Car Steering: Common Problems and Maintenance Tips
A car’s steering system connects the steering wheel in the driver’s seat with the front wheels of the car. The rotational force that you put on the steering wheel when driving is transferred down a steering column, converting into a swivelling motion that pivots the wheels of the car to the left or right. The steering and suspension systems include various parts that all work together to ensure that the car turns correctly and that there is a strong connection between the wheels and the road.
The steering wheel in your car is connected to the car’s front axle via a long metal shaft that is known as a steering column. Modern vehicles are designed to have a telescopic steering column that will collapse safely in on itself in the event of a head-on collision. Steering columns are durable and very resistant to wear and damage, however, there are bearings and gears housed inside them that issues might occur with. You may also notice wear, tear, and other problems with the mechanisms connecting the column to the forward axle such as the track rods, track rod ends, and ball joints. Problems with the steering column are often indicated by resistance or unusual sounds when you turn the steering wheel.
What is a Track Rod End?
Track rod ends might be a small part of your car, but they are very important to your comfort and safety on the road. Track rod ends are connected to the steering knuckle, which is a part of the suspension and steering system in your car that is connected to the brakes. Essentially, the main purpose of the track rod ends is to join the steering column to the parts that are responsible for turning the front wheels. They are a vital part of your car and good maintenance of the track rod ends is important to ensuring that your steering system is safe. If your car’s track rod ends are failing, you might hear knocking noises from your suspension along with some other symptoms. These problems will need to be checked and repaired by a mechanic as soon as possible, as track rod ends that fail could cause a complete steering failure.
Failed Track Rod Ends Common Problems
If your car’s track rod ends have failed, then this could lead to a range of problems that you might notice when you are driving your car. Some of the most common issues that are likely to indicate a problem with the track rod ends or other components of the steering and suspension systems include:
Failed Car Track Rod Causing Steering Wheel Vibration
If you are driving your car and have noticed that there is obvious shaking or vibration in the steering wheel that may go away or worsen depending on the speed you are driving at, then this could be a sign that you have a problem with the track rod ends. It can sometimes be a sign that the wheels of your car are misaligned, in which case a wheel alignment will usually fix the problem. However, it can also be a sign of wear and tear or damage to the track rod ends, steering column, lower ball joints, training arms, anti-roll bar bushes, or anti-roll bar drop link.
Car Pulling to the Side Due to Faulty Track Rod
Another issue that you might have noticed if there are faults with the track rods, track rod arms, or track rod ends is the car pulling to the side. You are driving along in a straight line on the road, and you notice that your car is pulling over to either the left or the right despite you not turning the wheel. Again, this is an issue that a wheel alignment may fix, however, if there are more serious problems with the steering and suspension, it might be necessary to have the track rod ends, track rods, or steering arms replaced. This problem is usually caused by issues with the track rod ends, driveshaft, or lower ball joints.
Faulty Track Rods Ends Causing Clunking Sounds From the Wheels
If you have a problem with the track rod ends, then this is likely to lead to clunking sounds coming from one or more wheels when you are driving your car. This is more likely to happen when you are turning your car around corners at lower speeds. Sometimes, you may also be able to feel the sensation through the steering wheel as well as hear it on the outside of the car. This is a sure sign that your track rod ends are damaged and will need to be replaced.
Car Track Rod Problems Causing Excessive Tyre Wear
When there are problems with the track rods, track rod ends, lower ball joints, and the anti-roll bar brushes and drop link, this can lead to the wheels becoming misaligned. As a result, there is uneven pressure on the tyres as you are driving along the road, which can cause the tyres to become worn out much faster than you would usually expect. If you have not long had new tyres fitted to your car and have noticed that they are much more worn down than you would expect them to be after a certain amount of time, or have noticed uneven wear of the tyres, then you should have the track rod ends inspected and get your car’s wheels aligned.
Stuck Steering Track Rod End
Problems with the track rod ends or the lower ball joints can lead to sticky steering. With this problem, you may have noticed that when you are driving your car and turning the steering wheel to go around a corner, it may feel that it is sticking, or hitting a block that is causing it to be unable to turn anymore even though it is not turned all the way. This might also be accompanied by noise.
Squeaking and Creaking from the Suspension
There are various parts that might cause a squeaking or creaking sound to come from the suspension when they are damaged. You will usually notice this when travelling at slow speeds, at which point there will be a more obvious sound coming from the corner of the car. It may be more noticeable when the weight shifts around the car when you are turning a corner or changing direction. This can be caused by faults with the track rod ends, or damage to the lower ball joints, strut top mount, trailing arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar bushes, or the anti-roll bar drop link.
How to Maintain Your Car’s Steering
Most major steering and suspension maintenance jobs should be carried out by a trained mechanic. If you are unsure what you need to book and how often you should do so, then the best thing to do is check your owner’s manual where you can find further information.
There are three main things that you can do on a regular basis to keep your car’s steering and suspension systems in good condition and prevent wear, tear, and breakdown. These include:
Inspect the Joints, Bearings, and Shock Absorbers
Since these parts of your car can be difficult to inspect on your own, it’s important to make sure that your car has regular services, as these are some of the main components that the mechanic will inspect during the service. Ideally, your car should have a full service each year, and you may want to consider booking an interim service for around six months after your full service if you drive a lot of miles. Many mechanics also offer checks of the steering and suspension systems as a standalone option.
Get Your Wheels Aligned
It is recommended that you have your car’s wheels aligned around twice per year. However, this is not a hard and fast rule as there are lots of things that can happen that might knock the wheel alignment off, including driving over bumps and potholes in the road, which might not always be avoidable. Driving with wheels that are not aligned can lead to serious problems and premature wear of the steering components and the tyres, so it’s best to keep up with this job as much as possible. Luckily, a wheel alignment is a fairly quick, straightforward, and inexpensive job.
Check Fluid Levels
Another routine maintenance tasks that you should have carried out by a mechanic is to have the power steering belt and hydraulic fluid checked. You will usually need to flush and replace the fluid around once every thirty thousand miles.
Maintain Your Tyres
Finally, it will help keep your steering system in good condition if you keep on top of maintaining the proper tyre pressure and having your tyres replaced when the tread is worn.
The steering system is a key component of your car with lots of parts that can lead to issues if they become worn or broken. Understanding how it all works and recognising the symptoms of damage to steering components is important for any driver.