Steering wheel feels too loose

Steering components do wear over time, but what you're describing sounds excessive. The problem could be play in the steering gear and/or linkage. Your steering wheel connects through the column, to the steering gear, tie rods and finally the steering knuckle to which your wheel attaches to. I suggest you have a trained professional inspect your vehicle as soon as possible, since steering problems can also be safety issues. The team at YourMechanic is an excellent option since we make house calls.
Experienced mechanics share their insights in answering this question :
Steering components do wear over time, but what you’re describing sounds excessive. The problem could be play in the steering gear and/or linkage. Your steering wheel connects through the column, to the steering gear, tie rods and finally the steering knuckle to which your wheel attaches to.

I suggest you have a trained professional inspect your steering wheel issue as soon as possible, since steering problems can also be safety issues. The team at YourMechanic is an excellent option since we make house calls.

How to Identify and Fix Common car Problems ?

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Tie rods are present in both rack and pinion and recirculating ball setups. If tie rod ends become worn, they may cause the steering wheel to feel loose. A vehicle with worn tie rods may also squeak as the steering wheel is turned and be out of alignment.
Causes of loose steering

The most common reasons for free play in the steering are looseness in the steering gear itself or looseness in one or more of the steering linkage sockets. Steering box or rack and pinion that is connected to the steering wheel by the steering column.

Free play in the steering linkage shall not exceed one-quarter of an inch. (1) Inspection procedure. Elevate the front end of the vehicle to load the ball joints. Insure that wheel bearings are correctly adjusted.
What causes loose steering. Generally the problem comes from looseness in the steering gear or linkage sockets of the steering system. It can also be caused by worn tire rods (which connect the tires to the steering unit) and other components in the chassis such as control arm bushings and ball joints.
A wheel alignment may restore the steering wheel to a centered position if there aren`t other undiagnosed problems. When alignment angles are out of the vehicle`s original specifications, steering can feel slightly loose. This condition can be corrected by a wheel alignment.
The main symptom of loose steering, and probably the first thing you will notice, is overturning when you take a turn. Also known as `free play`, you`ll notice that as you take a turn your steering goes a little too far than you intend it to, and you need to correct the movement.
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To check steering play: Make sure the road wheels are on the ground and pointing straight ahead. Lightly turn the steering wheel left and right as far as possible without moving the road wheels. Check the amount of free play at the rim of the steering wheel.

The most common causes behind slipping or loose steering wheels are worn steering belts, leaking or faulty steering pumps, and worn steering rack mounts.
Under inflated or deflated tires are known to cause increased forward drag and lateral steering effects on vehicles. These effects are commonly suggested to be the cause of driver loss of control and subsequent vehicular accidents.
Poor Alignment

That said, if the alignment is off by enough, it can even cause your vehicle to shake! As the front wheels right with the rest of the car, vibrations can develop which travel up the steering column and rattle the steering wheel, shaking you in your driver`s seat.

When your tie rods go bad, the symptom you`re most likely to experience first is a vibration or shaking sensation in your steering wheel. You may also hear associated clunking and rattling noises, especially when turning the vehicle at low speeds. These sounds are caused by tie rods that are starting to wear out.
Misalignment: The reason why your steering wheel is shaking may be the result of a misalignment. Similar to unbalanced wheels, when tires are moved out of their proper position from driving on uneven roads with potholes, railroads, and etc., the misalignment can cause steering wheels issues and more.

Relevant Questions and Answers :

the most relevant questions and answers related to your specific issue

Steering wheel does not center
ANSWER : The problem to me sounds like you have worn out bushings that hold the power steering rack and pinion assembly. This is why your steering wheel gets off center in the direction of the turn. Have the steering inspected and the bushings replaced if they are bad. You should have no problems then.

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My steering wheel squeaks when turning left
ANSWER : The problem does need to be fixed. The steering wheel shaft may be binding in the steering column. You may also have another problem with the front end if the squeaking noise is not coming from the steering column. If the column is squeaking then you should have a mechanic come look at it and diagnose the issue. Only a qualified mechanic should inspect it since the air bags on the steering wheel may need to be removed to diagnose and complete the repairs. A certified mobile YourMechanic can come examine the problem at your home or office.

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My steering wheel feels loose.
ANSWER : Loose feeling to the steering system can be caused by a number of components. A worn steering stabilizer can be one of them. Other components like tie rods and ball joints can also cause a loose steering feel. As they age, the sockets inside ball joints and tie rods wear. This allows play within the component. When that happens, the steering wheel may have to be turned more to overcome that "play" before the wheels actually turn, giving you that feeling of "play" in the steering wheel. The steering loses it’s direct feeling. Any of these worn components can give you a vibration as well. Also, the tires can wear in irregular patterns due to worn suspension/steering components which then can make the tires give you a vibration.

Have a certified technician look into the loose steering feel as soon as possible. If components like ball joints or tie rods wear excessively, they can actually fail, causing a loss of control of your vehicle.

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Problem with steering on one side only.
ANSWER : Hi there. The power steering system has a control valve that sends the fluid through the rack and pinion system. The valve maybe plugged up and causing the fluid to not return to the reservoir fast enough.

For the alignment issue, check all of the suspension and see what is loose or could be damaged. I recommend having an alignment performed on the vehicle after replacing any suspension or steering parts. If you need further assistance with your alignment, then seek out a professional, such as one from Your Mechanic, to help you.

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steering wheel won’t unlock my key turns only to turn lights on but that’s it can’t unlock steering wheel to start the car what to
ANSWER : The steering lock may not be unlocking either due to a faulty ignition lock housing or more commonly as the cars age a faulty spring at the steering wheel on the under side of the column. If the ignition lock housing is the issue the housing can be replaced. It s a bit tricky as the mounting bolt has break off heads and generally need to be driven out with a punch. If the lock is not disengaging because of a faulty spring on the ignition lock many owners have had the spring removed by having it drilled out of the housing. However, removing the spring may permanently disable the steering lock. The last option would be to replace the steering column. You may want to enlist the help of a mechanic who can recommend the proper repair for your situation.

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Steering wheel feels lighter and seems to provide less road feedback.
ANSWER : Your vehicle is equipped with electric power steering (EPS). A steering angle sensor other various sensors, are used to provide input to the EPS control module. The module uses this information to determine control of an electric motor, which is used to turn the power steering rack. A problem in this system can affect steering feel. It might be something as simple as software update for the control module. A professional, such as one from YourMechanic, can diagnose and repair your steering issue.

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Steering wheel feels too loose
ANSWER : Steering components do wear over time, but what you’re describing sounds excessive. The problem could be play in the steering gear and/or linkage. Your steering wheel connects through the column, to the steering gear, tie rods and finally the steering knuckle to which your wheel attaches to.

I suggest you have a trained professional inspect your steering wheel issue as soon as possible, since steering problems can also be safety issues. The team at YourMechanic is an excellent option since we make house calls.

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Power steering stiff when cold
ANSWER : Hello. This can be a sign of a bad pump, but most of the time it is caused by contaminated fluid. If the fluid is old or has any moisture in it then this will occur. I usually flush out the power steering fluid first. I also check the belt. Once it has new fluid and if the belt is fine, then I double check the symptoms. If it continues, then I replace the pump. If you need to have this done, consider YourMechanic, as a certified mechanic can come to your home or office to diagnose the steering and move forward with the proper repairs.

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