Your steering wheel can make all sort of funny noises while you’re driving, and we’re not just talking about your horn! The reason lots of noises can seem like they’re coming from your steering wheel because it is directly connected to the front wheels on your car through the steering column and steering rack. That means any bump, creek, or squeak is translated through those components as steering wheel noise.
Different components make different noises when they are starting to fail so you can often identify what’s wrong with your car simply based on the noises you are hearing. Join me in the garage and I’ll talk through what having a whine, rattle, click or clunk means in your car so you know what component to replace!
In the rest of this article, we’re going to talk about the front end of your car and the different components that can wear out and cause noise so you can identify the problems easily.
Components That Can Cause Steering Wheel Noise
- Power Steering Pump
- Ball Joints
- Tie Rods
- Control Arm Bushings
Power Steering Pump
Since your power steering pump is forcing high-pressure fluid through your steering rack, any noise it makes will be translated up through your steering wheel. A whining noise can indicate air in your lines, a low fluid level or a worn out power steering pump. A rhythmic clunk or rattle with engine RPM indicates a loose power steering pump pulley.
Ball joints are used to connect your control arms to your steering knuckle and sometimes your sway bar end links to the shock or control arm. They are used because they allow the component a large range of motion from rotation, to angular deflection. As these where out, the ball starts to get loose in it’s joint and will cause clunking when turning or going over a bump. An extremely worn ball joint can lead to play in the steering knuckle and can allow your car to wander at higher speeds.
Tie rods have joints both where they connect to the steering rack (the inner tie rod end) and where they connect to your steering knuckle (the outer tie rod end). Just like a worn ball joint, these joints can lead to clunks and loose steering. Worn tie rod ends will often clunk when turning sharply rather than when going over bumps and will allow you to slightly turn your steering wheel without your tires turning at all. Worn tie rod ends can lead to excessive front tire wear, poor handling, and sloppy steering.
Control Arm Bushings
The side of your control arm opposite the steering knuckle is mounted to the body or frame of your car using bushings since it only needs to be able to move in a single plane. These rubber bushings can crack, tear or simply wear out over time. This can cause squeaky or creaking when your suspension flexes and will eventually cause clunks when going over bumps or turning sharply.
Worn shocks can also make steering wheel noise in your car whether it’s a worn bushing, a worn upper mount or a bad shock absorber itself. You often can simulate these problems by bouncing your car while it’s parked and listen for the noise you are hearing at each corner. Shock manufacturers recommend replacing your shocks every 60,000 miles to make sure your vehicle handles as you expect and has the shortest possible braking distance.
For for a deeper explanation of each of steering wheel noises you may hear and how to figure out what the problem is with your car, join me in the garage so you can accurately explain the problem to your mechanic, or get it fixed yourself!
Pictures provided by:
steering_wheel_noise.jpg – By Borakovskyy – Licensed by Getty Images – Original Link
ball_joint.jpg – By Phantom1311 – Licensed by Getty Images – Original Link
shock_absorber.jpg – By Phantom1311 – Licensed by Getty Images – Original Link