During my last visit to get work done on my truck at the dealership, I found that when I got it back, it would shake when I turned the wheel. I decided to see if it would resolve itself; maybe there was some power steering fluid that needed to work itself through the system thoroughly.
Cars can shake when turning the wheel for many reasons. Low power steering fluid, loose or old belts, loose hoses, tire issues, bearings, brakes, and the hydraulic damper are some of the problems that cause shaking.
While it might not seem like a serious problem if your car is shaking while you turn, it’s always a good idea to get it checked out as soon as possible. Many problems left unchecked could cause much bigger problems later.
Power Steering Fluid
If you drive with low-power steering fluid, you may find that your car starts to shake when you turn the wheel. The car needs power steering fluid to turn the wheels properly, and when there isn’t enough pressure to turn the wheels, it may be hard to turn.
You probably have low-power steering fluid if you notice noise when you turn the steering wheel. The belt that helps pump fluid through your system could also have a problem and cause some shaking.
When the belt is loose or the flywheel is bent, then the steering wheel is likely to shake. During a turn, the pressure may change and affect the amount of shaking.
The belt is usually what needs to be either tightened or replaced unless you see the belt, flywheel, or other pulley is bent or loose.
If the power steering pump has problems or there is old power steering fluid, these may also be a possible reason for noise and shaking. When the power steering pump starts to fail, it may lack the ability to push fluid well enough, and as you turn, there is a shuddering or shaking effect.
Shaking can also occur if your power steering line is interrupted by contaminants in the line or a kink that prevents fluid from flowing.
Sometimes you’ll find that the brake system has issues and may cause shaking when you turn your steering wheel. If your rotors (the metal disk that the brake pads push against) are warped, you’ll likely feel the steering wheel and car shaking to some degree.
Sometimes the brake fluid can be old or contaminated. This may make the brakes seem spongy and more difficult to stop.
If the brake line is interrupted as you turn the wheel, uneven braking may result. An external obstruction could be preventing the fluid from getting to the calipers as the wheels are turned. This is not common but should get looked at for braking safety.
You can do a visual check of the brakes, and while the car is off and in the park, look at the brakes. If the brakes are cool, you can look and feel for slight warping of the rotor (this may be difficult to see) and see if the calipers have any movement as you wiggle them with your hand.
The brake pads themselves can also cause shaking, as well as if the caliper pistons get stuck and fail to slide in and out correctly. The boots for the pistons might need to be replaced if torn, or any other part that is not working correctly.
As you turn the wheel, the wheel bearings may have different levels of pressure applied to them. If the bearings are starting to wear out, it is likely your wheel bearings will make noise.
If somehow the bearings have gotten worse and worse, the wheel may start to make the car shake. It may be more pronounced as you turn left or right.
Worn wheel bearings can be replaced, and you can check for this issue by doing an inspection yourself. As shown in the video, you can:
- Listen for noise from the wheel as you drive.
- Jack the car up and see if there is movement in the wheel as you move it back and forth.
- You can also spin the wheel to get a better idea if the wheel bearing is making noise.
- Newer cars have electronically connected bearings. You can get a report from an OBD2 scanner. This will let you know if the bearings are bad.
The video above explains how you can check for bad wheel bearings. The reasons are also listed above the video for quick reference.
If the wheels are not balanced correctly, they can start to shake at higher speeds. This won’t cause them to shake when turning the wheel, but the tread and tire pressure may have an influence on vibrations when turning the steering wheel.
If you feel the tire vibrating when turning, make sure to do a visual inspection of the tires and look at the tread. Inspect any defects that may affect how the tire operates when it is on the road.
If the bolts that hold the tire on the car are loose, you may not realize it, but it may also cause the wheel to shake in certain conditions. Make sure to look at the tire bolts and see if they are tight. You may need to jack up the car to inspect the tire thoroughly. Make sure to follow safety procedures.
One of the best ways to check your tires is to get them checked regularly. During your oil change, tire rotation, and other inspections, ask if mechanics can check your tires.
The front or center differential controls the speed of the tires and prevents strain on the drive train. If there are problems with the differential during a turn, the differential can cause the car to start shaking.
Some of the gear teeth might be worn down, or other types of slipping may occur so that when turning occurs, the force needed to turn one wheel or the other may not be distributed to the wheel with enough force, and stuttering or shaking occurs.
The oil in the differential needs to be changed, maybe about every 40,000 miles, but each car is different and will vary greatly. If the differential isn’t working correctly, it is probably because the oil wasn’t changed.
My truck would always start shaking when I made a turn. I finally took it to a Toyota dealership, and they drained the rear differential fluid and refilled it and added a limited-slip differential fluid to see if that would help.
Well, that worked perfectly. Luckily I didn’t need to repair the rear differential, and I finally, after years, now I know what’s going on; the rear differential is slipping without the added fluid. The dealership thinks someone forgot to add it the last time my truck was serviced.
Sometimes a loose hose can affect how the engine fires. If the engine doesn’t get enough air or too much fuel, the engine may shake as it is not firing evenly.
The vacuum tubes that are connected to the engine to help remove exhaust fumes may become loose or worn. If there is a loss of vacuum, the engine can start to shake. The engine could eventually stall if the vacuum is not sufficient.
Turning the steering wheel shouldn’t normally affect the hoses, but if you’re accelerating out of turn, you may experience shuddering of the engine during the turn.
You can visually check many hoses by looking under the hood. Hoses have clamps at each end most of the time. Make sure the hoses are securely attached at each end and that there are no signs of wearing, such as cracking or small holes.
Engine Motor Mounts and Struts
Motor mounts help the engine to stay secure to the car frame while dampening the shaking that normally occurs in engines. These can wear out over time leading to the rubber braking, tearing, and cracking. Torque strut mounts also help mount the engine to the car’s frame. They help absorb vibrations and noises from the engine just like mounts do.
One or more of these parts can break down, leading to engine shaking. Depending on the location, turning your car left or right could cause more shaking if the mount or strut on the left or right side is not working properly.
You will likely feel the engine shaking more as you accelerate and hear more noises from the engine. If the engine is shaking too much, damage to other parts of the engine can also occur, such as with belts and hoses.
If your car has a hydraulic damper, you could experience shaking if it starts to fail. The hydraulic damper can absorb the vibrations that occur when steering the car left and right. You will likely want to feel the road as you make turns in a sports car. Many sports car lovers enjoy the experience of being on the road.
But if your steering wheel starts shaking, you’ve suddenly lost some of that joy. A steering damper will give you a smoother feel as it stabilizes the wheel movement as you drive. If it fails, you will feel the vibrations of the wheels in your steering wheel.
Turning left and right might increase shaking if the damper fails on the left or right side. You’ll need to look for signs as you steer your car and feel what is happenings as you drive straight, faster and slower, and when turning. You might be able to tell that the shaking is mostly in the steering wheel and mostly when you drive in a certain way.
If you find that your car is shaking during a turn, you can do a quick check on the items mentioned above. If you don’t see any visible signs of why your car might be shaking, it’s a good idea to get it checked out by a mechanic. Many components have to work together just right so that shaking does not occur.
Be sure to carefully note what happens each time you drive your car and make a turn, so you can come up with a more accurate diagnosis. Listen for noises and note the exact time and feeling of the shaking. Then you can talk about it with others to come up with a likely solution.