It’s a question that has plagued drivers for centuries – why does my steering wheel have resistance? There are myriad possible explanations, but it can be tough to determine which one is the correct one without tearing apart your car and taking a look at the mechanism firsthand. In this article, we will take a comprehensive look at the mechanism behind steering resistance and discuss all of the possible causes. We will also provide tips on how to reduce or eliminate steering resistance. Keep reading to find out more
What Is Resistance?
Steering wheel resistance is the force that you feel when you turn your steering wheel. This resistance is caused by several factors, including the weight of the vehicle, the size and width of the tires, the type of suspension, and even the wind. All of these factors work together to create a resistive force that makes it difficult to turn the wheel.
The amount of resistance that you feel will vary depending on the make and model of your car, as well as the driving conditions. For example, if you are driving on a gravel road, you will likely feel more resistance than if you are driving on a paved road because the gravel road is more uneven and requires more effort to turn the wheel.
What Causes Steering Wheel Resistance?
Several factors can cause steering wheel resistance. They are:
The most common cause is the weight of the vehicle. The heavier the vehicle, the more force it takes to turn the wheel. This is why trucks and SUVs typically have more steering resistance than smaller cars.
When a car is heavier, it has more inertia, which is the resistance of an object to change its velocity. To change the direction of a heavy car, you have to overcome this inertia, and that takes more force whereas a lighter car will have less inertia and be easier to turn, and is more comfortable to drive.
2. Tire Size
Another factor that contributes to steering resistance is the size and width of the tires. The wider the tire, the more contact it has with the ground, which creates more friction. This increased friction makes it harder to turn the wheel.
If you have wider tires the probability of punctures also goes up. Wider tires are more expensive and the extra weight they add can decrease fuel efficiency. I quite remember trying to make my car look good by fitting wider tires only to give up after a few months because of the extra fuel I was consuming. I realized that the extra grip was not worth the steering resistance.
The type of suspension can also affect steering resistance. Cars with a rigid suspension system (no shocks or springs) will have more steering resistance than those with a softer suspension system because the rigid system doesn’t absorb any road imperfections.
This means that every bump and pothole will be transferred directly to the steering wheel, making it harder to turn. If you live in an area with a lot of rough roads, you may want to consider a car with a softer suspension system to reduce steering resistance.
4. Tire Pressure
Low tire pressure causes more resistance because it increases the contact between the tire and the ground. This is why you will often feel more resistance when driving on a soft surface, such as sand or snow.
Normally tire pressure should be between 30 and 35 psi, but it can vary depending on the type of tire and the driving conditions. When your tires are properly inflated, you will have less steering resistance and a smoother ride.
Again, wind can also contribute to steering resistance. When driving in high winds, the wind will push against the side of the car, making it harder to turn the wheel.
You may have experienced this yourself when driving in a crosswind or when passing a large truck on the highway. The larger the vehicle, the more wind resistance it creates, which can make it difficult to keep your car in a straight line.
7. Unfrequent Usage Of Your Vehicle
Finally, has your vehicle been sitting for a long time without anybody using it? Well then perhaps the components inside the steering wheel have seized up a bit from not being used.
This can be easily fixed by taking your car out for a drive and working the steering wheel back and forth until it’s broken in again.
How To Reduce Steering Wheel Resistance
If you are experiencing steering wheel resistance, there are several things you can do to reduce it. They are:
1. Check Your Tires
First, check your tires to make sure they are properly inflated. If your tires are underinflated, they will create more friction with the road, making it harder to turn the wheel.
You can find the recommended tire pressure for your car in the owner’s manual or on the door panel. The recommended pressure is usually between 30 and 35 psi, but it can vary depending on the type of tire and the driving conditions.
2. Check Your Suspension
Next, check your suspension to see if it is too rigid. If your suspension is too stiff, it will transfer every bump and pothole directly to the steering wheel, making it harder to turn. A softer suspension system will absorb some of the bumps and potholes, making it easier to turn the wheel.
If you live in an area with a lot of rough roads, you may want to consider a car with a softer suspension system to reduce steering resistance.
3. Check Your Alignment
If your car’s wheels are out of alignment, it will cause increased resistance when turning the wheel. You can take your car to a mechanic to have the alignment checked and adjusted if necessary.
Bad alignment can also cause your car to pull to one side or the other and make it difficult to steer, so it’s important to have it checked if you are experiencing this problem.
4. Check The Power Steering Fluid
If your car has power steering, make sure the fluid level is correct. If the fluid level is low, it will cause increased resistance when turning the wheel. You can check the fluid level by looking at the dipstick or checking the reservoir.
The level should be between the “full” and “low” marks on the dipstick. If it is below the “low” mark, you will need to add more fluid.
5. Take Your Car For a Drive
If your car has been sitting for a long time without being used, the components inside the steering wheel may have seized up a bit from not being used. Just like leaving a car unused for too long can cause the battery to go dead, it can also cause the steering components to seize up.
The best way to fix this problem is to take your car out for a drive and work the steering wheel back and forth until it’s broken in again.
6. Narrower Tires
Again, Using narrower tires will also reduce steering resistance. This is because the narrower tires have less contact with the road, so there is less friction to turn them as compared to wider tires.
If you live in an area with lots of snow and ice, you may want to consider using studded snow tires. These tires have metal spikes that dig into the ice and provide extra traction and make it easier to turn your tire.
7. Lighter Wheels
If you have aftermarket wheels on your car, they may be too heavy. Heavier wheels create more resistance when turning because they have more mass that needs to be moved.
If you are experiencing steering wheel resistance, try replacing your aftermarket wheels with stock wheels. This will usually reduce the resistance and make it easier to turn the wheel.
8. Check For Leaks
If your car has a lot of miles on it, the steering components may be worn out and If your car has power steering, there could be a leak in the system. A power steering fluid leak will cause the fluid level to drop, which will increase resistance when turning the wheel because power steering fluids are designed to lubricate the system.
If you think there may be a leak, take your car to a mechanic and have them check for leaks. They can usually find the source of the leak and repair it.
9. Install a Power Steering Pump
Installing a power steering pump can help to reduce the amount of effort required to turn the wheel because power steering uses a hydraulic system to help you turn the wheel.
The hydraulic system uses pressurized fluid to transmit force from the engine to the steering components. This force is then used to assist in turning the wheel to make your ride smooth.
10. Add Weight To The Front Of The Car
Another option I will recommend is to add weight to your car, such as sandbags or a weight-distribution hitch, you can reduce the amount of resistance that you feel. This is because the additional weight will help to stabilize the car and reduce the amount of bouncing and shaking which will reduce steering resistance. I know this sounds completely insane but it works.
11. Rebuild Or Replace The Steering System
If all else fails, you may need to rebuild or replace your car’s steering system. This is usually a last resort because it is a very expensive repair. But if your car has high mileage or is otherwise worn out, this may be the only option.
A mechanic can inspect your car and determine if the steering system needs to be rebuilt or replaced.
These are some of the most common reasons why your steering wheel may have resistance. If you are still experiencing resistance after trying these tips, then I would recommend taking your car to a mechanic to have it checked out.
12. Have your car serviced
If you’ve checked all of the above and you are still experiencing steering wheel resistance, it’s time to take your car to a mechanic for a thorough inspection. They will be able to diagnose and fix any underlying issues that may be causing the problem.
Steering wheel resistance is a common problem that can be caused by several different factors mentioned above. The most common causes are worn-out steering components, low power steering fluid levels, and aftermarket wheels that are too heavy.
If you are experiencing steering wheel resistance, try some of the tips in this article to see if you can fix the problem yourself. If the problem persists, take your car to a mechanic for further diagnosis and repairs.
I hope this article helped troubleshoot the steering wheel resistance in your car. Thanks for reading!