Have you noticed that your steering wheel shakes at high speeds? If this is a recurring issue, it is a tell-tale sign that some part of your car is malfunctioning. In most cases, it turns out to be a minor issue that is easy to fix. In others, a wobbly steering wheel is the first indicator of a more severe problem in your vehicle.
A car that is in good condition should drive smoothly at all speeds on almost all roads. Certainly, if the road is in particularly bad shape, you will feel your car bounce slightly. But if you start experiencing recurring shaking, vibrating, or wobbling sensations in your vehicle, something must be amiss with it.
The steering wheel is the first thing that will start to tremble when a part of your car begins to malfunction. If it happens to you, make sure not to take it lightly and check what the cause of the vibrations could be. Most of the time, it won’t be necessary to take your ride to the mechanic, and you can diagnose the problem yourself.
Here are the seven common reasons why the steering wheel shakes at high speeds:
- Misaligned tires
- Deflated tires
- Unbalanced wheels
- Suspension issues
- Brake problems
- Bent axle
- Engine malfunction
1. You Have Misaligned Tires
If your tires have been improperly placed on the wheels of your car, you will feel it through the vibrations of your steering wheel. It will usually start at the speed of approximately 50 miles per hour and gradually get more pronounced the faster you go.
If you are wondering how you can check whether your tires are misaligned, just look at them. The tire tread will appear uneven, and it will usually be more worn out on one side than on the other.
Alignment issues are quite common. That can happen due to time, rough driving, frequent driving on bad roads, careless crossing over bumpy manholes, speed bumps, or railroad tracks.
What you should do is take your car to a tire shop and have the tires turned around to even out the wear and tear on both sides. However, if your tires have become excessively damaged, you may need to replace them altogether.
2. Your Tires Have Let Down
Another cause of misaligned tires are tires that have become deflated. In that case, your wheels will transmit shakes to the steering wheel. If this is the root of your problem, you are in luck as you won’t need the help of a mechanic. Once you inflate your tires, the problem will go away.
3. Your Wheels Are out of Balance
Have you recently mounted brand new tires on your wheels? If so, your wheels may still be unbalanced. That is of utmost importance because the weight of the car has to be evenly distributed over the entire wheel to avoid further damage to the car’s mechanism, such as the suspension system.
Balancing decreases the vibrations in the chassis, suspension, and steering wheel. Often, counterweights are added to the wheel to ensure that every part of it is in balance.
The vehicle can also become unbalanced over time if the corrective weights fall out of the wheel. If you drive a car with unbalanced wheels, you risk further damage to it and expose yourself to danger.
To prevent that from ever happening, a good rule of thumb is to get your wheels rebalanced every 3–6,000 miles, or whenever you change the oil in your car.
4. You May Have Issues With Your Suspension
If the problems with your wheels have progressed, the chances are they have caused damage to the suspension of the car. Check your system thoroughly — inspect the condition of the driveshaft, the shocks, and the connections. Look out for any corroded parts that you may need to replace, or for any parts that appear excessively worn out, loose, or out of balance.
If you notice that anything is the matter with your suspension system, it is best you turn to a professional to fix it for you.
5. Your Breaks Could Be Failing
When you drive at high speeds and start to break, you may notice the steering wheel shaking. It may happen that your brake discs or brake pads, among other things, have become worn out or completely torn.
Alternatively, if you drive fast, the shaking of the steering wheel may worsen the faster you go. In that case, you may smell something burning when you hit the breaks. If that happens, you probably have a malfunctioning brake caliper. That can occur from the impact of the road debris and its buildup on the caliper. Alternatively, it could be due to the improper installation of the brake pad.
Brakes are instrumental for your safety, so I would recommend getting them professionally cleaned and repaired in this case. The car mechanic will confirm whether the problem lies with them and then restore or replace them entirely.
6. You Could Have Bent Your Axle
A bend in one of the axles can result in some serious and worrisome shaking of the entire car, including the steering wheel. Typically, the axle sustains damage upon severe impact with something.
If you have recently had an accident of some sort, the force of the impact may have damaged or bent the axle. In this scenario, you will be able to feel trepidations of your steering wheel even at lower speeds. But as the speed increases, so does the wobbling of the wheel in your hand. In this case, the matter is best left to the professionals.
If you happen to notice sudden jerky movements of the steering wheel to the left or the right, it may point to a more serious issue. If that is so, your driveshaft may be broken. In that case, your car is not safe to drive, not even to the mechanics.
7. Your Engine Might Be Failing
Engine failure is the last thing you want your car to go through. When the engine has almost run its course, it will cause the whole vehicle to shimmy. But the steering wheel is bound to manifest the vibrations first. As soon as you notice it, you must have your car professionally inspected.
I hope that my guide through the seven common reasons why the steering wheel shakes at high speeds has helped you identify the issue with your vehicle. To end on a similar note, I suggest you also read my piece on why the car makes noise when turning the steering wheel.