Grappling with a shaky steering wheel can quickly irritate you during your daily commute. Aside from fatigued hands, excessive vibrations can also shake and rattle loose trim pieces and even damage suspension components indirectly. If you want to get to the bottom of your car's vibrations, here are a few common places to check first.
1. Unbalanced Tires and Wheels
Although your car's computer recognizes that the transmission is not engaged, the car has to increase the amount of fuel entering the intake manifold in order to compensate for the extra air. Otherwise, your engine would stall entirely. Instead, you may notice that your car's engine seems to rev up too much higher than usual speeds while in idle.
Tires and wheels can lose their balance through tread wear and overall wear and tear on the wheel itself. This gradual loss can cause the tires to go out-of-round, causing vibrations that can vary in intensity depending on the level of wear.
A careful inspection and rebalancing of your wheels by your automotive specialist can quell vibrations caused by out-of-round tires and wheels. If your tires are worn beyond their limits, your specialist may also suggest new tires.
2. Uneven Brake Rotor Wear
Your car's brake rotors can also be the source of steering wheel vibrations. Due to intermittent contact with the brake pads, brake rotors experience uneven wear over the course of their life. The uneven wear can cause the rotors to become not perfectly round and produce vibrations. These vibrations lead many people to believe their brake rotors are warped when they're simply out-of-round.
One way to solve this problem is by having your brake rotors turned. Rotor turning returns the brake rotor to an even state by shaving off excess material from the rotor's surface. Rotor turning can be done as long as the rotor itself is thick enough to safely shave. Once the brake rotor reaches a certain thinness, your automotive specialist will recommend a complete replacement instead.
Uneven brake rotor wear also happens when the rotor was improperly installed. Failing to mount the brake rotor flush against the hub can result in severe vibrations.
3. Stuck Brake Caliper
Brake calipers can sometimes stick shut after applying the brakes, resulting in vibrations that often intensify at higher speeds. Stuck brake calipers can also cause your vehicle to pull strongly to one side under braking. Early brake wear is common when dealing with stuck calipers.
Dirty or corroded brake caliper slides and bolts are the most common culprits for stuck brake calipers, as these issues can cause the caliper to freeze up. A torn brake piston boot allows debris and moisture to seep through, creating enough rust and gunk to freeze the piston in place. Brake hose failure can also lead to a stuck brake caliper.
4. Bad Wheel BearingsWheel bearings allow your wheels to rotate freely without creating excess friction. Premature failure due to quality issues or a curb or pothole strike that also damages the wheel bearing can contribute to steering wheel shaking, especially when making a turn. Bad wheel bearings also make grinding and growling noises, making them relatively easy to spot.
Wheel bearings are also a crucial link between your wheels and the rest of your vehicle. Total wheel bearing failure may also lead to complete wheel separation. Bad wheel bearings must be replaced as soon as possible to avoid these and other problems.
Although it's easy to ignore some of your car's shakes and rattles, you can't do it forever. Eventually, you'll need the help of seasoned professionals at White's Automotive Center to sort out your vehicle's vibration problems.