Having a car steering wheel that’s hard to turn can be both frustrating and scary. Imagine being on the freeway and no longer being able to guide your vehicle in the right direction. Maybe it has happened to you already or someone you know. When you first experience symptoms of a stiff steering wheel, it’s a good idea to look under the hood and see if this is why it is hard to turn your steering wheel.
1. Low Tire Pressure
If you find that your steering wheel is tight, the easiest thing you can do is check your tire pressure. Properly inflated tires not only provide a comfortable ride but also provide top performance. When your tire pressure is low, there is more rubber on the road. This extra friction would be causing the steering wheel more effort to turn because the wheels are harder to turn. This is an easy fix by filling your tires up to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI.
2. Old or Low Power Steering Fluid
If your air pressure is fine and you’re still wondering “why is my steering wheel is hard to turn”, the next thing you can check is your power steering fluid. Low power steering fluid may be the most common reason why your steering wheel is hard to turn. This can be caused by a loose or cracked hose leading to lower fluid levels. Related to this is old power steering fluid. Over time, your power steering fluid will get thick if not replaced. If you see this or other signs your vehicle needs service, make sure to schedule an appointment sooner than later to avoid larger issues down the road.
3. Damaged Steering Rack
Your steering rack is a pinion and rack attached to your steering wheel with shafts and U-joints. If power steering stiffness is still present after checking tires and fluids, you may have an issue with your steering rack. A sign of a bad steering rack is that steering improves the longer the vehicle has been running. A warmer vehicle is easier for lubricants to move around making the steering wheel easier to turn. If you are experiencing this, resist the temptation to ignore it as the problem will only get worse and potentially cause more damage.
4. Power Steering Pump Failure
If you notice the steering wheel is hard to turn at low speeds, this one is for you. The pump produces pressure in the power steering system allowing for proper functioning. When the pump is no longer working, the reduced pressure makes the wheel much harder to turn, especially when driving slowly. It’s possible the pump connector has become loose so make sure to check for this if you know what you’re doing.
5. Broken Serpentine Belt
Your stiff steering wheel may be the result of a damaged Serpentine Belt. The belt is constantly working and like a rubber band, the more it is stretched the more likely it is to become loose or snap. Steering wheel tightness will happen once the belt is loose. Make an appointment with your mechanic before a full break happens as it will make getting into the shop much more difficult!
The steering wheel is hard to turn, and it is frustrating! Understanding what may be wrong will help you to remain calm and make appropriate decisions on what to do next. Regular service and checking your fluids throughout the life of your vehicle will help keep you out of bad situations on the road or expensive replacement bills.