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Under normal conditions, turning your steering wheel while the car is running turns the wheels themselves. The steering wheel is the only means of directing your car while on the road. If your steering wheel doesn’t turn the car, then there’s something wrong with the system and it’s imperative to determine the cause.
Your car’s steering system is complex, but relatively easy to understand. The steering wheel connects to a steering shaft that runs into the dash and toward the power steering rack. Along the way, it connects with another shaft with a universal joint, called the intermediate shaft. This is what actually transmits the motion from the steering wheel to the wheels.
The intermediate shaft has another universal joint on the other end, which connects to the gearbox. Turning the steering wheel left or right transmits motion down both drive shafts to the gearbox. The power steering rack augments this motion, allowing you to turn the wheel with minimal effort. This system is operated by a pump mounted on the engine (the pump is driven by your serpentine belt or drive belt).
Steering Wheel Lock Is Engaged: If the engine is NOT running and the steering wheel will not turn, it may be nothing more than the steering lock being engaged. All modern vehicles are equipped with a steering lock that makes it impossible to turn the steering wheel without the key in the ignition.
Damaged Steering Shaft: If your steering shaft is damaged, it may not be transmitting the motion of the steering shaft to the gearbox, although this is very rare.
Damaged Intermediate Shaft: The primary problem with intermediate shafts is actually the U-joints at either end. If one of these joints is damaged, the steering wheel may not operate correctly.
Damaged Power Steering Pump or Pulley: If something has happened to the power steering pump or the pulley bearings, it renders the power steering system inoperable and the steering wheel will be very difficult to turn.
Low Power Steering Fluid: If the steering wheel can be turned, but is stiff, it may be a symptom of low power steering fluid. Leaking fluid leaves the system with inadequate pressure for the task.
Worn Serpentine or Drive Belt: This is another symptom that applies to a stiff steering wheel. If the serpentine belt is stretched or badly worn, it may slip on the power steering pump pulley, meaning that you’re not getting the power assist you should. Without the help of power steering, many modern vehicles are exceptionally difficult to turn and require significant physical effort to operate the steering wheel.
One of our professional mechanics will come to your home or office to inspect your car’s steering wheel, power steering system and other important components. The mechanic will then provide a detailed inspection report that includes the scope and cost of the necessary repairs.
The mechanic will first determine whether your steering wheel is locked, or whether there is a problem affecting the power steering system, which makes the steering wheel very hard to turn. The mechanic will also check your power steering fluid level, the condition of the belts and more.
If your steering wheel will not turn the car or is very hard to turn, it’s a symptom of a deeper problem. Regular inspection of engine belts, pulleys and other components can help. However, without an operational steering wheel, your car is unsafe to drive. One of our expert mechanics can inspect and repair the problem, allowing you to get back on the road safely.