(Updated on November 25, 2019)
You have probably been in a driving situation where your steering wheel starts to shake, whether you’re driving at high speed or low speed. This is not supposed to happen because a properly working car on a flat road will drive smoothly and evenly the whole time.
Of course, there will be the occasional vibration in the steering wheel or a bumpy road that causes the steering wheel to vibrate. But if the shakiness becomes a regular occurrence, then you could have a broken part or component inside of the car that is throwing it off balance.
Top 5 Causes of Steering Wheel Vibrations
To understand why the steering wheel is shaking while braking or driving at low and high speeds, you need to understand all the main causes of this kind of shakiness. Here are five of the most common reasons for a steering wheel shaking while driving at low or high speed.
1) Unbalanced Tires
This is the most common cause of steering wheel shakiness and the first cause that you should consider checking out. If you have a tire with low air pressure or tire treads that are worn out, this will cause your tires to be out-of-balance with each other as they’re touching the road.
Since the steering wheel controls the direction of the wheels which hold the tires, then this out-of-balance state will cause the steering wheel to shake.
2) Wheel Issues
The second most possible cause of steering wheel vibrations is a problem with your wheels. The wheel bearings are supposed to last forever but check them anyway just to make sure they’re not the problem. Wheel bearings have been known to get worn out.
Also, inspect the ball joints and tie rod ends too. Usually, shakiness that only occurs while making a turn will be because of bad tie rod ends. If the shaking occurs only when driving straight, then it is the ball joints that are at fault.
3) Brake Issues
If you have bad brakes which result in aggressive steering wheel shaking when you step on the brake pedal, this means you likely have worn out rotors. You should also check the brake caliper too because that can cause steering wheel shakiness, especially in older model cars.
4) Axle Damage
Cars tend to have axle problems if they’ve recently been in an accident and their steering wheel started vibrating soon after. Anytime you have an axle that is damaged or bent, it will result in steering wheel shaking as you travel at low speeds and the shaking getting somewhat violent as you increase speed.
If your driveshaft is damaged, then you may also experience the steering wheel randomly jerking to the left or right by itself.
5) Engine Problems
The final possible cause is problems with the engine, most commonly a bad motor mount. As the problem gets worse, the entire vehicle will start to shake. If it gets to that point, then you know it’s the engine that’s at fault.
It may not be a huge issue either. Perhaps there is an issue with the electric spark or fuel delivery in the system.
This list of causes goes from least serious to most serious. A lot of people who experience a little steering wheel shakiness don’t think much about it. Even if the shaking starts to pick up, they may hold off going to the mechanic because they don’t want to spend the money to get the problem fixed.
But the longer you wait to fix the problem, the more damage it will cause to your tires, brakes, wheel components, axle, and/or your engine. Then you will have to spend a lot more money to get all these things fixed or replaced. So, get the problem checked out as soon as you notice your steering wheel shaking.