There’s nothing like a stiff steering wheel to give your upper arms a good workout while you drive. Especially if you live in an area that has many twists and turns or must navigate through quite a bit of traffic on your daily commute. Usually, there are specific problems behind a steering wheel that is difficult to turn. These are five of the most common.
1. You’re Low on Power Steering Fluid
This is, by far, the most common cause of stiff, difficult to turn steering wheels. Sometimes it’s the result of a leak in the pressurized hose. It is also the simplest to check and solve before moving on to more complex issues that could cause your steering wheel to give you problems.
You can do a quick fix for the problem by simply adding more power steering fluid. However, that is usually the symptom and not the source of the problem. You will need to stop the leak, or you’ll have more problems in the future. Allowing it to continue without fixing the leak may result in the failure of your power steering pump. A problem that costs much more to solve.
2. You Have Insufficient Tire Pressure
Oddly enough, tire pressure can be another common cause of steering wheel pushback. This particular problem appears to be more pronounced when driving at low speeds. Fortunately, the solution is quick, easy, and usually inexpensive. Which makes it a good option to rule out before you take your car into a mechanic’s shop if you’ve already ruled out power steering fluid as the culprit.
Check the air pressure in your tires. Many modern cars report tire pressure for each tire on the menu. Simply check each one to make sure they’re all the same and all match the recommendations for your vehicle. If your car doesn’t have this feature, most convenience stores offer air pumps that have tire pressure gauges built into the air dispenser. This helps you track the pressure as you’re filling your tire.
3. Your Serpentine Belt is Cracked or Damaged
This belt does get worn down over time because it is in constant motion when your vehicles is in use. When cracks and other damage to this belt occur, it becomes loose. The looser it becomes, the more difficult your vehicle becomes to steer. While you can still drive with a loose serpentine belt, it will eventually break rendering your car undrivable. It is best to correct this problem before that happens, so you don’t run the risk of breaking down in heavy traffic or other inopportune moment.
4. Your Power Steering Pump Has Failed
Your power steering pump allows you to turn your steering wheel effortlessly by creating the perfect balance of pressure. When it stops working, your steering wheel becomes much more difficult to turn. Like air pressure in your tire, this is more obvious when driving at lower speeds. Before you replace your pump, however, which is a costly process, check the connectors to make sure it isn’t loose or damaged (offering a far less costly solution to your problem).
5. Your Power Steering Rack is Bad
Even if you know little about cars, you’ve probably heard the phrase “rack and pinion.” They make up the steering rack and are held in place by several U-joints and shafts. If this is the case, your difficult steering will be more pronounced when starting your vehicle but become less stiff as you drive, and the car warms up. This is a problem you will need to address quickly even though your car is operable.
There are, of course, other possible causes for sticky, tricky, hard to turn steering wheels. These just happen to be some of the most common.