All automobiles have some sort of steering system that allows drivers to control the direction where their vehicle is going. A steering system that's malfunctioning is as dangerous to drivers as having no brakes.
Your vehicle will become unsafe while driving in a highway or dealing with roads that have sharp turns. It's also dangerous to change lanes when your steering wheel is hard to turn or your wheels aren't responding to the direction your steering wheel is turning as fast as you'd like them to respond.
The Common Causes of Steering Wheel Issues
Is your steering wheel hard to turn while you drive at low speeds? There are several reasons for this phenomenon.
- Steering Rack Gone Bad: Made up of the rack and pinion, the steering wheel can become unresponsive if its steering rack goes bad. Shafts and U-joints keep the rack connected to the wheel, but the more the wheel is used, the more worn out and damaged the rack gets. This results in a stiff steering wheel that ends up becoming smoother to drive only after as the engine warms up the rack and allows the lubricant to settle more.
- Serpentine Belt is Broken: If your serpentine belt is broken, this can result in steering wheel stiffness. To be more specific, a cracked or damaged belt tends to become loose, resulting in a stiff steering wheel and a car that's unresponsive to your steering wheel control. If your serpentine belt is broken, then you should replace it soon and don't wait for it to break apart or snap in twain altogether.
- Leaky Steering Wheel Fluid: Your power steering wheel requires its power steering fluid in order to work. Without the fluid, your power steering becomes manual steering, which is infamously stiff and unresponsive. Always make sure that your power steering system has ample fluid and it's not leaking in any way because of a loose or cracked hose. As established, you need the fluid to pressurize the system and lubricate the wheel, so fix whatever leak is present ASAP.
- A Failing Pump: The power steering system also requires a pump to produce the amount of pressure required to enable you to turn the steering wheel in a smooth manner. A nonfunctioning pump results in a wheel that's as hard to turn because the pump is required in order to ease the transmission of your steering wheel's directional control over the front and/or back wheels.
- Fluid Is Too Thick: The power steering fluid can thicken as time passes by. Like your oil, you should drain and change your power steering fluid on a regular basis. Like your brake or clutch fluids, your power steering fluids should be changed every 50,000 miles or every 4 years, whichever comes first. Old fluid can result in steering stiffness as you attempt to turn at even the lowest of speeds.