When behind the wheel of your car, the last thing you want to discover are odd squeeks, creaks, and other noises. In particular, noise emitted when turning a standard steering wheel while stationary is a cause for concern. But is this a minor maintenance issue, or is this an indicator of a more serious problem?
If a noise is heard when turning a steering wheel while stationary, bad struts, damaged steering racks, or even low tire pressure could be to blame. Damaged steering column bearings or power belts, malfunctioning pumps, and a loss of power steering fluid may also cause noises.
In this article, I explain the common reasons why you may be hearing noises when turning your steering wheel while stationary. I’ve also provided some prevention tips and any quick fixes for problems with simple solutions.
Possible Causes of Steering Wheel Noises When Stationary
There are several causes for strange noises coming from your steering wheel. Every vehicle is unique, as are the issues that may arise from normal wear and tear. Some problems need simple upkeep to keep at bay, while other complications may be unavoidable and come unexpectedly, requiring you to set up the earliest possible appointment with your mechanic.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible causes of steering wheel noises and what you can do about it.
1. Bad Struts
Struts are responsible for maintaining stability when there’s movement happening with your vehicle, including braking, accelerating, and/or turning. Faulty struts are evident when you’re at a low speed or stationary. There’s a device called a jounce bushing that you can find in your front strut, which allows struts to function properly when properly lubricated.
If the jounce bushing isn’t properly lubricated, it’ll create a squeaking noise when you turn your wheel. The longer this issue goes unaddressed, the worse the squeaking becomes, and the more wear you put on your power steering system.
Struts are a part of car maintenance, so if you keep up with the required maintenance of your vehicle, you shouldn’t encounter this issue. If you’ve done the proper maintenance and still experience this issue, take your vehicle to your mechanic as soon as possible.
2. Low Tire Pressure
Believe it or not, lower tire pressure can put a strain on your power steering system when attempting to turn your wheel while stationary. This is due to the imbalance in vehicle weight distribution. When this happens, you’ll hear a clicking sound when turning your steering wheel in either direction.
This is perhaps the easiest fix for all the possible causes on the list. All you need to do is check for the correct tire pressure for your vehicle and then take it to any gas station, car dealership, or mechanic that can add air to the tires for you.
3. Damaged Steering Column Bearing
Steering column bearings help the steering wheel to turn smoothly without binding. It’s another part that provides stability when the vehicle moves. Notably, the only time you may notice the steering column bearing is when there’s an issue with it.
The particular noise that comes from a damaged or worn steering column bearing is a grinding sound. This is due to the cowling of the steering column rubbing against the plastic of the wheel.
Before poking around your vehicle or the internet for videos on how to replace your steering column bearings, first verify this is the issue. At the very least, take your vehicle into a shop to confirm or deny the issue. Then you can decide if you want to DIY or find a competitive price to have it fixed.
4. Bad Steering Rack
If you hear a clunking noise when you turn your wheel from one end to the other, it could indicate a bad steering rack. However, clunking noises could also point to bad mounting or bad struts, so it’s important to know the difference. Typically, a bad steering rack is the result of car accident damage that was never properly dealt with or lack of vehicle maintenance.
Again, it’s critical to have your vehicle regularly serviced to avoid the breakdown of critical parts like your steering rack. If you suspect your steering rack might be damaged or worn down due to age, then take your vehicle in as soon as possible to be properly repaired or serviced.
Read: Car Diagnosis Cost
5. Damaged Power Steering Belt
The power steering belt connects the engine to the power steering pump, and just like any other part in the vehicle, it can wear down with time. When this happens, there’s a distinct squeaking or screeching sound that takes place when the steering wheel is turned in either direction at low speeds or when stationary.
The primary way to prevent the wear and tear of the power steering belt is proper lubrication from your power steering fluid.
Make sure you’re checking your fluids on a regular basis—this is a situation in which neglected regular maintenance can cause a ripple effect of issues in your vehicle. Make sure your power steering fluid is at the proper level. If your power steering belt has already experienced damage, then it’ll need to be replaced.
6. Malfunctioning Steering Pump
The steering pump supports the power steering system by creating necessary pressure. When the steering pump malfunctions, it’ll become more difficult to steer, and a clicking noise occurs in the steering column when the car is stationary and the wheel is turned in either direction.
This is an issue requiring immediate attention, as it can lead to further damage to your power steering belt and the power steering system as a whole. In this case, the best practice is to take your vehicle in to get it checked by a professional.
7. Power Steering Fluid
Most vehicles are on a rack and pinion steering system. In order for the system to run smoothly, it needs proper high-pressure lubrication in the form of power steering fluid. A good majority of the time, if you’re experiencing noises when you are moving the steering wheel while stationary, it’s going to point to one of three issues that all relate to the power steering fluid.
Not Enough Fluid To Properly Lubricate the Gears and Columns
Luckily, this is an easy fix and should be eliminated as a possibility before taking your investigation any further. All you have to do is pop open the hood and locate the compartment that houses the power steering.
There should be a line indicator right on the compartment that lets you know the proper level for your power steering fluid. If your fluid is below that line, you can purchase more at your local automotive store and fill it to the proper level.
Incorrect or Poor-Quality Power Steering Fluid
There are a number of vehicle manufacturers that require specific lubrication for the design of the vehicle. It’s important to check for this information in your owner’s manual and purchase the correct power steering fluid; otherwise, you can cause damage to the whole power steering system.
A Leak in Your Power Steering Fluid
If you’re constantly hearing the same noise over and over and every time you check power steering fluid, you have to refill, not to mention stains on the ground where you park your car, you may have a leak in power steering.
For this issue, you could try a fix-it-yourself approach by purchasing some stop leak for your power steering and calling it a day, or you can take it to a professional and have them address the problem.
No matter what the cause of noise when turning your steering wheel, there’s a way to fix the issue whether you do it yourself or seek the services of an expert. Rule of thumb, keep up with the maintenance of your vehicle, and you can avoid a lot of the issues previously mentioned. Be sure to diagnose the cause of any noises immediately to prevent further damage.