5 Symptoms of a Bad Intermediate Steering Shaft (And Replacement Cost)

Every vehicle has something called an intermediate steering shaft in its steering system. The function of the intermediate steering shaft is to keep the steering gearbox and steering wheel connected.

There is a universal joint on one end of the intermediate steering shaft which connects to the steering gearbox and another universal joint on the other end which connects to the steering wheel.

These joints allow the angle in between these two features to be supported. As a result, your vehicle’s wheels can turn smoothly and easily.

Top 5 Bad Intermediate Steering Shaft Symptoms

It is important to have a properly working intermediate steering shaft at all times. If you were to have a faulty intermediate steering shaft, then it would not be safe to continue driving your vehicle. You could also be putting other people’s lives at risk as well.

Below are five of the most common symptoms of a bad intermediate steering shaft.

1) Strange Sounds

noise while driving

When the intermediate steering shaft starts going bad, one of the first symptoms that people usually notice is strange popping or clunking sounds coming from the steering wheel each time they turn it.

The sounds will start off small and mild, but will eventually become louder and more annoying if the problem is left untreated. Anytime you hear any strange sounds like this, you should take your car to the auto body shop to have it checked.

2) Turning Difficulty

no power steering

A more serious symptom of a bad intermediate steering shaft is having difficulty turning the steering wheel. One day you will go to make a turn around a corner and then you’ll experience sudden binding in the steering wheel as you’re turning it.

Because of this, you will be forced to put more strength into turning the wheel and this can be dangerous. If you need to put a lot of force into making basic turns, then it will slow down your reaction time as a driver and will likely cause an accident.

3) Corrosion on Bearings

steering shaft corroded bearings

Each intermediate steering shaft has a group of needle bearings. These bearings have greased stored in them which is sealed off. The grease allows the bearings to have a longer lifespan without the need to maintain them.

But as the intermediate steering shaft starts to go bad, corrosion will form on the outside after the grease inside dries out.

4) Steering Wheel Tilt is Loose

steering wheel tilt

Many modern cars have a tilt feature integrated into their steering wheels. This feature lets drivers adjust the angle of the steering wheel to make it more comfortable for them to operate. As the tilt is adjusted, it should be able to lock after you’ve chosen the desired angle.

However, if there is a bad intermediate steering shaft or column, then you won’t be able to lock the steering wheel at the angle you’ve chosen.

5) Steering Wheel Does Not Go Back to Middle

steering wheel off center

When you turn the steering wheel in a vehicle with power steering, the wheel will usually go back to the center afterward. This is considered to be a safety feature in every power steering system.

However, if the steering wheel fails to return to the center after you take your hands off it, then there could be a problem with the intermediate steering shaft or the steering column.

Intermediate Steering Shaft Replacement Cost

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intermediate steering shaft replacement cost

The cost to replace a bad intermediate steering shaft is would be anywhere between $320 and $750. The cost of the parts would be anywhere from $120 to $250, while the cost of the labor would be anywhere from $200 to $500.

If you want to replace the intermediate steering shaft on your own, it would save you about 50% of this cost, but it is better to have a professional handle the replacement job. That way, you know the job was done right.


21 thoughts on “5 Symptoms of a Bad Intermediate Steering Shaft (And Replacement Cost)”

  1. I ended up replacing every suspension part and the steering wheel steering wheel still had a quarter turn of no reaction. Finally, replaced the intermediate shaft and the loose play in the steering wheel vanished to no play at all.

  2. I have a 2016 Pajero sport and my steering wheel has a lot play and my wheel feels like shaking/wobbling side to side. It has delay in turning and sometimes won’t center immediately after turning. In the freeway, driving feels very loose and when changing lines at 80-100kph, it feels like sliding instead of turning. Already replace all suspension parts (upper control arm, inner/outer tie rod/stab link/lower ball joint, shocks/mounting) and new set of tires. Alignment was done in diff shops all giving same results that it is aligned. Rack and pinion was also tightened to offset the loose steering. Dry steering also has no resistance. I’m stumped. Wheel bearings have no unusual sound or whatsoever. Prior to suspension part replacement, steering was very responsive. This all started when I was potholed hard on my front right side and steering became off center. Help

    • Jack the car up and shake the wheels back and forth and up and down. Do you notice any play at all? See if you can track this back down to its source. I suspect it’s the wheel bearings, because you’ve changed just about everything else. Wheel bearings don’t necessarily have to make noise to go bad.

      Sometimes when wheel bearings go bad, you notice an additional symptom under braking. There is this concept called pad knockback. When your wheel bearings have a lot of play in them, it pushes the pads back so it requires a longer brake pedal travel the first time you brake. On second or subsequent braking events in a straight line, the brake pedal feels much firmer and travel is reduced.

  3. I have a 2006 Chevy Equinox with 120k I am having a little clunk -I think is coming from the lower U-joint of the Steering Shaft. When I am driving I don’t feel it but when I stop if I move side to side the wheel I get that little clunk, clunk. Is normal a little clunk or is something to address immediately? Thank you

  4. I recently bought a 2021 Nissan Sentra. It has about 6000 miles on it and I recently started noticing that the steering wheel binds slightly right in the middle of the steering range (as the car is driving straight). When I have to nudge the car left or right to compensate for drift on the highway, I notice a slight resistance or binding which requires just a little extra force to move the steering wheel. When it suddenly overcomes the binding, the car over steers just slightly. This wont be good if this gets worse.

    • I have a 2017 Nissan Rogue and I seem to be having the same problem as you. What did you figure out? Did Nissan do anything for you? The dealership I go to can’t figure out the issue. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  5. I owned a 2001 Tahoe for 15years. Steering shaft was clunking so I replaced it. 1year later it was clunking again. GOT the replacement from O’REILLY’S (had a lifetime warranty) and this time I pulled the shaft apart and filled with tacky red Lucas grease. Took some doing but filled it up. Pushed the shafts together (again took some doing). It’s been 8 years now and still quiet and clunk free.

  6. I had issue number 2 in my 86 Celebrity and then as i was making a turn, the steering wheel totally quit and was spinning freely with no response from the wheels. Could this be the same issue?

  7. I have a 2014 Kia soul that has a clunk or rubbing should over speed bumps, which can only be heard in the cabin of the car not outside. do you think this could be the issue?

    • A clunk sound and a rubbing sound are pretty different, and could indicate different problems. Are you hearing both?

      Check to make sure your wheel and tire size is correct, that the fender liner isn’t dragging against the wheel, and consider having the vehicle’s steering and suspension components inspected for peace of mind.

  8. what about play in the steering wheel, I have about a 1/4 turn of play in my steering I turn the steering wheel and nothing below the intermediate bearing moves.


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