Why Does My Steering Wheel Shake?

Your steering wheel is one of the only points of control you have over your vehicle, it can be beyond worrying if you experience a shaky and uneasy feeling through it. 

In the majority of vehicles, using traditional hydraulic power steering, the steering rack is connected indirectly to the suspension system, brakes, and axles. If any of these individual components encounter a mechanical issue, it can send vibrations through the rest of the chassis felt throughout the vehicle.

Causes of Shaky Steering Wheel

Unfortunately, there are a variety of specific issues that may be causing a shaking steering rack, and no easy way to differentiate between them. Problems in your steering and suspension systems are best diagnosed by a trusted professional who can pinpoint your exact problem.

Warped Brake Rotors

If you’re experiencing this shaking feeling only while braking, there’s a possibility you’re looking at warped brake rotors. 

The rotors are the metal discs the brake pads squeeze against to create friction and are intended to be perfectly flat for smooth deceleration. However, when rotors are exposed to high heat and temperature fluctuations, it can cause them to warp slightly into an uneven shape. 

As the brake pad runs along the pad, the uneven rotor surface will cause the pad to “jump” slightly as it goes over bumps and dips. This rapid movement in the pad and caliper will create a vibration felt through the entire car, including the steering system. 

Brake rotor

Out of Balance Tires

Tire balancing is an essential service that allows for perfectly even weight distribution across the tire. This is usually accomplished using small adhesive tire weights that stick to the inside of the wheel barrel. Balancing the tires allows for balanced and smooth rotation at high speed on the roads.

If this service has not been carried out recently or the tire weights have somehow fallen off the wheel, your tires can fall badly out of balance. This causes issues at driving speed, as the uneven weight will cause the rotating wheel to behave unpredictably and cause a shaking sensation throughout the chassis. The effects of misaligned tires are generally more noticeable at highway speeds, although this varies by the specific circumstances. 

Out of Alignment Wheels

Similar to balancing tires, wheel alignment is another occasional service needed to keep your vehicle driving smoothly. An alignment consists of aligning your suspension angles back to their intended position to keep your wheels perfectly straight. This is usually accomplished through the use of computerized equipment and lasers to ensure every alignment is as precise as it gets. 

Car on wheel alignment rack

Alignments need to be done intermittently (roughly every 5,000-10,000 miles), as the various suspension components gradually fall out of alignment over time. If left long enough to reach serious misalignment, each wheel may be aligned differently and work against each other rather than with each other. These counteracting forces can result in unpredictable handling, and of course, shuddering felt throughout the vehicle. 

Mechanical Suspension/Steering Issues

Suspension and steering systems consist of thousands of individual components, each with its own chance of failure. Even the smallest failure of a suspension piece can cause a chain reaction in the entire system, including causing heavy vibrations and shaking in the steering rack. 

Unfortunately, with the complexity and size of a vehicle’s steering and suspension, it’s impossible to know the true source of the problem without an in-depth diagnosis. If you’re experiencing shuddering in your steering and are confident it’s not one of the above problems, you should have your vehicle inspected by a trusted professional to ensure it’s safe for you and your passengers. 

Suspension & Steering Services at Sun Automotive

It’s never a good idea to let suspension or steering issues linger. If you suspect an issue with the steering or handling of your vehicle, trust the ASE Certified technicians at our four Sun Automotive locations in Eugene, Springfield, and Junction City. Give us a call or schedule online with our friendly team today!