What Causes Play In Steering Wheel? 3 Reasons

Excessive play with steering wheels makes it difficult for driver to know front wheel’s accurate position. Do you know what causes play in steering wheel? Let’s find out the causes.

No one knows more about your vehicle than you do, and when something is wrong with your vehicle, you will be able to notice any change straight away. So sometimes the problem can be with your steering wheels. 

Do you know what causes play in steering wheel? The possible causes are the loose steering wheel or the ball joints and the pitman’s arm wear out. 

You may find the steering wheel moving more than one and a half inches, and your front wheels have no movement. This means the wheels are loose and need to be fixed. The steering wheels are one of the components that keep your vehicle safe while driving.

Having a loose steering wheel may make it difficult for the driver to know the wheel’s accurate position. And if you have little or no control over your vehicle while driving, it may be risky to even drive on highways or where you need to have control over your car.

In this article, let us look at the causes of loose steering in detail and what you can do about it.

What Causes Play In Steering Wheel

What Does Loose Steering Look Like?

When your vehicle turns too much, this probably means you have loose steering. It is also known as “excessive play.” You will notice that your wheel has extra movement, and the front wheels may not be responding. So you need to correct the wheel movement from a mechanic soon. 

Another sign of loose steering is when you hear a knocking sound while driving on a bumpy road. And if you are driving on a motorway at high speed, you may find your steering wobbling or move on one side more.

If you find any of the above issues, you need to get your vehicle fixed by a professional mechanic, as the steering can deteriorate quickly. If the parts of the steering wheels get separated, it can lead to accidents.

What Causes Play In Steering Wheel

What Causes Loose Steering Chevy Truck?

Most modern cars nowadays come with different types of steering. These steering systems help the driver keep control of the movement while driving. 

Cars, SUVs and small trucks come with rack and pinion steering, while some bigger vehicles have recirculating ball steering. Over time, these parts wear out or fail, leading to loose steering. They are also known as ‘free play.’ Let us look at the possible causes of loose steering.

Tie Rod Wears Out

Nowadays, cars have a steering system that has a rack and pinion. These components are connected with a tie rod that helps your vehicle move. The tie rods that are placed at the end of the rack push and pull the tires back and forth and keep your wheels moving.

Over time, the roads may experience wear and tear. If the tie rod wears out, the steering might become loose and leads to excessive play. Regular vehicle use may cause your wheels to absorb vibrations to move up. Hitting potholes or popping up brakes can put stress and damage the tie rods.

So eventually, the tie rod end wears out, and your wheels will not stay in one position. As a result, you will notice many signs of loose steering, like your vehicle may get pulled on one side while driving, or the tires will wear out unevenly.

You might like to read: 6 Things To Do When You Hear A Noise When Turning Steering Wheel At Low Speed

Pitman Arm Wears Out

The pitman’s arm is one major component that connects your steering wheel and wheels. This component bridges the gap between the steering box shaft and the rack system. 

It helps move your vehicle in a circular motion and makes the wheels turn right and left. But if the pitman’s arm wears out or gets damaged, it will create havoc on your steering system. 

You will notice your steering wheel will get loose or have excessive play. And you may have to turn your wheels more so that your wheels respond. Your vehicle may also not respond appropriately when you turn left or right. 

It is better to take your vehicle checked and repaired as soon as possible. And if your steering wheels get damaged completely, you will not be able to move your car at all. 

Ball Joint Wears Out

You will find ball joints in almost all types of vehicles. The car’s suspension system has a ball and socket type design, and it connects your vehicle’s suspension system to the wheels and tires. 

If you are finding it difficult to turn right or left, experiencing excessive play or loose steering, then this means there is some issue with your vehicle’s ball joints. The ball joints may be worn out or damaged. You will notice clunking noises and vibrations while driving on bumpy roads.

Can I Drive With Loose Steering?

No, you should not. If your steering wheels are loose, you should get them fixed by a mechanic soon and avoid driving until it is fixed. Having a loose steering wheel will make it difficult to drive in a straight line and lead to accidents.

What Causes Play In Steering Wheel

Can Bad Alignment Cause Loose Steering?

Yes, it can. When your vehicle’s wheels are misaligned, your steering wheels may lose. 

Though you may not feel that your front wheels respond while taking a turn. But you will notice that the steering wheels are turning more often, and the tires are not responding much. 

How To Fix Loose Steering Wheel

Problems with the steering wheel can lead to excessive play. It is advisable for drivers to get the vehicle checked by a mechanic if it has a loose steering wheel. Losing control over your vehicle while driving is the worst thing to happen and is even riskier. 

The best thing is to get your car fixed immediately when you notice any symptoms, and a mechanic will be able to fix the problem better.

  • Your mechanic will first lift your vehicle and take out its wheels to properly check its suspension and steering parts. He will inspect all the parts connected to the steering wheel and look if anything is damaged and needs replacement.
  • If the pitman’s arm wears out, he will remove it and replace it with a new part. He will then take a test drive and look if the part is fixed properly and functioning well. Your new part needs regular maintenance to prevent your steering wheel from loosening while driving off-road.
  • If there is an issue with the tie rods, the mechanic will look for any exterior damage and fix the worn tie rod with a new one. Make sure to lubricate the tie roads after installing it.
  • If the ball joint wears out, the mechanic will first take out the control parts from the system to look for the damage in the ball joint. The mechanic will remove the damaged ball joint and install a new one. It is essential to lubricate the new parts to have a longer lifespan.

After fixing the issue, your mechanic may take your vehicle for a test drive and check if there is play in the steering wheels. It is better to check the car manual to avoid any future issues with the steering system and prevent the parts from wearing out.

You might like to read: My Car Stalls When Turning Steering Wheel

A Few Final Words

Steering wheels help you keep safe while driving. If you find that the steering wheels are behaving unusually, it can be risky to drive. If you find the steering wheel loose or excessive play in the steering, look at the cause and get it fixed by a mechanic soon. 

Thank you for reading the article, we hope we covered all your queries for you.

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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

1 thought on “What Causes Play In Steering Wheel? 3 Reasons”

  1. Nothing here about play in the steering wheel. My Fijé cruiser has the lightest touch that if you move it slightly it turns this is not safe. I cannot find anywhere that says whether it can be tightened or service to not have so much play.


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