Why is my Steering Wheel Hard to Turn: How to fix it?

Car owners and drivers always want to have a nice and smooth driving experience. You want to get from one point to the other without having any issues. Now what? You have problems that make you wonder, ‘why is my steering wheel hard to turn?’ did you experience this on idle? Or suddenly when driving down the hills? Have you tried to fix this on your own, and it proves abortive? Relax! We have outlined the common causes and how to fix them.

Your steering system is a significant component of your car’s control system. The steering system also gives you complete control over your vehicle direction. So, when you have a steering wheel hard to turn issues, you are in a dangerous situation. If you’re overtaking on a single lane and try to navigate back after the overtake and you notice the steering wheel hard to turn and noise, it may lead to a motor accident. Having complete control of the steering system gives you peace of mind and keeps you safe and secured. In this article, we’ll explain at length the reasons and how to fix hard steering.

Why is my steering wheel hard to turn?

It is essential to know the reasons why turning the steering wheel is too hard and how to diagnose it. We’ve listed seven possible reasons below.

turning steering wheel too hard

  • Low or steering fluid leaks
  • Defective steering Rack or steering gearbox
  • Worn-out or broken drive-belt
  • Tire pressure
  • Bad front end alignment and other faulty front suspension components
  • Contaminated or thick steering fluid
  • Failing or lousy power steering pum

Low or steering fluid leaks:  low or fluid leaks can cause the power steering to be intermittently stiff. This problem occurs when you have a leak from the power steering high-pressure hose, loose clamps, or leaks from the power steering pump itself due to cracks. The fluid will leak through that crack or hose, reducing the pressure at which the fluid travels – while drying out the pump. This will cause noise when turning the steering wheel, usually a groaning or whining noise, resulting in a lousy pump or uneven steering rack failure.

Defective steering Rack or steering gearbox: The steering rack and steering gearbox are essential steering components that control the direction of the wheels. However, both are not found in one vehicle. It’s either you have a steering rack and pinion or you have a steering gearbox. The steering rack and pinion are used on passenger cars, while the gearbox steering is found on big trucks, SUVs, and older cars. Both steering systems will eventually fail by just driving your car over time. The evidence to this is, the steering wheel will be stiff or thick upon startup.

As the vehicle runs and warm-up, the steering rack will get hot, and the stiffness will reduce a bit. Therefore, turning your wheels becomes a bit easier, but you still need to replace the rack before it turns into a bigger problem.

Worn-out or broken drive-belt: The most common reason you might notice the steering wheel hard to turn steering fluid full is when you have a worn-out or broken drive-belt. The drive belt starts working the moment you turn on your engine, so, on a long haul, it will wear out and damage so quickly. When the drive belt gets pretty old, it will become loose and cause stiff steering. If you ignore to replace it when it starts failing, it’ll finally break and affect other belt-driven components in your car. It’s best to replace the drive belt when you notice cracks to prevent more significant problems.

Tire pressure: You might be wondering, ‘Can tire pressure cause hard steering?’ Oh yes, it can. You may see this as a surprise, but lack of air in your tires can cause stiff steering and hard to turn. Specifically, a deflated tire can cause stiff steering. This is another reason you should make sure your vehicle tires are inflated at all times. Make sure you keep your tires at the recommended PSI.

Bad front-end alignment and other faulty front suspension components: Faulty front-end suspension components like bad ball joints, lousy tie rods, or damaged wheel bearings can damage and hook the front wheels from turning. Also, uneven or unbalanced front tires can pull your vehicle to one side and result in stiff steering. Bad front-end alignment and faulty front-end suspension components can cause stiff steering. It is primarily noticeable when making a turn or when you decide to take a corner.

Contaminated or thick steering fluid: A power steering pump is a hydraulic system that uses light fluid. Suppose the fluid gets contaminated or becomes thick after some time. Suppose you fail to replace the fluid when grits and grime gets inside or at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. In that case, the steering fluid will eventually become too thick to work properly on the steering system. With the thick fluid in the steering pump reservoir, you will notice the steering wheel hard to turn when cold or at other low-speed maneuvers. Inspect the steering fluid color. If it has turned to gray, you have to flush and refill it.

Failing or lousy power steering pump: The power steering pump, which is usually a variable-assist power steering, makes the work of the steering system efficient and a lot easier. If the steering pump fails, it won’t be easy to turn your wheel on Park or other low-speed maneuvers. In such situations, the defective pump won’t stop the wheels from turning completely, but it will require a lot of steering effort, and the vehicle will be a lot heavier.

How do you fix a steering wheel that is hard to turn?

We’ve looked at the reasons behind stiff steering. Now, let’s discuss how you can fix a stiff steering wheel. Since there are several reasons behind the hard steering wheel, we’ll look at several ways to fix it.

  • Check and gauge tire air pressure.
  • Check the power steering fluid.
  • Check the power steering Rack and pump
  • Inspect front-end suspension components
  • Ensure your drive belt works properly

Check and gauge tire air pressure: If you find it difficult to turn your wheels when parked or at other low-speed maneuvers, chances are you have a deflated tire. Check your tire air pressure. You have to ensure that your tire pressure is up to the recommended PSI for your vehicle and tire size. You don’t need deflated tires that will cause hard steering wheels.

Check power steering fluid: Check your power steering fluid. Check for dirt and grime. If you find grime and dirt in the reservoir, get a power steering flush and replenish the fluid. Steering flush should cost between $50-$120, and it’s a quick service that you can do yourself.

Check the power steering Rack and pump: In addition to the power steering flush, you need to inspect the power steering pump and rack. Check for leaks and cracks which could cause stiff steering. You need to specifically inspect the high-pressure hose that connects the steering pump and rack. Replace any cracked hose or component.

Inspect front-end suspension components: Another reason for stiff steering could be faulty front-end suspension parts. A lousy ball joint or damaged wheel bearing and tie rod can damage and affect your vehicle handling. You need to inspect this component when you experience a stiff steering wheel. Noise from the front-end wheels will accompany the stiff steering as evidence.

Ensure your drive belt works properly: Inspect the belt that connects the steering pump to the engine pulley. Look for worn-out edges and cracks. Inspect whether the belt is too tight or too loose because that could be the culprit. You can turn on the engine and inspect the rotation of the belt. If the belt wiggles while the engine is running, you need to check the belt alignment and idler pulleys or visit your mechanic for a thorough inspection and fix.

Diagnose Power Steering in Your Car, Truck, SUV YouTube


Why does my power steering feel heavy?

A few factors can cause heavy steerings, such as lack of steering fluid, tire pressure, broken serpentine belt, faulty power steering pump, and front-end alignment.

How much does it cost to fix power steering?

The cost of fixing a failed power steering depends on several factors, including your vehicle’s make and model, damaged components, and the garage you take your car to. On average, you will spend between $250 to $350 to fix power steering issues.

Can you drive a car if the power steering goes out?

Sure, you can. However, you should bear in mind that driving a car without functional power steering requires more effort to steer the wheels, and you might be endangering your life since you cannot turn the wheel with ease.

Is it okay to drive with a bad power steering pump?

It’s not okay. While you can drive with a bad power steering pump, remember that lack of steering fluid will also damage the steering rack, leaving you with a huge replacement cost. Driving with a bad power steering pump can affect your vehicle handling – making it prone to accidents.

Final word

At this juncture, we’ve cleared your head from wondering, ‘why is my steering wheel hard to turn?’. Even the slightest difficulty in turning the steering wheel should be a significant concern since it indicates a lousy steering component. Ignoring the hard steering wheel can be dangerous since one faulty steering component can affect another.

Diagnosing the cause of stiff steering wheel isn’t difficult since there are just a few of them. The most common part is leaking or low steering fluid. However, a lousy steering rack, broken serpentine belt, failing steering pump, and worn-out ball joints can also be the culprit.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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