Causes of a Loose Steering Wheel and How to Troubleshoot

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When having issues steering the car from a loose steering wheel, you might experience an accident. So you should find out the causes of a loose steering wheel and how to fix it.

Loose Steering Wheel

A Mercedes suffers loose steering on the road

Once hitting bumps, you probably hear a knocking noise that indicates the looseness in a steering wheel. It causes the driver to have difficulty in determining the exact position of the front wheels.

Many issues trigger the steering wheel to be loose. Such problems range from the hydraulic fluid to the tie rod ends. Or your issue can be a combination of causes. The common causes of a loose steering wheel are listed as below:

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3 Common Causes of a Loose Steering Wheel

1. When tie rods wear

The car’s steering unit and tires get linked via tie rods. They’re usually found in rack and pinion system. No matter if you’ve got a truck, a car, or an SUV, they all own tie rod end attached to the wheelhouse. This ensures the vehicle to have a pleasant and efficient drive daily.

And the steering wheel turns to be loose if the tie rod becomes worn and promotes excessive play.

2. Broken pitman arm

Loose Steering Wheel

A broken steering pitman arm

The culprit behind a loose steering wheel is the broken pitman arm. A bad pitman arm can make it hard for your car not to react well whenever you turn the wheel. In this case, your steering has lots of play during the ride, so try to get in touch with the experts as soon as possible.

Once the pitman arm starts to fail, it’s easy to lose the steering in the car. It would help if you replaced it before the issue begins reaching this point. And when losing the steering ability, stop driving, slow down, and then ask for help.

3. Worn ball joint

So how to know that your vehicle has issues with one or more of the ball joints. They can connect the arms to other steering knuckles. Besides the steering wheel looseness, a failing ball joint could be the reason why you experience strange noises, extreme vibrations, and wear.

Most car owners tend to postpone the replacement as it comes to the steering system due to the high costs. But don’t worry since you can have significant savings by getting a decent used component from a good dealer.

Symptoms of a loose steering wheel

1. Weird noises

As you begin turning the steering wheel, you’ll hear the strange noises. They can sound like clunking or clicking for every turn. The reason behind them is because of the negative parts lying within the steering column.

In most situations, the noises usually start getting small and then louder and more often when the time goes by.

2. Steering tilt malfunction

Every steering vehicle has a tilt function that could leave the car driver changes the steering wheel angle. 

If the steering tilt malfunctions, it means a failing component of the steering column. As a result, your vehicle will suffer a freely-tilting wheel that won’t keep in place.

How to troubleshoot loose steering wheel

Loose Steering Wheel

The empty and loose steering wheel of a car

At first, find a mechanic and report about the issue. If you wonder whether the steering wheel suffers the excessive play or not, talk to the mechanic to have your vehicle inspected. The car needs to stand on the flat surface and never take the high risk of driving.

We’ve just gathered the best methods to troubleshoot the issue. So let’s take a glimpse at the right ways to tighten the steering wheel.

Step 1:

For all beginners, your mechanic must carry out a particular visual inspection. How come? He raises the car to take the tires away from it. Doing so offers him access to the other parts of the steering wheel. After that, he examines these components to see if they’re broken or need any replacement.

In case that the tie rods, joints, and pitman arms get damaged, he will replace them all. It’s highly recommended to have the worn parts replaced. It makes sure that the steering wheel to function well.

Step 2:

Loose Steering Wheel

Go for a test drive to check your steering wheel

Before replacing the parts, the mechanic needs to ensure if there’s an issue or not. The vehicle will need a test drive. In the process, he can check the steering wheel to see whether it works suitably or not. For the worn pitman arm, he replaces it before bringing the car out for another test.

Note that this arm needs maintenance. Ensure it to stay in the right place and get replaced before you start testing it for a long drive.

Step 3:

Once the tie rods of the car becomes damaged, ask for the replacement. But before that, the mechanic needs to inspect if there’s any external wear or not. Next, he will set up new tie rods but ensure to lubricate your car with oil.

Besides, if you want the car to work smoothly, every piece of it requires maintenance. It’s also necessary to take care of it by telling the mechanic about regular check-ups. Surely, he can tell you what should be done.

Step 4:

Next, the ball joints are what the mechanic has to check. First of all, he takes the A-arms away to have access to the joints. Without a doubt, he replaces it with another one before testing it.

And ensure to have the new components lubricated this time. That’s because the ball joints and the new part won’t function correctly soon without lubrication. As soon as every part has been successfully set up, the mechanic would start another test drive. Doing so will help him check if the steering wheel is tight or not.

Last but not least, don’t try to test your car for a fun drive with a loose steering wheel since it can put your life at risk.

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