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How to Troubleshoot a Loose Steering Wheel in a Car

by Bryan Clark

There can be several problems causing your steering wheel to be loose. These issues can range from your power steering fluid to the tie rod ends to your whole steering column. Be sure to attempt each of the follow procedures one at a time and see if any of them tightens up your steering. Remember that your problem may be a combination of causes.

Tie Rod Ends

Lift up the front portion of your vehicle using a car jack. Place a jack stand under the vehicle for safety.

Look under the vehicle and locate the two tie rod ends on the inside of each of the wheels.

Ensure that there is no noticeable wear on the tie rods.

Have a friend turn each of your tires left and right.

Look for any play within your tie rods.

Replace your tie rods if you notice any play whatsoever.

Lower Ball Joints

Locate the lower ball joints on the inside of each of the front tires.

Have a friend use a long bar to pry up the tire from the bottom.

Notice how each of the ball joints moves as the tires are raised. If they move more than 1/8 inch up and down, then the ball joints need to be replaced.

Steering Column

Remove your steering wheel center cover and remove the bolt that is below it securing the steering wheel.

Use a steering wheel puller to remove the lock plate and wheel.

Pull on the retaining ring using pliers.

Unscrew the levers for your turn signals. Disconnect the harnesses connected to it by pressing in on their unlock tabs.

Remove the two bolts that connect the steering column to your vehicle's dash.

Put your key into the ignition and turn it to the "On" position.

Remove the screw securing the ignition and remove the lock cylinder.

Remove the bolts securing the steering column.

Press in on the retainer at the bottom of the steering shaft. It should release the spring assembly.

Pull out the pins in the tilt column with pliers.

Check for any broken or worn parts and replace them as necessary.

Reassemble your steering column being sure to tighten each part securely.

Items you will need

About the Author

Bryan Clark has been a freelance writer since 2002. His work has appeared in "The New York Times," "USA Today" and the U.K.'s biggest paper—"The Guardian," amongst other, smaller publications.

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