Steering should operate noise-free. But worn parts can cause concerning whines, groans or rubbing when turning. Don’t ignore these red flags.
Learn what suspension and steering components are engaged and stressed when turning, where issues may lurk, and how to inspect the system. Finding the cause of a steering wheel that makes noise when turning early on will save money and prevent safety hazards.
Common Causes of a Noisy Steering Wheel When Turning
When there’s a problem with a component in the suspension or steering system, they’ll have trouble supporting the vehicle’s heavy weight. They must also be able to move in the ways they’re supposed to.
Although lubrication will help preserve their lifespan, these parts will fail eventually. The first warning sign will be noises when turning the steering wheel. Here’s what they could mean:
#1 – Jounce Bushing is Dry
The front strut has something called a jounce bushing on top of it. When the bushing becomes dry, turning will create creaking or groaning sounds. These sounds will get worse the longer you wait to fix this problem.
#2 – Bad Power Steering Rack
A whining sound while turning could be the result of a bad power steering rack. This whining sound will be most recognizable while driving at lower speeds. Sometimes a bad belt or vane pump can cause this too.
#3 – Bad Struts and Shocks
Your struts and shocks can last quite a long time in your vehicle, but eventually they will wear down and go bad. The first sign is noises when you turn. If the parts are not replaced, the car will also begin to bounce during turns.
#4 – Worn Steering Column Bearing
If your steering wheel is making a loud rubbing noise when turning, the culprit could be the upper bearing on the steering column itself.
This can cause the the plastic on the back of some steering wheels to rub against the cowling on the steering column. This is most noticeable in hot weather which causes some parts to expand.
See Also: 5 Signs of a Faulty Clock Spring
#5 – Bad Tie Rod Ends
When you turn a steering wheel, it’s the tie rods which enable the wheels to move in response. A loose or damaged tie rod will create a knocking, clunking, or creaking sound. This is especially true when you turn at lower speeds.
#6 – Bad Ball Joints
The steering knuckles and control arms are able to sustain movement with the help of ball joints. These joints need lubrication to prevent themselves from going dry.
#7 – Bad Control Arm Bushings
Like all bushings, the control arm bushings will wear over time and eventually will go bad. All the wear and tear causes them to break down and crack. This will result in a creaking sound as you turn the wheel.
#8 – Power Steering Fluid Leaks
Power steering systems use a specially formulated fluid to lubricate and transmit the necessary pressure to move the steering smoothly. This fluid flows from a reservoir to the steering rack and pinion or steering box.
If the power steering fluid leaks, it will produce a noise, especially when turning. A low level of power steering fluid usually indicates a leak.
#9 – Clogged Power Steering Fluid Reservoir
Power steering fluid is stored in the steering reservoir tank. Generally, there is filter inside reservoir tank to keep the fluid clean. When the reservoir becomes clogged, it will also produce a noise when turning.
How to Fix
The problem can be diagnosed in virtually any location. A professional mechanic is able to easily check your suspension system and steering system to see what’s causing the noises. Based on their diagnosis, they will recommend what needs to be fixed or replaced.
Sometimes your suspension system might just require lubrication, but while they’re in there, other worn or damaged parts will be noted as needing to be repaired or replaced.
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