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How to Troubleshoot Some Common Problems With Your Car's Steering System

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Your car's steering system is probably much more complicated than you realize; the steering column runs down the length of your car and is connected to axles and tie rods, while the tires are also connected to the car with struts and, of course, rims. The steering system also involves gears and bearings that control how the wheels turn.

With all these various parts, it's easy to get overwhelmed by potential issues with the steering system, but consider a few troubleshooting tips so you know where to start looking, or what your mechanic may need to address.

Grabbing and jerking around corners

If your car doesn't steer smoothly around corners, this is usually a problem with the differentials. This is a system of gears that allows two tires to spin at different speeds, which is needed when your car turns any corner; the inside tire travels a shorter distance than the outside tire, so the differential gears kick in when you turn a corner and slow down that inside tire. If the differential gears, often called spider gears, are worn down, that inside tire will try to spin too fast and it may feel as if the car is being pulled in the direction of that wheel. The differential gears may simply need replacing.

Difficulty controlling the car when you hit a bump

When you hit a bump, a bent rim may cause a tire to bounce and land awkwardly on the pavement, so the car is difficult to steer and control. The struts may also be rusted and bent; these are springs that go straight down from the corners of the car and connect to the axles, to help keep the tires in place. When a strut is bent or weakened, it may not move up and down as it should when you hit a bump, and controlling the car might be difficult.

Shaking steering wheel

A bent rim can also cause the steering wheel to shake, as the tire is not spinning smoothly; this may become more pronounced the faster you go. A brake pad that is slipping can also get in the way of the tire spinning smoothly, and this will cause the steering wheel to vibrate. Tires that are not balanced can also shake; tires don't always weigh the same, and a mechanic may need to add a small weight to one side of the car, to keep the tires spinning in harmony and keep the steering wheel from struggling to control the car.