Have you ever had an incidence of your steering wheel shaking at low speeds? On occasions, it’s normal to have a wobbling steering wheel but it’s worrying once it becomes a regular occurrence. These vibrations can be irritating and often call for an early diagnosis to rule out some car issues.
Steering wheels shake at low speeds due to wheels that are out of balance, suspension issues, warped disc brake rotors, tires out of shape, or alignment issues. Easy fixes include wheel balancing, proper wheel alignment, replacing disc brake rotors, replacing unevenly worn tires, and swapping tires.
I’ll discuss why the steering wheel shakes at low speed (20-30mph), how best you can diagnose and easily fix the underlying issue with a vibrating steering wheel, and the preventive measures. Read on to learn more.
Why Your Steering Wheel Is Shaking at Low Speeds?
Plenty of reasons can cause your steering wheel to shake even at low speeds. To help you find out what’s wrong, I’ve discussed in detail the four most likely causes. It is important to note that these are not the only factors that can make your steering wheel shaky.
Tires/Wheels Out of Balance
If your tires wear out unevenly, are new, are out of round, have pressure imbalances, they may tend to shake at speeds of about 20 or 30mph. This shakiness often translates from wheels to the steering wheel.
Another common thing that happens is a bulge, typically due to a damaged sidewall after hitting a pothole or bump. This may happen on one, a few, or all the tires, and the bulges can be either on the inner or outer side.
It is important to pay attention to wheel balancing – a few grams could make a difference. Apart from preventing wheel vibrations, balancing helps ensure tires wear out evenly.
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A car’s suspension consists of:
- Shock absorbers
- Tie rods
Your vehicle’s suspension system contributes to a safe and smooth ride by balancing traction and handling.
However, the steering wheel starts vibrating if your car has a loose suspension due to wear or leaking struts or shocks. Besides, a loose suspension occurs due to loose tie rod ends or ball end joints in the front wheels.
To diagnose if there are any loose tie rods:
- Jack up your front end to suspend the front wheels.
- While holding your wheels at 3 and 9 o’clock, shake to reveal if there’s any play with the tire away from the spindle where it’s bottled.
- Repeat step two above while holding at 12 and 6 o’clock.
- If the tires are shaky, then the tie ends could be loose. If not, they are in good condition.
Other indicators of a faulty suspension include difficulty steering and continued bouncing after ramming a pothole or bump.
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Misalignment of Your Car
Wheel alignment is the relative angle of the wheels to each other and the body of your car.
The following may throw off your car’s alignment:
- Over increased mileage
- Road turbulence
- Rough driving
- Hitting potholes or curbs
Car alignment is important in preventing your car from pulling towards the right or left.
Misalignment also causes uneven tread wear in addition to a shaky steering wheel. Even a slight alignment issue can make your steering wheel vibrate.
A Problem With the Brakes Components
Another common issue that causes a wobbling steering wheel is warped disc brake rotors. If you feel the vibrations while slowing down, this is often the cause. The vibrations can, at times, be felt on the brake pedal as well.
A warped disc brake rotor wears unevenly all around. This warping could be caused by worn-out brake pads that scratch off the rotor’s surface.
If so, it would be best to acquire new and more durable pads. I recommend Power Stop Front Brake Pads (from Amazon.com). They are designed for extreme performance even during emergency braking.
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Easy Fixes for a Shaking Steering Wheel
It’s not recommended to drive your car if it has a vibrating steering wheel.
To remedy a vibrating steering wheel, what you do depends on the underlying issue. These six easy remedies should solve the problem.
Check and Feel Each Wheel
Regularly, bulges within the tire, bent rims, and missing wheel weights may cause wheel imbalance. If any of the tires have signs of an imbalance, an expert should help fix the issue.
The problem may also be caused by imbalanced tire pressure. If you are not close to a filling station, you can check the pressure balance with a portable air compressor. A portable air pressure system is an important tool for every driver because you never know when you might need it.
I have used the Nulksen Portable Air Compressor (available on Amazon.com), and I found it reliable in terms of fast inflation. Besides, it has a digital tire pressure display for easy checks.
Replace Unevenly Worn Tires
Unevenly worn tires lead to uneven weight distribution in tires, causing the steering wheel to shake at low speeds. You have to visually inspect all tires and zero in on the exact tire(s).
If the tires show any uneven wear, the tire could be imbalanced and require immediate replacement.
A penny or coin helps check if the tires are wearing unevenly. If you place the coin in different grooves of the tire, it should leave a similar gap to the coin’s center on all grooves. If not, these tires require replacement.
If you are not sure how this works, here’s a YouTube video that can help:
Swap Tires Back To Front
You should rotate the wheels regularly – after every 5,000 to 8,000 miles (8,046 to 12,874 km).
Transfer the front wheels to the back and the back wheels to the front. This means that the left front tire should switch with the left back and right front with the right back. Check to see if the symptoms have changed.
It is possible for a tire fitter or expert to miss an issue with a wheel.
A buckled or bent rim from hitting potholes may not appear on a tire balance machine. When you remove the wheels, look at them to see if you can discover the defective wheel, which you should replace.
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Replace Disc Brake Rotors
As earlier stipulated, unevenly worn out disc brake rotors can cause vibrations in the steering wheel.
For your safety, buy and replace these rotors if they are worn out beyond repair. Some brake disks only require skimming to renew their surface.
However, not all disc brake rotors are good for your money. Consider products with great reviews on Amazon.com, such as the Power Stop Tow Brake Kit, which also comes with brake pads.
Unbalanced wheels are sometimes only evident at highway speeds, but even then, you may not feel it as you increase or decrease speed. These tires will typically move up or down or wobble, and this is often felt through the steering wheel.
Most cars today are manufactured with a front-wheel driving system. If you notice a wobbly steering wheel, consider balancing the front tires to correct this problem.
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Consult a Professional
Some of these issues are straightforward, while others are more complicated. If you are unsure, visit your mechanic or a specialist to narrow down and pinpoint the issue. This will always ensure you get the best results.
Here’s an interesting YouTube watch on how to fix a wobbly steering wheel.
How To Prevent Your Wheel From Shaking at Low Speeds?
Routine maintenance is the best way.
Keeping up with your car’s maintenance schedule helps avert any major repairs. It is crucial that a car repair shop must check your tires, wheels, brakes, and suspension during recommended maintenance intervals to help avoid future problems. It not only ensures car safety and dependability but also enhances fuel economy.
Most people who notice a vibrating steering wheel tend to brush it off as normal. As with any developing car issue, it is best to detect and correct it early.
Therefore, the general rule of thumb is when you notice your steering wheel is shaking, use the elimination method to diagnose the underlying problem. If you do not contain the problem, seek immediate expert help.