Having a steering wheel that is hard to turn is a pretty scary problem to have with your car. It is unsettling to go from easily steering to having such a vital function not perform the way that you are used to it performing. It can be dangerous to drive when the steering wheel is hard to turn, as you may not be able to keep yourself safe on the road. You should pull over immediately, and schedule an inspection with a mechanic.
How this system works:
When the steering wheel is hard to turn, it’s almost certainly because of a problem with the power steering system. The power steering system assists you when you turn the wheel. Without the power steering, it’s incredibly difficult to turn your car, because the weight on the wheels is too much force for you to move singlehandedly. The power steering uses fluid to create pressure against the wheels when you turn the wheel. The pressure from the system forces the wheels to turn, and makes turning the steering wheel a much easier task for you.
Common reasons for this to happen:
Here are the primary malfunctions in the power steering system that may make it hard for you to turn the steering wheel:
Power steering fluid is low: The force that allows your power steering to function properly is the result of the power steering fluid applying pressure against the piston inside the rack and pinion. As the amount of fluid in the power steering system diminishes, the amount of force that can be applied to the piston lowers. When this happens, your steering is not aided as much by the power steering system, and the force needed to turn the wheel now rests in the hands of the driver.
Damaged power steering belt: The action of the power steering system is driven by the power steering belt. Like any other belt in your vehicle, the functionality of a system starts and stops with the belt. Belts are one of the most susceptible components of your car. They can crack, snap, or loosen more easily than most other car parts. If your power steering belt breaks, your power steering system will not be able to operate, and you’ll find it hard to turn the steering wheel.
Damaged steering rack: The steering rack, which is part of the rack and pinion, is the primary part of your steering assembly, and works in conjunction with the power steering system. Steering racks can grow damaged over time as they develop wear and tear, and when they do, they make it much harder to steer your vehicle. If your vehicle is only hard to steer when you first turn it on, then you likely have a damaged steering rack. Often this problem will go away when the car warms up, and the rack becomes hot and well lubricated.
Low pressure in your tires: While a heavy steering wheel is almost always the result of a problematic or malfunctioning power steering system, it can also be caused by low air pressure in one or more of your tires.
What to expect:
A top-rated mobile mechanic will come to your home or office to determine the source and cause of the steering wheel issue, and will then provide a detailed inspection report that includes the scope and cost of the necessary repairs.
How it's done:
When you’re having a hard time turning the steering wheel, a mechanic will take a look at your entire power steering system. Some of the potential problems with your power steering system – such as being low on power steering fluid, or having a broken power steering belt – are quick and straightforward repairs. Others, such as a damaged steering rack, can be a little bit more complex.
After the issue in the power steering is resolved, the power steering fluid will usually be flushed. This guarantees that the system is in the best shape before you continue driving, and that any sludge or contamination caused by the malfunctioning system is no longer in the power steering fluid.
Finally, a mechanic will do a test drive with your vehicle, to make sure that the steering wheel has returned to being easy to use, and that the vehicle is turning smoothly and effectively.
How important is this service?
A steering wheel that is hard to turn isn’t just a frustrating hassle, it’s also a safety liability. Modern vehicles were designed to have power steering systems, and they are nearly impossible to drive safely when they don’t have a properly functioning system. It’s unsafe to take your car on the road when you find that the steering wheel is hard to turn. In addition to safety concerns, continuing to drive your vehicle under this condition can cause further, more severe damage to the power steering system.