5 Symptoms of a Bad Steering Column (And Replacement Cost)

The steering column is connected to the suspension of a vehicle. More specifically, the steering column is the link between the steering wheel and the steering mechanism of a vehicle.

This means that when a driver turns the steering wheel with their hands, the steering column is transferring this torque power to the steering shaft and pinion. From there, the wheels are able to turn left or right based on the direction in which the driver turned the steering wheel.

Obviously, it would be a very bad thing if you lost the ability to control the steering because of a bad steering column. This would be something that you’d want to take care of immediately.

Top 5 Bad Steering Column Symptoms

A bad steering column is not something you should leave alone because it will impact your driving ability and risk the lives of you, your passengers, and others on the road. To recognize when you need to replace your steering column, below five of the most common signs that indicate when it has gone bad.

1) Steering Wheel Not Centered

steering wheel off center

When you turn a steering wheel, it is usually able to return to the center without any problems. The power steering system includes this ability in it.

But, this ability will be compromised if the steering column is blocked or damaged for whatever reason. The result will be a steering wheel that is more difficult to center.

2) Strange Sounds

noise while driving

Do you hear noises when you turn the steering wheel? These could be sounds like clicking, squeaking, or clunking when you turn. The reason for these sounds is due to bad internal components within the steering column.

In most cases, the sounds will start small and then gradually get louder and more frequent as time goes on.

3) Steering Wheel Tilt Malfunction

Most power steering vehicles have a steering tilt function which lets the driver change the angle of the steering wheel. This option is supposed to help the driver position the steering wheel more comfortably for them to operate.

If this steering tilt option malfunctions, it is likely due to a bad component of the steering column. The result will be a freely tilting steering wheel that does not lock in place.

4) Hard to Turn

no power steering

It should be easy to turn the steering wheel. Power steering is designed to make turning a smooth and easy thing to do. But if you notice that the steering wheel is difficult to turn, steering column may be to blame. There could be faulty gaskets or gears within the steering column that are causing this to happen.

5) Dirty Steering System

dirty steering shaft

You need to have your steering system checked periodically because dirt and debris will regularly build up within your system. If you let enough of this debris build up, then it will have a negative impact on your steering column.

To find out if this is the reason, you can have your steering column inspected to see if there is dirt there. If so, then that is definitely the reason for its malfunctioning behavior.

Steering Column Replacement Cost

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steering column replacement cost

The replacement cost of a steering column is anywhere from $800 to $1,200. The cost for the steering column part itself will only be about $100 if it is used or $400 to $500 if it is new. However, the labor is what will cost you the most money for replacing the steering column.

It will take more than a couple of hours for a mechanic to remove your old steering column and then replace it with the new one. For this reason, the labor will be anywhere from $300 to $600.

It all depends on the make and model of your vehicle and how complicated it is for the mechanic to access your steering column.


22 thoughts on “5 Symptoms of a Bad Steering Column (And Replacement Cost)”

  1. My steering column (and wheel) jiggle about a 1/4 to a 1/2 in at 2 and 8 o’clock when my car is in park. I notice a little bit of play in the wheel when driving but not much at all. I just noticed two days ago. What could cause this loosening of my column? It’s a 2003 Chevy cavalier. Never had many problems out of her but she’s starting to get pretty old.

    • It’s pretty normal to have a little slop in the steering, especially as the car ages. There is often a bushing at some point between the steering wheel and the steering rack that helps dampen some of the noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) from the road. You might be able to replace the bushing or dampener if the loosening feels like a problem.

      If you think the looseness could be a bigger problem than just a worn bushing, it’d be a good idea to have a mechanic look at it just to be on the safe side.

  2. I have 2018 Polo TSI , it was involved in an accident & was damaged on the driver side. My steering is hard when trying to turn & it makes noise when they turning on the right . Any ideas on what could be the problem?

    • No idea. If the car was in an accident it could be anything. Maybe a damaged steering rack, maybe a bent tie rod, maybe the power steering system is damaged. I would have the car inspected by a body shop or mechanic to see if they can find the problem.

  3. I have a 2005 Buick rainier that was in an accident. The lady driving lasted it on its side very slowly. Hardly even a dent. She held on to the steering wheel and her rear tried to go out the passenger window. The steering wheel streets but you can move the entire column up and down. The town signals on the door mirrors don’t work and neither does the horn.
    Any suggestions

  4. Hi. My daughter bought a used car from private seller. Noticed that the steering wheel is not centered and front right wheel feels like going to come off, but no visible wobble when driving next to her. Cost to replace steering column in 2005 Accord? AAMCO said they couldn’t fix it and had to go to someone who deals with this. Trying to prepare for worst case costs. Thank you!

    • You sure this is caused by the steering column? Sounds like it could be a bad ball joint, control arm bushing, wheel bearing, or tie rod. You’ll need to have someone take a look at it to know for sure.

  5. Hi we’re looking at buying a 2009 Toyota corolla but when we dtove it there was a loud rattle in the steering column close to the steering wheel. It didn’t seem to affect the turning response. What would you think it could be and approx cost to fix. Thanks

  6. Can anyone give me an around estimate to replace the steering column in my 2009 Mercury Mariner? A dealership garage gave me an estimate of at least $2,500! Thank you

    • Dealerships are more expensive than independent shops. You would be looking at a price closer to $800-1200 at an independent shop, if I had to guess. Why are you replacing the steering column?

  7. Should a steering wheel column need to be replaced on a car with only 30,000. Miles on it ? I mostly drive it back and forth to work and because my car is low, I practically stop to go over speed bumps. My dealer said I need to replace it and there’s no more warranty or recalls.

    • I don’t know. It’s possible there is a defect or improper installation from the factory. Your vehicle should be still be under warranty at 30,000 miles unless you’ve reached the time limit.

      If you’re so low that you have to almost stop to go over speed bumps, that may have something to do with the problem. I would replace the steering column if the dealership technician says it’s necessary.

  8. I was told that i need a new steering collum for my 2008 Nissan. I’m trying to purchase a used one with directions. Can you help me?


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