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Why Does My Steering Wheel Vibrate When Driving

vibrating steering wheel symptoms

Vibration of the steering wheel can be caused through a number of reasons. Not only is it an indication that something is wrong with the car but it is also highly frustrating.

The vibration through the steering wheel may increase at the speeds increase, which is usually tire related or when you brake. Luckily, the majority of vibrations are easily fixable and does not break the bank.

In short, steering wheel vibrations are caused from the following 4 issues:

  • Braking system issues
  • Bad tires
  • Worn suspension components
  • Bad wheel bearings
  • Incorrect wheel bolt torque setting
  • Worn quick release hub

and potentially more car specific related issues.

Table of Contents

Steering Wheel Shakes When Braking

The most common cause of the irritating steering wheel vibration is malfunctioning brakes. In short, when the braking system has guide pins that are dry, worn brake pads or rotors, the vibration will occur.

When replacing the brake rotors, you should also be using top rated brake pads and greasing the guide pins. The grease is often a requirement to reduce the screeching whilst braking but it also reduces the vibrations.

The brake rotors will cause the most amount of vibrations as they can become bent from excessive use. The bent brake rotor will not allow the caliper and pads to get the grip required to squeeze the rotors to stop the car.

A common question we receive is how do you tell which brake rotor needs changing, front or rear? In general, the rear brakes will kick into action under moderate to heavy braking, where as the front brakes are mostly for light braking. This being said, if you are feeling vibrations during light braking, you should change the front brake rotors.

Steering Wheel Shakes at High Speed

Tires is usually a common culprit for vibrations though the steering wheel. The reasons why bad tires will cause vibrations are as followed:

  • Incorrect tire balance
  • Incorrect tire pressure in one of the tires
  • Uneven tire wear
  • Out of round tires from being flat or standing
  • Not matching tires on axle
  • Bent wheels from pot hole

For tires to work correctly with zero problems, they require some basic maintenance. The balancing of tires will be performed by a reputable garage properly but it is common for the wheel weights to fall off. However, the wheel can become damaged through driving in a pot hole, which can cause the rim to be bent or cracked that will cause vibrations.

Some vehicles are very sensitive to tire pressures and many will vibrate as a result to under inflated tires. This will also cause uneven tire wear that will increase the tire vibration and not to mention not safe. Tire pressures should be matching on both tires on the same axle as well as the tire brand to ensure identical wear.

Tires can become “out of round” as a result of the car not moving for long periods or the tire being flat. This causes the tires to loose its roundness, which can be felt clearly within the car.

Vibrations from tire related issues are usually felt at speeds between 50-60 MPH rather than lower speeds.

Worn Suspension Components

Car suspension, particularly at the front can be complex and provide functionality to the steering and other features of the car. Worn suspension parts can cause issues with the handling and comfort whilst driving resulting in shaking, vibrating and the “loose” feeling.

Common suspension parts that tend to fail and provide vibration are the tie rods, bushes (spindles and control arms), shocks, struts and springs. Check for missing rubbers and ensure that there is no metal on metal contact.

Incorrectly Tightened Wheel Bolts

The importance of using the correct torque settings when tightening your wheel bolts needs more clarification. The 4 or 5 wheel lugs hold the only connection your vehicle has to the road, which is your wheel.

Using a proper torque wrench, you should tighten your bolts to 130 Nm or 95 lb ft and check them again after 100 miles for any movement. Wheel bolts that are not tightened correctly can causing vibration as well as noise and are very unsafe.

Bad Wheel Bearings

Not so common but will cause vibration as well as other symptoms is worn wheel bearings. Wheel bearings can become pitted and with the vibrations, you may feel as if the car is pulling to one side.

Wheel bearings that are failing will feel loose and will cause bad tire wear. Eventually overtime, the tires will also vibrate but the wheel bearing is still the root cause.

procarreviews author

Written By Dan

About the Author

Dan is an automotive journalist and owner of over 10 cars ranging from supercars, tuned cars, classics and your good old beater cars. He always likes to get his hands dirty with nut and bolt restorations or detailing sessions using the best products on the market.

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