Last Updated on February 27, 2023 by Bernard Juchli
My steering wheel is hard to turn all of a sudden, what could be the problem? A steering wheel generally becomes stiff or hard to turn due to lack of maintenance, worn components, or late servicing.
This makes the driving experience less fun and annoying and can cause an accident. With this publication, you would be able to tell why your vehicle’s steering wheel is not suddenly not turning easily.
Reasons why The steering wheel is hard to turn all of a sudden
This section of the publication explains the reason your steering wheel is suddenly stiff and hard to turn:
Insufficient power steering fluid
One of the reasons the steering wheel is hard to turn all of a sudden is insufficient power steering fluid. You must have adequate power steering fluid for the power steering system to operate optimally. Power steering fluid helps to transfer power from the steering wheel to the car’s steering mechanism for turning the wheels.
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It also helps lubricate and protect the system’s moving components from corrosion and overheating.
Thus, if the power steering fluid runs low, the steering wheel will become stiff and difficult to turn.
How to fix
There could be a fluid leakage from the pressurized hose area, causing your car to lose the steering fluid. Power steering fluid will leak through the crack, lowering the pressure in the system, which causes the power steering pump to work harder due to the loss of pressure.
The solution is to refill the power steering tank to give the steering wheel enough fluid supply for it to turn easily.
You also need the mechanic to take care of the leak. Otherwise, you would have to waste more money refilling the fluids each time it leaks.
Power steering fluid too thick
The power steering fluid can go bad in a car after extensive use. It typically thickens or loses the essential lubricating ability.
When the power steering fluid thickens, your steering wheel will be hard to turn all of a sudden, especially when driving at low speeds.
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The power steering fluid eventually collects dirt and debris, making it necessary to regularly replace it according to the automaker’s recommendation.
A thickened power steering fluid may allow you to turn the wheel but you must be really focused to achieve the turning. This makes it dangerous and compromises your safety.
How to fix
The solution is to replace the bad fluid. Follow the automaker’s recommendation when changing your power steering fluid.
Failing power steering pump
Failing power steering pump is another reason your steering wheel is hard to turn all of a sudden. The power steering system comprises 2 main parts, including the rack and pinion unit and the power steering pump. The power steering pump is responsible for transferring the steering system fluid to the rack and pinion unit.
The system control valve allows the fluid to flow into the pinion when the steering wheel is turned. Thus, no physical exertion is required to turn the wheel.
While the steering wheel turns, the pinion moves against the steering rack, driving all the wheels in the direction you want to navigate to.
The power steering pump also maintains sufficient pressure in the system to help turn the steering wheel smoothly. Thus, a faulty pump will cause the steering wheel to be hard to turn all of a sudden.
How to fix
If the power steering pump is faulty, you would get a buzzing noise while turning the steering wheel. The solution is to have a professional mechanic check the pump and have it fixed.
Faulty serpentine belt
When diagnosing why a steering wheel is hard to turn all of a sudden, check the serpentine belt. The serpentine belt does a lot in the engine compartment, including helping the operation of the power steering pump. Unfortunately, this belt wears with time since it is exposed to constant work when driving the car.
A broken or cracked serpentine belt will cause the steering wheel to suddenly be hard to turn. You will experience obvious signs of stiffness when the belt is worn and becomes slack.
A broken or loose serpentine belt will also cause other car parts relying on it to malfunction or stop working properly.
Components like the alternator, water pump, and air conditioning compressor will fail since they rely on the serpentine belt. The pulley can also be damaged, causing the car to overheat.
How to fix
You can stop the serpentine belt from causing a stiff steering wheel by repairing or replacing the belt. Do not wait for the belt to break before taking action.
Malfunctioning steering rack
The steering rack is an important component in the rack and pinion unit, and it is also another crucial factor as to why your steering wheel is hard to turn all of a sudden. It attaches the steering wheel to the mechanisms that turn the wheels in the direction you navigate.
A series of shafts and U-joints help to keep the steering rack attached to the steering wheel. Unfortunately, these components as well as the rack wear out with time.
The steering rack in your car is exposed to extreme temperatures and road debris or dirt, causing it to damage with time.
The system can even spring a leak if the inner bushings are broken. Dirt then accumulates this leak, damaging the steering rack and gear.
How to fix
Driving the car in this condition with a damaged rack will escalate the problem. The solution is to purchase a steering rack replacement. Note that the cost of the parts depends on the make and model of your car.
It may come as a surprise but bad air pressure in your car tire is another major factor why the steering wheel is hard to turn all of a sudden
Read also: will a nail in tire stop car from driving?
You also have to look at the front-end alignment of the tires. If the front tires wear unevenly, it will be difficult to turn the steering wheel in your car.
Wheel misalignment could be caused by uneven tire tread, making the steering wheel stiff and harder to turn.
How to fix
A deflated tire will cause a stiff steering wheel, which is why it is important to inflate the tires according to the automaker’s recommended PSI.
As mentioned earlier, the common reason for your steering wheel becoming suddenly tougher to turn is improper maintenance. Do not ignore the necessity of regular car maintenance in order to save you potentially high repair costs that could have been avoided.
When making fluid replacements, make sure there are no leaks. Otherwise, the replacement is merely a waste of money.