9 Reasons Why Your Steering Wheel Is Shaking

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Having a shaky steering wheel is not only frightening but also dangerous. Many reasons can cause your steering wheel to shake. So, how do you narrow down the reasons that your steering wheel is shaking.

Don’t stress. I’m here to help. In this post, I will review the potential reasons why your steering wheel is shaking. I will also go over ways to help you identify what is causing your steering wheel to shake.

Let’s get started.

1. Warped Brake Rotors

hydraulic brake rotor

Warped brake rotors can cause your vehicle steering wheel to shake and vibrate while braking.

When your brake rotors reach excessively high temperatures, this will cause hot spots and warping along with your brake rotors. These spots are typically easy to see with a visual inspection.

The main reason that your steering wheel shakes when you are driving is that your brake pads will slip on the uneven surfaces of your brake rotors. When your brake pad slips, this will cause your steering wheel to shake.

The best way to determine your brake rotors are warped is to inspect them. To do this, you will need to remove your tires. If this is a daunting task or you don’t have the tools to do so, you will need to take your car to a mechanic.

When inspecting your brake rotors, in severe cases, can typically see areas of warping. In minor cases, you might need to run your hand and fingers along the brake rotors. If you feel groves or small holes / craters this is a sign of warped brake rotors. 

2. Wheel Misalignment

Misaligned wheels are a very common reason that causes steering wheels to shake. This is because it only takes one misaligned wheel to cause your steering wheel to shake. Even slight misalignments can cause your steering wheel to shake. 

When wheels have misaligned the wheels, the tires are not following the same path. Typically, when this happens, your car will not drive in one direction if you left it alone. When your wheel is misaligned, your car will likely drift in one direction. 

Wheels need to be aligned more frequently than most people expect. It’s recommended that you have your wheels aligned with every other oil change. Having your wheels aligned more often won’t hurt, and you can opt for having it done with every oil change. 

Since most auto repair companies will sometimes offer a wheel alignment at a discount with an oil change, every oil change is an easy option. Wheel alignments are typically inexpensive, so fixing these issues should not be an issue. In most places, you can get a wheel alignment for less than $100. 

Avoiding large bumps in the road, pots holes, and curbs to better prevent your vehicle from getting out of alignment. It’s recommended to get a four-wheel alignment approximately every 5,000 – 6,000 miles to ensure your vehicle alignment is correct.  

Wheel misalignment is typically caused by: 

  • Driving on rough roads or off-roads 
  • Hitting objects under your cars such as potholes, curves, or speed bumps. 
  • Collisions 
  • Driving with worn tires 
  • Driving for extended periods without a wheel alignment. 

3. out of Balance Tire

When your tires are out of balance, this can cause your steering wheel to shake. When you’re tires are out of balance, the weight of your tire is not spread evenly. This will cause your steering wheel to shake, among other common symptoms.

To experience a nice smooth ride, you must have all four wheels balanced or experience a shaking steering wheel. Typically you will experience the shaking from the steering wheel during accumulation or around 45 – 65 MPH.

Avoiding large bumps in the road, pots holes, and curbs can help prevent your tires from getting out of balance.
If your tire is out of balance, you need to balance out the tire on a wheel balance machine. A wheel balance machine will let you know where and how much weight is needed to balance the wheel.

Typically rebalancing your tire or tires will fix the issues depending on tire damage caused by the tires being out of balance. If your tires are damaged, you will have to replace them in order for your wheels and tires to balance out on the wheel balancing machine.

4. Flat Spots on Tires

Flat spots on your tires will make your steering wheel shake and also make your entire vehicle vibrate at any speed. The tire damage typically happens during hard braking causing the vehicle to slide, or the vehicle has been sitting in the same place for a very long time, creating flat spots on the tire.

The flat spots in your tires can knock your vehicle out of alignment if driven for an extended amount of time. Replacing your tires and getting a four-wheel alignment would be recommended to ensure your vehicle does not receive any further damage.

5. Bad Wheel Bearings

Driving on bad wheel bearings can cause your steering wheel to shake and also cause serious damage to your vehicle. Wheel bearing secures your wheels in place while driving straight or turning. 

Once your wheel bearings start to go bad, you could experience symptoms like the following.

  • Uneven tire wear 
  • Wobby loose wheels 
  • Smoke coming from the wheels
  • Reduced handling
  • Noises coming from the wheel bearing 
  • Wheels separating from the vehicle

If you notice any of the symptoms above, replacing your bad wheel bearing will be recommended. Continuing to drive on a bad wheel bear could cause an accident in a more difficult wheel bearing situation. 

6. Rusting Rotors

rusting rotor

When your vehicle sits for a long period of time, your rotors can get rusty, causing your vehicle steering wheel to shake during acceleration or braking situations. The shaking or vibrating is felt in the steering wheel more apparent when braking.

The brake calipers and the brake pads are applying pressure to the rotors to slow the vehicle down. 

When your rotors are rusty, the brake caliper and brake pads will not have an even surface to apply brake pressure causing your vehicle to shake or hesitate while trying to stop.

If you have light surface rust on your rotors, the brake calipers and brake pad will clean off the rust after hitting the breaks a couple of times. In more severe cases, the brake calipers and brake pad will not clean off your rotors. Replacing or resurfacing your brake rotors is recommended.

7. Disc thickness variation (DTV)

When your rotors are not properly aligned correctly during installation and torqued down to spec. The rotor disc can wear unevenly, allowing thicker and thinner areas on the rotor. 

This can affect your driving experience causing your steering wheel to shake during a braking situation.

DTV does not allow your brake calipers and brake pads to apply pressure evenly on the rotor. 

Rust, dirt, or deposits can cause DTV to happen to increase your stop distance. This could be dangerous when needing to make an emergency stop.

If DTV is suspect, replacing your rotors would be recommended to ensure your rotors are at the correct thickness for your brake calipers and brake pads to apply pressure for your vehicle to stop within the factor stopping distance.

8. Advanced Driver Assistance System

The Advanced Driver Assistance System is a new feature to keep the vehicle in the lane without drifting over to other lanes on the road. The driver assistance feature will shake, vibrate or actually turn the wheel steering to keep the vehicle in the lane the driver wishes to drive in.

Once the driver turns on a turning signal, the advanced driver assistance system will allow the vehicle to which lane without shaking, vibrating, or turning the steering wheel back into the previous lane.

When the drive doesn’t use a turn signal indicating the drive wishes to veer over to the next lane. The advanced driver assistance system will kick in by shaking the steering wheel and warning the vehicle veering over the next lane.

In a more difficult situation, the system will turn the steering wheel to keep the vehicle in the correct lane and allow accidents by sideswiping another vehicle.

If you do not like the advanced driver assistance system and you no longer want the system on. You can turn the system off and on as you wish, follow your owner’s manual to help guide you on turning off your advanced driver assistance system.

9. Stuck Brake Caliper

When your brake caliper is stuck in position, applying pressure to your brake pad touching your rotors can cause your steering wheel to shake while increasing speed or slowing down. 

The brakes will have a burning smell as you increase speed due to the stuck brake caliper applying brake pressure to the rotors.

A stuck brake caliper is caused by a piston that has seized in place, causing your brake caliper to be stuck in place. Rust, dirt, and debris play a role in seizing up a brake caliper piston.

If you suspect your brake caliper is stuck in the same position. Have your vehicle towed to a local mechanic shop to replace your stuck brake caliper. You may have to replace your brake pad and rotor depending on your wear.

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