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Why Does my Steering Wheel Feel Loose

February 11, 2024 | Victor Lukasso

Have you ever wondered why your steering wheel feels loose? This article will address that problem.

For proper car navigation, the steering wheel is supposed to exert a force when turning it sideways; this shows that the steering linkage sockets and gears are intact.

However, if your steering wheel feels loose when driving, turning, or just rotating it, the steering system has an underlying problem that needs immediate attention.

A loose steering wheel, also known as free play, is a phenomenon where the driver doesn’t have complete control of the car’s movement due to excess free movement of the steering.


Other symptoms attached to a loose steering wheel include knocking sounds when driving over road bumps, a back-and-forth movement of the steering wheel when driving at high speed, the car pulling to one side, foamy steering fluid, and uncontrollable sideway movement of the vehicle.

And because a loose steering wheel often defies the driver’s input, it results in accidents, difficulty in steering, and excessive wear out of tires.

In this article, we’ll see why your steering wheel feels loose and how to fix an open steering wheel.

Why is my Steering Wheel Loose?

The primary cause of a loosed steering wheel is a loosed steering gear or disconnection in one or more steering wheel connectors.

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The first step to fixing this is diagnosing the leading cause of the loosed steering wheel, as many components link to the steering wheel.

Depending on your suspension and steering model, you can inspect any of the below components.

  • The front suspension part connects the wheel assemblies to the joint. Its primary function is to keep the tire straight and in position.
  • Connectors that joins the steering box to the wheel assemblies, mainly at the front wheel.
  • The steering rack is joined to the steering wheel via the column.

On front-wheel drive vehicles, the connectors or linkages discussed above help join the steering box to the wheel assemblies at the front wheels enabling back-and-forth movement when the steering is turned.

Once these connectors get weak or damaged, it’ll cause the steering wheel to lose its grip and move freely without showing any impact to the tires.

Also, a mismatched tooth contact between the steering gearbox and the pinion, probably due to aging or wear out, will cause the steering to become loose.

While this can be fixed by adjusting the two components, it might require you to change the whole gearbox, especially when you start noticing increased gas mileage.

Finally, a defect in the pinion, tie rods, control arm bushing, ball joints, steering gears, or rack and pinion could make the steering wheel lose.

If you’re knowledgeable about car repairs, then you should be able to decipher a worn-out or damaged steering component.

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If the reverse is the case, then you can book the service of a mechanic to help with the complete diagnosis and repair of a loose steering wheel.

Without wasting much time, let’s see a DIY guide on how to fix a loose steering wheel.

How to Fix a Loose Steering Wheel

If your steering wheel is loose and isn’t responding to inputs, you can follow the guide below holistically to get it fixed.

For this procedure, you’ll need tools such as an adjustable wrench, a steering wheel puller, pliers, and a screwdriver.

  1. Park your car in a safe spot and turn the engine off.
  2. Disconnect the battery terminals and engage tire wedges.
  3. Remove the material that covers the steering wheel until the screws are visible. Do this carefully to avoid damage.
  4. Loosen the bolts carefully with a wrench.
  5. Remove the steering wheel and the lock plate using the steering wheel puller, and follow the manufacturer’s guide.
  6. Carefully remove the retaining ring with a plier.
  7. Now, on the turn signal assembly, locate and unscrew the bolts that hold it to the wheel.
  8. Find the column bracket and unbolt the bottom (it attaches the column to the car’s dashboard) until the wires are visible.
  9. Insert your key into the ignition and set it to the ON position
  10. Release the lock cylinder by unscrewing the bolts that hold it.
  11. Now, detach the three torque bolts from the steering wheel column
  12. Remove the casing and press down a spring retainer on the bearing clockwise.
  13. Detach the spring retainer from beneath the steering shaft.
  14. You can then use pliers to remove two pivot pins attached to the tilt column.
  15. Drag the handle of the tilt column upwards to make adjustments to it.
  16. Continue pulling the tilt column upwards toward the right side.
  17. You can still press down the spring clip clockwise several times.
  18. Repeat steps 16 and 17 until the steering wheel gets in place.
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That’s all about fixing a loose steering wheel on all car models.

If you’re finding it hard to implement the above repair, you can seek a mechanic’s service for repairs.


What does it mean if my steering wheel feels loose?

A loose steering wheel means a defect in the pinion, tie rods, control arm bushing, ball joints, steering gears, or vehicle rack.

Can you drive with loose steering?

No, driving with a loose steering wheel is unsafe because you won’t have full control over your car. This could result in an accident or tire wears out.

How much does it cost to fix a loose steering wheel?

Depending on the auto repair shop, fixing a loose steering wheel costs approximately $70 to $100

Does alignment fix loose steering?

At times, depending on the complexity or cause of the loosed steering. If there is no underlying issue after the alignment is done, your steering will return to normal.

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Meet Victor Lukasso, the owner of V. Auto Basics. Through this blog, Victor Provides Insights on the latest tips, maintenance, repair, and techniques in the automotive world.