Why The Steering Wheel Is Hard To Turn?

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Every vehicle has a steering system that gives the driver control over the direction in which they are driving.

But if your steering wheel does not function properly, that could be unsafe. So, it is important to know why the steering wheel is hard to turn.

Well, steering wheels become stiff when there is not sufficient steering fluid in the system. Besides, thick fluid, a faulty steering rack, and a cracked serpentine belt can be the reasons too.

You can fix the hardening of your steering system if you follow some tricks. Stay tuned to learn about them.

How Does A Steering Wheel Work?

To understand the power steering mechanism, we have to know about the physics of a wheel. However, a wheel that rolls perfectly should have zero velocity when it comes to the contact point.

This makes sure that there won’t be any slippage between the stationary road and the wheel. A wheel can move at zero velocity with its two motions.

Besides, the wheel follows the direction of the car and rotates along its axis. If you sum the car and wheel, you will see they are in opposite directions and cancel out each other.

The principle of the steering mechanism is just like that of the rolling wheel. Let’s say that when the wheel turns, the car moves straight.

At that time, the rotational velocity will be inclined, but the translational velocity will be straight. Thus, the velocities won’t cancel out on each other and lead to skidding.

When you turn the steering wheel, the steering shaft rotates the pinion gear. The teeth of the pinion gear and the steering rack interlock as the pinion rotates. This rotation will push the rack.

When the rack moves, the attached tie rods and steering knuckles act as pivot points and turn the front tiers. The more you turn the steering wheel, the more the rack will be pushed.

Why The Steering Wheel Is Hard To Turn?

No wonder all car owners have faced hard turns of the steering wheel during their drives. If you don’t want that to happen again, be certain of the causes.

Less Power Steering Fluid

Perhaps the most common cause of a hard steering wheel is when you don’t have enough power steering fluid in the system.

Usually, it occurs if the fluid is leaking from the hose area when it is in pressure. Besides, the hose can crack or become loose sometimes, which can lead to fluid leaks.

Fluid helps to pressurize the vehicle and lubricate the pump. If there is not enough fluid in the system, the steering wheel will become hard to turn.

A less-powered steering wheel may make a car drivable, but if you don’t fix the leak, your power steering pump will fail eventually. At that time, you may have to opt for an expensive replacement.

Bad Steering Rack

A steering rack is made up of pinions and a rack. It has shafts and u-joints that help attach the steering rack to the steering wheel. It may wear out or get damaged from simply driving the vehicle over the years.

A sign of a bad steering rack is when the steering wheel becomes stiff after starting the vehicle. As the engine continues to run and warms up, the steering wheel will become hotter.

This will make the lubricant work itself and the steering wheel less stiff. Anyway, the problem can accelerate. So consider replacing the rack before it’s too late.

Broken Serpentine Belt

A hard steering wheel becomes stiff when the serpentine belt is cracked or damaged. This belt will keep working as long as you drive.

So over time, it gets worn down pretty quickly and becomes loose. This is when you will find the steering wheel hard to turn.

If you don’t replace the belt soon, it will break altogether, and then you can’t drive your car at all. So replacing the belt is also important to avoid further damage.

Power Steering Pump Failure

The pump of a power steering wheel produces the required amount of pressure to turn the steering wheel effortlessly. If this pump stops working, it will become difficult to turn the steering wheel, especially at low speeds.

Well, a bad power steering pump won’t stop moving the wheel completely, but it will require a lot more force to turn. Besides, wheels become harder to turn when the vehicle is bulky.

Before you think of any costly power steering pump replacement, make sure the pump connector doesn’t get loose or get damaged by itself. 

Thick Power Steering Fluid

Like other fluids in a car, the power steering fluid can become thick over time. If you don’t change your power steering fluid according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, the fluid will eventually become too thick to lubricate. 

As a result, the steering will become tight and difficult to turn at low speeds. Whenever you see that your power steering fluid has become thick and dark, change it as soon as possible. 

What To Do If The Steering Wheel Is Hard To Turn?

Knowing the reasons for stiff steering wheels is not enough. We must grab the solutions too. Here we have mentioned some. 

Refill The Power Steering System

As said before, low-powered steering fluid is the root cause of the steering wheel turning hard. By refilling the system, you can solve the steering wheel issue with a click. 

Apply A Fluid Cleaner 

Fluid plays a crucial role in maintaining the workability of steering wheels. Before you buy any expensive pinions and racks to fix your stiff steering wheel, try a fluid cleaner first. This solution is applicable if your current fluid is no longer effective. 

So, go to the power steering fluid reservoir, take the lid off, and suck some of the fluid out with a shop vac or any other vacuum. 

Then take the bottle of the fluid cleaner and apply half of it into the reservoir. Close its lead, and start your vehicle. Hopefully, you won’t find the steering wheel hard to turn anymore. 

Provide the Right Air Pressure To Tires 

When the tire pressure is not sufficient or is too high, it can affect the steering wheel. So, first, find the actual pressure needed inside the tire.

You can find it inside the car’s door on the driver’s side, the passenger’s side, or the glove box. 

Fix The Power Steering Pulley

A bad power steering pulley can never steer the wheel right. So inspect the pulley by measuring the tension on the steering unit. You can check it by pressing your thumb on the belt. 

If it is three-quarters deep, then it’s okay. But if the tension is more than three-quarters, you have to remove and install a new power steering pulley. 

Potential Costly Repairs That May Be Needed to Resolve The Issue

There could be several reasons for a power steering wheel to be stiff. And we can’t fix it every time; we have to seek mechanical help. The cost is going to vary depending on the damage.

For instance, your car’s bushings and tie-join ends are loose and do not fit the ball joints. It can be due to the wear of the steering box.

At that time, you can’t do anything except repair the front end of the system. This can be time-consuming and expensive; the cost could be around $1500 to $2000.

On the other hand, some mechanic shops offer steering wheel replacements for $500. It can sometimes cost more. Like the steering column part, the replacement can cost an extra $400 to $900.

Expert Tips to Prevent Steering Wheels from Becoming Hard to Turn?

Steering wheels will become too hard at a certain point. You just need to keep a check on it, and you can avoid this issue. Luckily, we now know the causes and solutions, but maintenance is also important.

Anyway, here are some expert tips below that can prevent your steering wheels from stiffening further.

  • Refill the power steering now and then.
  • Replace the fluid if it becomes dirty, dark, or thick.
  • Inflate your vehicle’s tyres according to the recommended PSI.
  • Repair the serpentine belts whenever you have any cracks.
  • Get a new steering rack when it wears out.
  • Check the power steering pump frequently.
  • Keep track of the fluid leakage.

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