If your car has a loose steering wheel, you are going to face a lot of trouble as it will cause you difficulty in determining and maintaining the position of your vehicle’s front wheels. Moreover, it can be very dangerous to have little control over your wheels and using a non-responsive steering system when driving, particularly during rush hours wherein highways are packed with vehicles. It also becomes risky to drive on a windy road where you must have full control over your vehicle.
Your car’s steering wheel must be fully responsive and dependable. When you have a loose steering wheel, your tires won’t move when you have moved your steering wheel to more than 1.5 inches. Most cars today have dual steering systems that help the driver control the vehicle movement. Rack and pinion steering are installed in small trucks, cars, and SUVs, while a recirculating ball steering is installed on larger vehicles. The components in these systems usually fail or wear out with time, leading to a loose tearing wheel problem.
3 Most Common Reasons For a Loose Steering Wheel
1. Worn Tie Rods
Tie rods connect the steering unit and tires, which can be found in both the rack and pinion and recirculating steering systems. If the tie rod wears out, the steering wheel will loosen and develops excessive play. This will be felt in the steering and handling of your vehicle.
Furthermore, problems in front suspension leading to excessive tire wear may also be caused due to worn tie rods.
2. Damaged Pitman Arm
Another culprit behind the loose steering wheel can be worn pitman’s arms. A bridge is formed between the steering rack and steering box sector shaft by this component, which also moves in a circular motion causing the wheels to move in both directions. Your steering may experience wreak havoc due to a damaged pitman arm and the car won’t respond appropriately when the wheel is turned.
3. Bad/Failing Ball Joint
This component is an essential one in the suspension, having a ball and socket design just like a human hip. The purpose of this component is to connect the car tires and wheels with the suspension system. Some cars have lower and upper ball joints, while others just have the lower ones. When ball joints have gone bad or failed, you will hear banging sounds, observe irregular tire wear, and the result may also be felt on the steering wheel.
Troubleshooting a Loose Steering Wheel
Your steering wheel may experience excessive play due to the issues in steering unit or suspension. Hence, you must get an inspection of your car when you feel any symptoms of the issue. The worst thing you can experience is losing control over your vehicle on the road, as it puts both your and others’ lives in danger.
1. Accessing The Suspension System And Steering Components
The mechanic will first remove the wheels from your car to access the suspension system and steering components. All these components will be inspected to determine if they are inappropriate conditions or need replacement.
2. Removal and Replacement of Damaged Pitman Arm
The damaged pitman arm (if any) will be removed and replaced. A road test will be conducted for your car following this to ensure that the replacement is functioning normally and steering is operating properly. the new pitman arm will need regular maintenance to avoid faltering of the steering wheel, especially when you go out to venture off-road.
3. Checking Components For Damage And Replacing With New Rods
If the problem is with tie rods, the mechanic will check every component for any external damage and will replace them with new rods. These will also require an adequate amount of lubrication post-installation.
4. Removal And Replacement of ball Joints
If the havoc is being caused by the ball joints, the control arms will be removed to access the damaged ball joint. The component will be removed and replaced. Here as well, the lubrication of new parts is important for longevity.
Your car will be taken on a test drive by the mechanic to check it for excessive play once all the new components are installed. you must always follow the service recommendations present in your car’s manufacturer’s manual to avoid any further issues with the steering in the future and break down any major components of the vehicle.