Is It safe To Drive With A Shaking Steering Wheel

steering wheel

Ever been cruising down the highway, tunes blasting, only to feel your steering wheel start to shake like a washing machine on spin cycle? It’s enough to make your heart skip a beat. Now, you’re probably asking yourself: ‘Is it safe to drive with a shaking steering wheel?’ In short, it’s not ideal, and it can even be dangerous depending on the severity and the underlying issue. But don’t panic just yet. We’re here to help you understand what’s going on with your car and how to keep you safe on the road.

What Causes a Steering Wheel to Shake and How to fix it?

So, your steering wheel vibrates. But why? Here are some of the usual suspects:

Rough Pavement or Older Road Surfaces

An often-overlooked factor, driving on rough, poorly paved, or older road surfaces can lead to vibrations in the steering wheel. While it’s not a mechanical fault, it’s good to be aware of this, especially if the shaking ceases on smoother roads.

Unbalanced Tires

Just like a seesaw, when things aren’t balanced, they wobble. Your tires are no different. If they’re not balanced correctly, they can cause your steering wheel to shake. The average cost to balance tires can range from $15 to $75 per tire. This process involves compensating for weight imbalances in the tire-wheel assembly by placing measured lead weights on the opposite side of the “heavy spot”. It’s important to balance tires periodically because imbalances can lead to premature wear of the tires and suspension components. source

Misaligned Tires

Ever tried walking in a straight line while your feet are pointing in different directions? It’s not easy, right? The same goes for your tires. If they’re not aligned properly, they can cause your steering wheel to shake. The average cost for a wheel alignment is between $139 and $176. Proper alignment ensures that your car handles correctly and will help increase the life and performance of your tires. source

Flat Spots On Tires

Tires can develop flat spots if the car has been stationary for extended periods or after panic stops. This could also lead to a shaky steering wheel, necessitating a tire inspection.

Brake Problems

If your steering wheel shakes when you hit the brakes, it could be a sign that there’s a problem with your brake rotors. The average cost for a brake rotor replacement is between $285 and $381. Brake rotors are an important component in the braking system that stops your vehicle. They are circular discs that the brake pads clamp onto in order to stop the wheels from spinning.You might need a good torque wrench to ensure everything is tightened properly. source

Suspension Issues

Your car’s suspension is like its backbone. If there’s a problem with it, it can cause your steering wheel to shake. The average cost for a suspension system inspection is between $70 and $89. The suspension system includes the shocks, struts, and a variety of connecting parts that maintain the car’s stability and control. source

Damaged Power Steering

If your power steering is damaged, it can make your steering wheel shake, especially when you’re turning. The average cost for a power steering pump replacement is between $509 and $719. The power steering pump pressurizes and circulates power steering fluid, allowing the steering wheel to turn with greater ease. source

Please note that these are average costs and the actual cost can vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the specific problem, and the rates of the mechanic or garage. Always get a quote before having any work done on your vehicle.

So, Is It Safe to Drive with a Shaking Steering Wheel?

Navigating with a shaking steering wheel isn’t just an inconvenience—it can also pose significant risks. Here’s why:

Risk of Control Loss: A trembling steering wheel can compromise your vehicle control, particularly at high speeds. It’s akin to trying to steer a ship in a storm—challenging and potentially dangerous.

Increased Vehicle Wear and Tear: Consider your car as a finely tuned machine. Persistent shaking can place additional stress on your vehicle’s components, leading to accelerated wear and tear. It’s like running a marathon without any training—your body (or in this case, your car) will feel the strain.

Potential for Worsening Underlying Issues: If the shaking of your steering wheel is a symptom of an underlying issue, continuing to drive might exacerbate the problem. It’s like ignoring a small leak in a dam—over time, the damage could become significantly worse, leading to more serious, costly repairs.

In essence, a shaking steering wheel is your car’s distress signal. It’s crucial to heed this warning and have your vehicle inspected. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your safety on the road.

How to Identify the Cause of a Shaking Steering Wheel

checking undercarriage of car

So, how do you figure out why your steering wheel is shaking? Here are a few tips:

Observe When the Shaking Occurs

Is the shaking only happening at certain speeds, or when you brake? Take mental notes or jot them down somewhere.

  • Highway Shakes: If your steering wheel shakes at high speeds but tends to disappear at lower speeds, it may indicate a tire imbalance.
  • Braking Vibrations: If your steering wheel shakes when you brake, it’s often a sign of an issue with your brake rotors. They might be warped or worn out.

Visually Inspect Your Tires and Wheels

Look for signs of wear and tear on your tires. Check if the tire tread is wearing evenly and if any weights attached to the wheel rim are missing, which might suggest a balance issue.

Check the Wheel Bearings

Wheel bearings play a pivotal role in your vehicle’s functionality, facilitating the wheels to rotate freely and with ease. A problem with your wheel bearings could lead to your steering wheel shaking, posing potential danger. A simple way to check your wheel bearings is by shaking your tire. Any give could suggest a problem. However, bear in mind that this is a rudimentary test and might not uncover all possible issues. For a more comprehensive inspection, you might need to detach the wheel using a socket wrench and scrutinize the bearings directly. Signs of wear, damage, or excessive heat could be indicative of a bearing on the brink of failure.

Inspect Suspension Components

Your car’s suspension system is intricate, encompassing numerous parts that can deteriorate or get damaged over time. These include tie rods, bushings, shocks, struts, springs, and mounts. When evaluating these components, look for signs of wear or looseness. For instance, bushings can show signs of cracking or distortion, while shocks and struts can leak fluid. Springs can sag or break, and mounts can become loose or damaged. If you spot any of these issues, it’s crucial to replace the affected component promptly to ensure your vehicle’s safety and performance.

Listen for Noises

Your car can communicate a great deal about its condition through the sounds it produces. During a drive, switch off your radio and listen attentively. A humming or growling noise, particularly when turning, could suggest a problem with your wheel bearings. Other sounds to be alert to include squeaking or squealing when traversing over bumps (which could suggest worn shocks or struts), clunking or knocking during turns (which could suggest worn tie rods or bushings), and rattling or banging (which could suggest loose or broken parts). If you detect any unusual noises, it’s crucial to have your vehicle inspected by a professional at the earliest opportunity.

Seek Professional Help

If the cause isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to reach out to a certified mechanic. Some issues might require a professional’s eye and specialized diagnostic equipment. Sites like YourMechanic offer inspection services by certified mobile mechanics who can diagnose your problem and provide a quote for any necessary repairs.

Understanding why your steering wheel is shaking is the first step to fixing the problem and staying safe on the road.

Preventative Measures to Avoid a Shaking Steering Wheel

Of course, the best way to deal with a shaking steering wheel is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here’s how:

  • Regular Vehicle Maintenance: Keeping your car in good shape can help prevent problems before they start. It’s like going to the doctor for a check-up—you might not like it, but it’s good for you!
  • Proper Tire Care: Taking care of your tires can help prevent them from causing your steering wheel to shake. Remember to check your tire pressure regularly and get your tires rotated and balanced, ensuring your lug nuts are properly tightened.
  • Regular Brake Checks: Regularly checking your brakes can help catch problems before they cause your steering wheel to shake. It’s like brushing your teeth—you might not see the benefits right away, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run!

Wrapping Up

We’ve covered why your steering wheel might be shaking, how to fix it, and how to prevent it. Remember, a shaking steering wheel isn’t just a nuisance—it can be a sign of a serious problem. So don’t ignore it. Stay safe out there, and happy driving!


Here are some of the most common questions we hear about shaking steering wheels:

Why does my steering wheel shake when I brake?

If your steering wheel shakes when you brake, it’s often a sign of an issue with your brake rotors. They might be warped or worn out. When the brake pads clamp down on the uneven rotor surface, it can cause the steering wheel to shake. It’s best to have a professional take a look to be sure.

Can I drive with a shaking steering wheel?

While you technically can drive with a shaking steering wheel, it’s not recommended. The shaking is a sign that something’s not right with your vehicle. It could be a simple issue like unbalanced tires, or it could be a sign of a more serious problem like a damaged suspension. Driving with a shaking steering wheel can also increase your risk of loss of control, especially at high speeds. It’s best to get the issue checked out as soon as possible.If you’re doing some of the checks yourself, make sure you’re using a good brand of tools.

How much does it cost to fix a shaking steering wheel?

The cost to fix a shaking steering wheel depends on what’s causing the problem. If it’s a tire issue, balancing and alignment might cost aroun d $15 to $75 per tire. If it’s a brake problem, replacing brake rotors can cost anywhere from $285 to $390. More serious issues, like problems with the suspension or power steering, can cost more. Remember, these are just estimates. The actual cost can vary based on your vehicle and where you live. It’s always a good idea to get a quote from a professional vehicle diagnosis before any work is done.

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