When you’re driving down the road, and your steering wheel isn’t working properly, it can become quite a scary situation. Whether it’s due to tire misalignment or rotated tie roads, the result is something that nobody wants to deal with. The good news is that you can center your steering wheel rather quickly if you have the right tools.
So, do you want to know how to center a steering wheel? Follow these steps:
- Start by jacking up your vehicle high enough to access the tie rods.
- Loosen each tie individually.
- Rotate the steering wheel back and forth to realign the tie rods with their wheels.
- Check your work with a string.
- Retighten the tie rods, and you’re all set!
Throughout this post, you’ll learn the step-by-step process to center your steering wheel, what the causes could be, how to prevent it from happening, and how much money it’ll cost to have it fixed at a repair shop.
How to Center Your Vehicle’s Steering Wheel
Regardless of why your steering wheel isn’t centered, it can be a serious safety issue. By following the steps found throughout this section, you’ll be able to get everything back to normal. If you’re worried about why it keeps happening, proceed to the following sections.
Here’s the step-by-step process to fix your steering wheel and get it centered as it should be:
- Drive your car down the road in a straight line without adjusting the steering wheel. You’ll be able to figure out where the misalignment is by locating which direction the steering wheel turns. Once you test this step out a few times, it’s ready to get jacked up back at home or at the shop.
- Jack up your car to get access to the tie rods. All you have to do is line up the jack with a solid flat surface underneath your car and slowly elevate it evenly on both sides.
- Loosen the tie rods on every wheel, but don’t remove them all the way. By loosening them, you’ll allow yourself to adjust them from the steering wheel. There’s no need to manually rotate each tire since your vehicle is equipped to do so from the driver’s seat.
- Hop in the driver’s seat and rotate the steering wheel left and right. This process will realign everything since the tie rods aren’t held onto the tires as tightly anymore. Once you’ve moved it back and forth to where it looks like each wheel is facing forward, you can hop out of the seat.
- Take a thin rope and line it up with the center of all four rims at the same time. The rope should be level from each angle while touching the rims at the same spot. If you notice that one or more points are contacting the center of the rim, you need to adjust the rotation a bit more.
- After following the aforementioned steps, you should jack the vehicle back up and tighten all of the tie rods if you haven’t already. Some people prefer to do this before step 5, while others do it after so they don’t have to go back and forth. Try out the Raptor Pliers by KNIPEX Tools.
That’s all there is to it! You shouldn’t have to realign your steering wheel very often (if at all), so if you keep having to make adjustments, then something else is the cause. In the next section, you’ll be able to figure out the root cause of these problems.
What are Common Signs of Misalignment?
Misaligned steering wheels are the first sign that you’ll likely notice, but it’s the result of other causes usually. Fortunately, you can keep an eye out for other subtle signs to prevent yourself from ever having to deal with severe misalignment again.
Here are the most common symptoms associated with steering wheel misalignment:
- Perhaps the most apparent sign is uneven tread wearing on your tires. You can look at the inside and outside of each tire every few weeks to inspect it for wear and tear. If your left or right tires are more worn than the other side, then you more than likely have misalignment issues, though over and underinflation can also be a cause.
- Drifting is a huge problem that’s usually the first sign that most of us notice. When you let go of the steering wheel, it’s inevitable that it’ll go one way or the other after several minutes of hitting divots and pebbles in the road. That being said, your steering wheel shouldn’t pull you in any direction right away.
- A crooked steering wheel that faces slightly sideways or tilted when you’re going straight is also an issue. If you have to hold the steering wheel a bit to the left or right to drive forward, then you should get your alignment checked. Your vehicle more than likely has loose or rotated tie rods.
- When you’re driving, the steering wheel might vibrate. Aside from natural vibrations from rough roads, you shouldn’t feel an intense shaking while turning or driving straight. Either of these symptoms might be associated with the fact that your steering wheel needs to be centered.
- If your steering wheel or tires are squealing or squeaking, then you might have to get the alignment checked. This noise stems from the tie rods pressing against the inside of the rim and tires. You might think it’s your brakes when it’s actually just the tie rods having a tough time.
As you can see, there are all sorts of symptoms that come along with a non-centered steering wheel. If you notice any of them, it’s important that you inspect the vehicle to prevent accidents and further wear and tear.
Why Does it Keep Happening?
Although it’s easy and affordable to fix and center a steering wheel, that doesn’t mean that it should be a normal part of your vehicle’s repair schedule. If it keeps happening, there’s a deeper issue that can and will undoubtedly lead to other concerns.
One of the main reasons that steering wheels need to be centered is that the tie rods are dull or loose. If you’re not tightening or replacing old tie rods, then you’ll keep having to readjust the steering wheel over and over. Not only is it time-consuming, but it can also break your tie rods eventually.
Another cause of an uncentered steering wheel is an uneven or unbalanced axle. This issue causes the tie rods to loosen just enough to let your steering wheel move the wheels. Unfortunately, it can take quite some time, which leads most people to completely forget to check the axle as a probable cause.
Inner or outer tire misalignment can also lead to a steering wheel problem. Some tires slowly start to face inward, while others face outward. If you park your vehicle with the steering wheel centered, the tires should all be facing 100% straight forward. If they’re tilted in any direction, it can cause brake issues, uneven tire wearing, steering column issues, and more.
How Much Does it Cost to Have a Shop Center My Steering Wheel?
As mentioned above, having a professional adjust your steering wheel doesn’t cost too much. Angie’s List states that it only costs between $50 to $75 for a two-wheel realignment. That’s not too steep, considering it can prevent hundreds of dollars worth of repairs as well as possible vehicle accidents.
You can have your tires aligned on a brand-new car after about 10,000 miles, though you might need to do it more or less depending on accidents, driving frequency, mileage, and your style of driving. Needless to say, safe, smart driving will prevent you from having to center your steering wheel as often.
If you have to replace your vehicle’s axle, then there’s a chance that you may have to spend over $150 for the part and up to $500 or more for the labor. Tie rods are about $200 when it’s all said and done, and tires can range from $70 to $250+ per tire. All of these scheduled replacements can be spread out with safe driving and quick fixes on minor alignment issues.
Getting your steering wheel centered might be far from the top of your list of things to do. After all, you can hold the steering wheel at an angle to straighten your driving. Unfortunately, you’ll be neglecting the countless issues that it can cause over time. You’ll end up spending thousands of dollars on fixing a job that should’ve been only about $75 in total.
Here’s a recap of the post:
- Loosen the tie rods after you’ve jacked up your car to realign the steering wheel.
- Test your work and tighten the tie rods before you get back on the road.
- Common signs include uneven tire wearing, drifting in any direction, and a vibrating steel wheel.