn’t be ignored. A list of potential causes includes damaged or unbalanced wheels, warped brake rotors, worn suspension components, and wheel misalignment. Still, each of them has different symptoms, which can help pinpoint the problem.