Having a responsive, powerful steering system is absolutely essential for the modern motorist. Urban travel can be so demanding that vehicles need to be extremely responsive. The parts that helps ensure the drivers actions at the wheel are quickly translated into movement is the steering column and steering rack.
The steering system connects the driving wheel to the steering. It is designed to take the force of a collision and dissipate the energy in the event of an impact to the front of your vehicle. Therefore a steering failure can be a particularly dangerous situation, especially if it happens whilst you’re behind the wheel. However, with a little care and attention – you can stay on top of the condition of these parts – by keeping one eye open for the following symptoms.
Steering Warning Signs
All of these signs indicate that there could be trouble with your steering. However, if multiple signs appear at once, then we would strongly recommend you book your vehicle in for an inspection, with a service centre or a trusted professional mechanic.
Steering Wheel Not Centered
When you’re out on the road, your steering wheel should naturally return to the centre position thanks to the power steering system. If the system isn’t returning to its normal position, then you’re possibly looking at a broken gear within the system, or more likely dealing with some kind of blockage.
After several months or even years of driving your vehicle, you’ll no doubt be acquainted with its usual noises, and the sounds coming from the engine. If you start to sense some kind of new noises coming from the steering system, such as knocks, clicks, squeaks or clunking when you turn, then this could be a sign that there are deeper problems.
These noises originate from the gears and internal bearings within the system. Usually these start off as minor noises, and get louder as the issue becomes more serious. Don’t ignore noises, and get them seen to immediately.
Most modern power steering systems allow the driver to tilt the wheel to suit their driving position. However, when there are issues within the column, this can impact the system’s ability to lock in place. If your steering wheel seems to tilt freely without locking, then the likely culprit is an issue with the column.
Be aware that it is extremely dangerous to drive with a steering wheel that will not properly lock in place. Consider getting your car to a service centre immediately, or if the problem is too bad, then it may even be time for a tow or breakdown service.
Dirty Steering System
Even systems inside your car’s bonnet can be exposed to the elements. Dirt, debris and even salt and grit can find their way into your steering system, working their way into the intricate gears that are essential for a smooth operation. If you notice difficulties with your steering system – such as rough handling or the wheel becoming increasingly harder to turn, then we would recommend you get the system inspected. A simple clean up can restore your steering to its former glory.
Unusual Tyre Wear
Tyres can act as a great canary in the coalmine for problems with your steering system. You may well already be aware of uneven wear being a symptom of incorrectly aligned wheels. Keep one eye open for other signs of strange wear, such as only one part of the tyre wearing, or flat spots on an otherwise normally shaped tyre. All of these signs point to problems with the steering, and when accompanied by other symptoms on this list, can help you identify a steering issue.
Unexplained Fluid Leaks
If you park your car in the same spot every night, it can pay to take a deeper look at the ground after you move the car. Notice any strange spots of fluid where your car’s front section resided whilst parking? Such leaks can originate from the power steering system, which use lubricants to ensure free motion – when the seals start failing.
Don’t Leave it to Chance
If you do suspect that you have problems with your steering system, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with the professionals. Steering is an essential function of your car that allows you to contend with sudden incidents on the road. If your car is suffering from a lack of responsiveness or the wheel is taking more energy to turn, then this could severely impact its ability to navigate problems, or even deal with erratic behaviour from other road users such as cyclists, vans and lorries.
Most of the time, mechanics will inspect your steering system during a fully comprehensive service – and if you have issues outside of this time, then it can definitely pay to be on the safe side and make that booking with your mechanic.