Last week our Columbia SC Auto Repair Pro talked about the complex network known as your automobile’s suspension system and how to troubleshoot suspension and steering problems.  As previously explained, in order to function properly and provide a smooth ride, the suspension system’s components must operate in perfect sync.  If your car is not riding as smoothly as it once did or as smooth as you know it can, the suspension and steering could be your problem.

The Columbia, SC Auto Repair Pro is here to examine a few more of the symptoms you may have and their possible causes.

Symptom: Steering Wheel Vibrates While Driving

Sometimes you feel a lot of vibration in your steering wheel.  When this steering wheel vibration occurs while driving at a constant speed, particularly at highway speeds, you should look into the following possibilities:

  • Your automobile’s wheels may be out of balance.  If you believe they are, head to a trusted auto shop to have them re-balanced.
  • This steering wheel vibration can also be caused by excessive tire wear or uneven tire wear.  The obvious answer to this issue is to replace the worn tires.
  • Driving on wheels with loose wheel bolts, or lug nuts, may create vibrations in the steering wheel.  Have a look to make sure that all of the lug nuts are properly tightened down.
  • The last common culprit of steering wheel vibrations while driving is a warped brake rotor.  To find out if this is your problem, take a thorough look at your brake discs.  Replace the brake disc, or brake rotor, if signs of excessive wear or warping is seen.

Symptom: Loose Steering a.k.a. Play in Steering

Having play in the steering or loose steering means that you are moving the steering wheel more than you should have to in order for the wheels to respond appropriately.  This is also called wandering steering sometimes.  If you begin to notice that your steering seems loose, it could be attributed to a few different things.

  • The first and easiest thing to check is your power steering fluid level.  If you are not at the recommended level, add enough to put it back at full.
  • Having worn strut bearings could be another issue.  You should inspect your strut bearings, looking for play.  If replacement is needed, be sure to replace them in pairs.
  • The tie rods or steering rack is another possibility for loose steering.  If tie rods or the steering rack are badly worn or broken they will need to be replaced.
  • Your ball joints may also affect your steering.  Inspect your ball joints too.  Worn ball joints will need to be replaced.
  • Broken steering rack mounts is the last area to mention.  Inspect your steering rack mount for stability.  With some vehicles, this can be fixed by a mechanic, but there are others that require full replacement of the whole steering rack.

Symptom: Clunking in Steering Wheel

By steering wheel clunking I mean that clunking, knocking you feel through your steering wheel when you drive over bumps.  In extreme cases, even regular road cracks can cause this same clunking sensation.  This particular issue is usually due to one of the following three parts.

  • Shocks or struts being worn is one of the usual offenders.  An auto repair shop can replace your shocks or struts if necessary.
  • Another part known to create this problem is worn strut bearings.  Take a good look at your strut bearings and if they appear to be worn, replace both.
  • The last culprit of steering wheel clunking is worn ball joints.  Inspect your ball joints looking for excessive play.  If found, replace the ball joints.

Symptom: Screaming Steering or Loud Screeching

If you hear a loud screech or screaming type of sound, notable while steering at lower speeds, like parking, you need to have a look at the last two items on our list.

  • Check your power steering fluid.  If not at an adequate level, refill as needed.  Operating with a low power steering fluid level can cause this type of screeching.
  • Your power steering belt is another likely cause.  In situations dealing with a loose power steering belt, you can usually adjust it and take care of your problem. But in cases where the belt has excessive wear or has become too damaged, it may need to be completely replaced.

I hope that this and my previous article, Troubleshoot Steering and Suspension Problems w Columbia SC Auto Repair Pro have served as a helpful guide in finding and diagnosing your steering and suspension troubles.  Sometimes your problems may involve more than one of these symptoms or may be being caused by more than one area in need of repair.  If you would like to schedule an appointment to have our ASE Certified Master Mechanic take a good look at your steering or suspension, contact our auto repair shop in Columbia, SC.  We have been serving the community since 1989 and we’d love the chance to serve you too.  At Sanford’s Automotive Service we get it fixed right the first time.  For all of your auto repairs, auto maintenance or other auto services, foreign or domestic, come see us for a mechanic you can trust.