Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Steering Angle Sensor

Technology drives innovation, especially in the automotive industry. In the past, when a driver was faced with the instant decision to make an aggressive move to avoid an accident, they had to rely on talent and a little bit of luck to keep the vehicle under control. In recent years, automotive manufacturers working with automotive safety experts like SEMA and SFI have developed advanced stability control systems that help a driver maintain control of the vehicle during evasive maneuver situations. One of the most popular types of units on today's vehicle is known as the steering angle sensor.

The steering angle sensor is a component that makes up the electronic stability program (ESP). Each manufacturer has their own proprietary name for this advanced safety system, with some of the popular ones being: AdvanceTrac w/Roll Stability Control (RSC), Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). Although the names are unique, their primary function and the individual components that comprise the system are virtually identical. The steering angle sensor is one of the monitoring devices located near the front suspension or within the steering column. In years past, this device was analog in nature, measuring the voltage changes that were created by the steering wheel and relaying that information to the vehicle's ECU. Today's steering angle sensors are digital and are comprised of an LED light that measures the angle of the steering input.

This component is one that is designed to last the lifespan of the vehicle. However, like any other sensor, the steering angle sensor can wear out or fail completely due to multiple factors beyond the control of most vehicle owners. When it does break or is slowly beginning to fail, it will exhibit a few common warning signs or symptoms. Noted below are a few of the common symptoms of a damaged, bad or failing steering angle sensor.

1. Traction Control Light comes on

In most cases where an issue exists with the electronic stability program, an error code is triggered and stored inside the vehicle's ECM. This will also trigger the Traction Control Light to illuminate on the dashboard or instrument control panel. When the traction control is engaged, this light does not come on, as it's typically a default position that must be manually turned off by the driver. When the steering wheel angle sensor fails, there is a malfunction indicator on the instrument cluster that alerts the driver that the electronic stability system has been disabled and requires service. In most cases, this warning light will be the Traction Control Light on most domestic and import cars, trucks and SUV's.

When the Traction Control Light is illuminated while the system is active, it's important that you contact a local ASE certified mechanic so they can download the OBD-II error codes and determine what problem exists that may impact the drivability and safety of your vehicle.

2. Steering wheel is loose and has "play"

Since the steering angle sensor is designed to monitor the actions and input provided by the steering wheel, it sometimes can relay false information to the ECM and create a potentially dangerous situation. When the sensor is faulty, misaligned, or damaged, the information it reads and sends to the vehicle's on board computer is inaccurate. This can cause the ESP to provide steering input or adjustments at the wrong time.

In most cases, this will lead to a "loose" condition in the steering wheel, where the amount of steering input you provide is not reciprocated by the action of the vehicle. If you notice that the steering wheel is loose, or that the steering is not responding the way it should, contact a mechanic so they can inspect the ESP system and fix the problem quickly.

3. Car drives differently after a front end alignment

Today's steering angle sensors are attached to multiple points within the steering system. Since a front end alignment is designed to align the front wheels along with the steering wheel, it can cause problems with the steering angle sensor. It's very common for many mechanic shops to forget to reset or realign the steering angle sensor after they've completed their service. This can cause the symptoms above to occur, such as lighting the Traction Control Light, Check Engine Light, or impacting the drivability of the vehicle.

Having complete control over your steering is essential for safe operation of any vehicle. As such, if you notice any problems as described in the information above, please contact one of our professional mobile mechanics from YourMechanic. Our team has the right experience and tools to diagnose your problem and replace the steering angle sensor if this is what is causing your issues.


Next Step

Schedule Steering Inspection

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Steering Inspection. Once the problem has been diagnosed, you will be provided with an upfront quote for the recommended fix and receive $20.00 off as a credit towards the repair. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Steering Inspection reviews

Excellent Rating

(4)

Rating Summary
3
1
0
0
0
3
1
0
0
0

Dustin

8 years of experience
65 reviews
Dustin
8 years of experience
Lexus IS250 V6-2.5L - Steering Inspection - Spring, Texas
Highly knowledgeable and very professional. Dustin had dealer-quality diagnostic equipment and I'm confident of his assessment. Will request him again when needed.
Cadillac ATS - Headlight Bulb Replacement (Driver Side Low Beam) - Richmond, Texas
Awesome!!! Dustin is unbelievable!!! Showed up on time and went right to work... Explained what he was doing every step of the way... Did a GREAT job!!!

Tinashe

13 years of experience
605 reviews
Tinashe
13 years of experience
Nissan Murano V6-3.5L - Alternator - Alpharetta, Georgia
He is punctual and professional.
Honda Accord - Control Arm Assembly Replacement (Front Lower Right) - Atlanta, Georgia
Does a great job, very knowledgeable and good communication. Will book with him again.

Jay

37 years of experience
947 reviews
Jay
37 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra L4-1.8L - Steering - Corona, California
He was very nice, He explained to me all that was wrong with my car. He recommended that I take my car in to the dealership.

Michael

9 years of experience
28 reviews
Michael
9 years of experience
Ford F-150 V8-5.4L - Steering Inspection - Tehachapi, California
Michael showed up on time. Was very knowledgeable, courteous, and thorough. He pin pointed the problem and shared his recommendations. I would definitely call him again

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How to Replace a Flex Coupling Steering Damper
A flex coupling steering dampener helps suppress steering vibrations. Signs of failure include excessive vibration and play in the steering wheel.
How to Diagnose a Shaking Steering Wheel
An issue with your car's suspension or drive system will cause a shaking steering wheel. A tire and wheel out of balance can cause a vibration.
How to Replace a Steering Damper
Steering dampers, also known as steering stabilizers or spirit dampers, prevent movement from traveling to the steering wheel.

Related questions

The Traction Control Light is staying on and it won't go into overdrive
Hello. The computer will keep the vehicle from going into overdrive and turn on the traction light if it detects a problem in the system. This can be caused by a steering sensor (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/steering-angle-sensor-replacement) or a wheel speed sensor (https://www.yourmechanic.com/services/wheel-speed-sensor-replacement)....
My steering has locked up what should I do?
Hello, thank you for writing in. Without knowing the make and model of your vehicle it is impossible to know what type of power steering system you have. If you have a traditional pump driven system, the first thing to...
Do universal steering rack boots work
If you have broken steering rack and pinion side boots and cannot find replacements then aftermarket universal boots can be tried. This would be better than no boots at all. They are generic and there is a possibility they may...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com