CV joints wear out over time. One of the reasons these wear is that they are covered by “boots” – rubber, accordion-like coverings around the axles’ ends - that seal out junk like road salt and sand. The issue is that the boots rip open when they get old and the CV joint, now working with lots of grit inside, will fail. When this occurs, you can hear a “crunching” noise when turning corners, and you’ll feel it in the steering wheel.
Are the brakes causing it?
Do the bad vibrations appear or intensify when you step on the brakes? If so, there’s a possibility that your car has a warped brake rotor, or rotors, which are the disc-shaped components that you may see through your wheel rims. They could get bent out of shape due to overheating from lots of use. Instead of being flat all the way across, a deformed rotor is “lumpy” and the brake pads and calipers cannot get an even grip and hence vibrate.
Is it your Tires?
Tires are the top source of steering wheel vibration. Tires wear asymmetrically and when they rotate fast, they can wobble and shake in unsubtle ways. A mechanic is able to balance your tires to eliminate vibration and this often eliminates that issue. In many cases, however, it’s probably just time for new tires. You might also have bad CV—or “constant velocity”– joints.
There’s the possibility of low tire pressure being the culprit. You should make sure that you check your tires on a regular basis to ensure that they are properly inflated. In cold weather tire pressure drops. We spoke to the Service Manager at Holden Dodge Chrysler Jeep RAM in Dover, DE, and they recommend that if you see in the weather forecast that the temperature will drop below thirty degrees Fahrenheit that you ensure your tires are inflated about 3psi above where the pressure is normally kept.
The Front Wheel Bearings?
Front wheel bearings can wear over time and loosen. When this happens you can feel it in the steering wheel and it may make a grinding sound when driving, typically when turning corners. Ball joints and tie-rod ends can be the problem as well. These are the mechanical components in the front-end that move around when steering and because they are moving components, they wear out. At driving speeds, this translates to vibrations that are felt in the steering wheel. It feels like your steering wheel is loose and sloppy! Fortunately, these worn out components are easy to spot by a mechanic and aren’t hard to repair.
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Note that these reasons are not the only culprits that may make a steering wheel vibrate. When in doubt, it is always a super idea to see an automotive service professional if you have it going on. These individuals diagnose this type of thing every day and can usually spot the cause of a steering wheel vibration. Don’t feel your concerns are silly—the service techs are there to help!
At some point in nearly every car’s life, you’ll feel a vibration in the steering wheel. Much of the time it begins and subtle then gets more pronounced until becomes a serious “shake.” When it gets to that point, it’s becoming unsafe and you should go to the garage to diagnose and correct the issue, and you will find out what the problem’s root cause is!