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5 Causes of Steering Wheel Hard to Turn While Driving at Low Speeds

November 8, 2017 | General Repair Info

Every vehicle has a steering system which gives the driver control over the direction in which they are driving. If you don’t have a functional steering system, then it will create all kinds of problems for you. More importantly, it will make your vehicle unsafe for yourself and the other people on the road around you. Just imagine having to make a turn or trying to change lanes and then having the steering wheel lock up or move slowly. This will likely cause an accident to the point where someone could be injured or killed.

The most common problem with the steering wheel is that it can become difficult to turn. Since most people turn while driving at low speeds, this is when the hard to turn problem will be noticeable. It is a clear indication that your power steering system is having a problem somewhere. There are many components which make up the power steering system. Aside from the serpentine belt and the pump, the system contains hydraulic power steering fluid which works against the piston so that you can easily turn the wheel without much resistance. If there were to be an issue with any one of these areas of the system, then you wouldn’t get the assistance of the power steering to make turning the wheel easier.

Top 5 Common Causes

It is important to understand the main causes of a hard to turn steering wheel. Below are the top 5 causes which you can investigate as soon as you notice that your steering wheel is getting more difficult to turn.

1) Bad Steering Rack – The steering rack is made up of the pinion and rack. A series of U-joints and shafts keep the steering rack attached to the steering wheel. The steering rack will eventually become worn out and damaged from simply using your vehicle. You will know when this happens if your steering wheel is only stiff after you’ve started your vehicle. As the engine stays on longer, the steering rack will get hotter which causes the lubricant to settle in more. Therefore, the steering wheel may become less stiff as the car continues to run. But still, get the rack replaced before the problem escalates.

2) Broken Serpentine Belt – One of the most common causes of steering wheel stiffness is when the serpentine belt is damaged or cracked. This belt is constantly being used when you drive the vehicle so over time, it gets worn down pretty quickly. Then it will become loose which is when the stiffness in the steering wheel will begin. If you don’t replace the belt soon, it will break altogether and then you won’t be able to move the steering wheel at all. It is better to replace the belt before this happens.

3) Leaky Fluid – Perhaps the top cause of a stiff steering wheel is when you don’t have enough power steering fluid in the system. Usually, this occurs if the fluid is leaking from the pressurized hose area. Sometimes the hose will get cracked or simply become loose, causing the fluid to leak out. Since this fluid is needed to pressurize the system and lubricate the pump, you will have a stiff steering wheel if there isn’t enough fluid to perform these tasks in the system.

4) Pump Failure – The pump of the power steering system is what produces the amount of pressure needed to allow you to smoothly turn the steering wheel. If this pump were to stop working, then it will become more difficult to turn the steering wheel. Normally, in these situations, the pump won’t prevent the steering wheel from moving completely. You will still be able to turn it, but it will require a lot more force on your end.

Read also: How to Change Front and Rear Brake Pads: (5 Easy Steps)

5) Thick Fluid – The power steering fluid can become thicker over time. If you don’t change your fluid regularly, then it will become too thick to lubricate the system. This will cause more stiffness in the steering as you try to turn at low speeds. Therefore, you need to drain this old fluid out and replace it with entirely new fluid.

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