Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Steering Column

steering column

Bad or Failing Steering Column Inspection

by a top-rated mechanic at your home or office

The steering and suspension system on today's cars, trucks and SUV's serves multiple functions. They help us safely navigate different road conditions and work in conjunction to deliver smooth and easy to handle steering operation. Most importantly however, they help us direct the vehicle in the direction we intend to travel. One of the most critical parts of this process is the steering column.

Most of today's modern vehicles utilize a power-assisted rack and pinion steering system. The steering column is located at the top of the steering system and attaches directly to the steering wheel. The steering column then attaches to the intermediate shaft and universal joints. When the steering column goes bad, there are a few warning signs that can alert the owner to a potential minor or major mechanical issue within the steering system and leading to steering column replacement.

Here are a few signs to watch for that could mean your steering column is failing:

HAVE SYMPTOMS OF CAR TROUBLE?
Get an $80 diagnostic
by a top-rated mechanic at your home or office.

Get a quote · Book an Appointment · Our expert mechanics come to you.

1. Steering tilt function does not lock

One of the most convenient parts of a steering wheel is the tilt function, which allows drivers to set an angle and location of the steering wheel for more efficient operation or comfort. When you engage this function, the steering wheel will move freely, but eventually should lock into place. This ensures that when you drive, the steering wheel is solid and is situated to the best height and angle for you. If the steering wheel does not lock, this is a critical warning sign of a problem with the steering column or one of the many components inside the column.

Nonetheless, if this symptom arrives, do not drive the vehicle under any circumstances; as an unlocked steering wheel is a potentially dangerous situation. Make sure to contact a local ASE certified mechanic to inspect and repair this issue for you.

2. Clicking or grinding sounds while turning the steering wheel

Another common warning sign of an issue with the steering column is audible. If you hear squeaking, grinding, clicking or clunking sounds when you turn the steering wheel, it's most likely coming from the internal gears or bearings inside the steering column. This problem typically occurs over a period of time, so it's quite possible that you'll hear it occasionally. If this sound happens all the time when you're steering, have a mechanic look into this problem as soon as possible as driving a vehicle with a damaged steering column is dangerous.

HAVE SYMPTOMS OF CAR TROUBLE?
Get your car fixed at your home or office.

Get a quote · Book an Appointment · Our expert mechanics come to you.

3. Steering wheel operating roughly

Today's power steering components are designed to operate smoothly and consistently. If you notice that the steering wheel is rough when you turn, or if you feel a "pop” in the steering wheel as you turn, the problem is typically caused by a restriction inside the steering column. There are multiple gears and gaskets that allow the steering system to work correctly inside of the steering column.

Since dirt, dust and other debris can find its way into the steering column, it's possible for items to fall inside and block these gears from smooth operation. If you notice this warning sign, have a mechanic inspect the steering column, as it might be something small that can be easily fixed.

4. Steering wheel doesn’t return to middle

Anytime you steer a vehicle, the steering wheel should automatically return to zero degree level or the center when you are finished making a turn. This is a safety feature that was introduced with power steering. If the steering wheel does not automatically go to center when the wheel is released, it's most likely caused by a blockage inside the steering column or a broken gear inside the unit. Either way this is a problem requiring immediate attention and inspection by a professional ASE certified mechanic.

Driving anywhere depends on smooth and efficient operation of our steering system. If you notice any of the above symptoms or warning signs, don't put it off – contact a certified ASE mechanic as soon as possible so they can test drive, diagnose and properly repair the problem before it gets worse or potentially causes an accident.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Still not sure about your car's issue?
Diagnose your car
What kind of issue are you experiencing?
Brakes are squeaking
Car is not starting
Car is overheating
Car is shaking (vibrating)
Fluids are leaking
Heating and A/C
Smoke or steam is coming out of the car
Warning light is on
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

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

More related articles

How Long Does a Throttle Return Spring Last?
Not all vehicles on the road feature an electronic throttle control (ETC), which is also called drive-by-wire. For vehicles that don't offer this system, they have a throttle cable instead that...
How to Get a Louisiana Driver's Permit
s licensing program. The first step in this program is to obtain...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...


Related questions

Q: My steering wheel went out and I have a oil leak coming from the top of van

It sounds like you have a power steering fluid leak. Your power steering pump is mounted near the top of your engine. There are two hoses leaving the pump. The fluid reservoir is on the car's right side, your left...

Q: 05 ram 4x4 Vibration in the floor during acceleration, and a vibration in​ steering at cruising speed that goes away when letting off the gas.

Hi there. This sounds like the tires on the front are out of balance and the ball joints are worn and need replaced. A out of balance wheel will cause the vehicle to vibrate and may change location to the...

Q: Dirt and sand got into the steering stuff now it leaks

Greetings and thank you for writing in with this question! This is a common problem to that generation of Sienna. In April of 2014, Toyota released Technical Service Bulletin (TSB 0030-14) for this specific concern. The TSB outlines the diagnostic...