A flex coupling, also commonly referred to as a steering damper, is a steering system component that is commonly found on many vehicles. It is a rubber disc that is designed to absorb and dampen vibrations. As a vehicle is driven, vibrations from contact with the ground are transferred through the vehicle’s steering system, up to the steering wheel. It is the job of the flex coupling to absorb these vibrations, which could otherwise cause driver fatigue, and even steering issues. When the flex coupling fails, it can have negative effect on the vehicle’s handling capability, as well as make driving the vehicle uncomfortable. Usually a bad or failing flex coupling will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential issue.
1. Car is vibrating excessively
One of the early symptoms of a problematic flex coupling is excessive vibration. The flex coupler is designed to absorb and dampen vibrations in the steering column, so if it wears or becomes damaged it may not be able to dampen the vibrations properly. Depending on the severity of the issue, the vibrations may be excessive to the point of causing driver fatigue, from gripping the wheel.
2. Excessive play in the steering wheel
Excessive play in the steering wheel is another symptom of a bad or failing flex coupler. A worn flex coupler may cause play to develop in the steering wheel. You may notice excessive free play before the vehicle begins to actually maneuver when the steering wheel is turned. In more serious cases, the play may be accompanied by a clunking sound coming from the steering column.
3. Steering wheel binding or locking up
Another symptom of a problem with the vehicle’s flex coupler is steering wheel binding or lock up. A severely worn coupler can cause the steering to bind or lock up suddenly when the wheel is turned. This can make the vehicle difficult to steer, and can even make it unsafe to drive. This is usually the final symptom appearing after excessive vibrations and play have already occurred.
Flex couplers are found on many road going vehicles in one form or another, and are very important to the proper operation of the systems that they are a part of. If your vehicle is producing any of the symptoms above, or you suspect that your steering flex coupler may be having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if the car needs a flex coupler replacement.