Like any other automobile part, the steering wheel and braking system are closely interconnected despite being in different compartments. Their alignments impact the car’s direction, traveling speed, and weight transfer during both driving and braking.
So, if your steering wheel shakes when you brake, something must have gone wrong. Our team has compiled several common reasons behind the issue; scroll down to see which one applies to your case.
In this article:
Why Is My Steering Wheel Shaking When Braking? How To Fix?
Warped rotors, dry guide pins, worn brake pads, damaged bearings, and sticking calipers are the most common culprits behind your shaky wheel while braking. You should also double-check if any tire is unbalanced or misaligned. If none of these issues are detected, then faulty suspension is very likely.
Warped Brake Rotors
Brake rotors are the flat surfaces your brake pads press against to slow or stop your vehicle. The heat generated during braking causes these rotors to bend over time – especially if you haven’t replaced your old pads – resulting in uneven surfaces that translate to steering wheel vibration.
If detected early, a mechanic might be able to resurface the rotors, restoring their smoothness without replacing them. Unfortunately, in more severe cases, rotor replacement is the only way to ensure effective braking.
Worn Brake Pads
When you press your brake pedal, the caliper will apply pressure to the brake pad, which then clamps down on the rotors to stop your car. If the brake pads are worn, old, or heavily contaminated, their grip on the rotor will weaken drastically, shaking the steering wheel.
For worn brake pads, replacement is the only appropriate solution. You can do it yourself or seek professional service.
- Remove the slider bolt wheel and slider bolt to access the brake pad, then pivot the caliper to let the old brake pad slide off the housing.
- Replace the retaining clips and insert the new brake pad.
- Reposition the caliper, then reinstall the slider bolt and wheel. If needed, consider refreshing the brake fluid as well.
Dry Guide Pins
As part of the brake calipers, guide pins “guide” the brake pads to the rotors for more efficient braking. If not lubricated properly, these dry or corroded pins might dampen the pad alignment and even get the caliper stuck at odd angles, which explains why your steering wheel shakes when you brake.
Thorough cleaning is the first step. Removing accumulated dirt and grime from both the components and the pins allows smoother sliding for the caliper, optimizing your brake performance.
After cleaning, apply a high-temperature lubricant or grease to prevent future dryness. Finally, reinsert the now-lubricated guide pins into the caliper housing.
Tire Alignment Problems
A suspension system is designed to align your tires evenly with the road’s surface. But road conditions, rough driving, or other hazards may disrupt this alignment over time to shake the steering wheel off its balance. Uneven tire wear is another consequence of misalignment.
Wheel misalignment involves various checks and adjustments., so we suggest turning to experts instead of doing it yourself.
A mechanic will inspect tire pressure, assess the condition of wheel bearings, and perform tire rotations. Any misaligned wheel angle will be rectified instantly to prevent uneven tire wear and steering wheel vibrations.
Tire Balancing Issues
Proper tire balance is highly recommended to ensure all four tires rotate at the same speed.
Unfortunately, road conditions, irregular inflation, or seasonal changes skew their placement and impact your axle and suspension, causing violent steering wheel vibration.
Have a mechanic balance all 4 tires for you. Introducing this task to your car maintenance routine can easily prevent the problem in the first place.
Sticky Brake Caliper
Though not as common as other possibilities, you should not leave brake calipers out of the picture, as they often get stuck due to debris buildup, worn horses, or improper DIY brake installation.
The calipers hold the brake pads and release them once you lift your foot off the brake pedal. But with a stuck or seized caliper, your brake pads will remain in contact with the rotors even when you’re not braking. As a result, a series of handling issues, including a shaky steering wheel, occurs.
Stop driving and bring your car to a repair shop for assistance.
Worn or Damaged Wheel Bearings
Wheel bearings secure the wheel hub to the vehicle’s suspension for smooth wheel operation. Needless to say, damaged or poorly lubricated wheel bearings will cause the steering wheel to tremble, especially during sharp turns.
How can you check for damaged wheel bearings? Raise the vehicle off the ground with a jack and rock the wheel gently. Excessive movement or a grinding noise means they are calling for a replacement.
An issue with your vehicle’s suspension, including bushings, joints, coils, or shock absorbers, disrupts your vehicle’s handling and leads to steering wheel vibration.
If no other causes above apply to your case, a malfunctioning suspension is the only logical explanation left. Ask a professional mechanic to inspect your suspension system properly and determine the exact source of the problem.
Like misaligned wheels, repairing a problematic suspension system is a difficult task that should be entrusted to professionals.
The mechanic will address issues like loose bolts and nuts on the wheels and engine. Even more complex repairs, such as component replacement or repair of ball joints and shock absorbers, will likely be handled properly in record time, much faster than DIY solutions.
Vibration In Steering Wheel At Low Speeds
Here are a few possible reasons why your steering wheel mostly vibrates at low speeds:
- Unbalanced tires. When your tires are out of balance, their rotation causes the steering wheel to vibrate – an issue most noticeable at low speeds.
- Worn or damaged wheel bearings. If the bearings wear gradually, the small imperfections in their surfaces cause more frequent vibrations, even during casual rides.
- Bent or damaged axle. The axle is the shaft that connects your wheels. Once bent or broken, it causes significant wheel misalignment that results in a shaking steering wheel.
- Loose or damaged steering components. Steering parts, like ball joints, tie rods, and control arm bushings, might wear out or become damaged over time, which explains why the steering wheel can barely hold itself together no matter how slow you drive.
Vibration in The Steering Wheel At High Speeds?
Aside from some of the common causes we already discussed, keep an eye on these issues as well:
- Aerodynamic turbulence: Mostly found in large vehicles or those with damaged/incorrectly installed body kits, aerodynamic turbulence sways your handling and affects the steering wheel during the process.
- Natural tire wear and tear: Wear and tear over time throws the tires off track, causing steering vibrations that worsen as you accelerate.
- Drivetrain problems: Problems with the drivetrain, such as a worn/ damaged driveshaft or universal joint, also result in strong quivering.
The vibration in the steering wheel is easy to diagnose and fix, but only when you treat them timely. Ignoring the issue for too long exacerbates the damage in other braking/steering components, leading to inefficient performance and time-consuming repairs that might cost thousands of dollars to rectify.