Sooner or later it seems like we all run into this issue. Steering wheel vibration can an annoying nuisance or violent shaking of the steering wheel that makes driving scary! So what’s the cause? Why does it happen, and how do we fix it?
Diagnosing Wheel Vibration
Steering wheel vibration typically is induced by just a few factors. However, to narrow it down a bit and save you time, here’s a few quick things to consider:
Does it only happen when the brakes are applied?
If the vibration only occurs under braking, you can almost certainly bet it’s related to the brakes. Most commonly, its a warped rotor. Rotors often warp if exposed to excessive heat, however, it’s not uncommon for older rotors (or cheap rotors) to warp, too. When a rotor warps, its no longer perfectly flat, and the slight undulations in the surface translate to shaking the steering wheel. Don’t let this issue sit! The vibration is not only annoying, it degrades braking performance and causes excessive wear on other suspension components!
Does it change with vehicle speed?
If your wheel vibration doesn’t seem associated with braking, maybe it’s proportional to speed? Perhaps it gets worse at a particular speed, or just gets worse the faster you go. Generally, this sort of vibration can be contributed to a wheel that is improperly balanced. Heading to your local tire installer and get your wheels re-balanced is a great place to start.
Is there a sound associated with it?
Less common, but still worth mentioning is a bad wheel bearing. While typically the sound will occur long before the vibration, a bad wheel bearing can also cause vibrations. The bad bearing will sound like a whirring noise which increases with speed. Most commonly, it will be audible by 40mph, and noticeably loud by 60. The noise should be consistent whether you are on or off throttle. This will sound a little crazy, but commonly you can go around to each wheel (when the car is the ground) and try “shaking” the wheel forward and backward, perpendicular to the direction of the vehicle. Normally, the wheel should feel tight. If there’s a bad wheel bearing however, the wheel will actually move a bit back in forth. While the movement is small and not easy to capture on camera, if there is a bad wheel bearing it will be immediately perceptible by feel.
Hopefully this quick post helps you if you’re having issues diagnosing some dreaded wheel vibration! If it sounds like a wheel bearing or a brake service, check out ShopDAP.com for replacement parts and if you’re local our shop can take care of you!