When your steering wheel starts to shake
You are driving along and and notice that the steering wheel on your BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, or Mini has a vibration as you drive along.
There are multiple reasons this can occur on your car. The three main reasons being suspension, steering, wheel, or brake related.
These four systems can cause a vibration or shake in your steering wheel under different driving conditions and they will be discussed further in this article.
The most common cause for steering wheel shake tends to be brake system related. As you use your brakes they get hot and thermal shock from driving over a rain puddle or having worn brake rotors can cause the metal to warp.
When your rotors are warped and you depress the brake pedal at motorway speed your steering wheel will shake as the rotor surface is no longer smooth and your brake pad will skip over the rotor surface when you brake. To remedy this, you need to have your braking system inspected and rotors replaced.
Off Balance Wheel
The next most common cause of steering wheel shake is an off balance wheel. When a new tire is mounted on a rim it needs to be balanced on a machine and have small weights applied to the rim to keep the wheel from vibrating at speed.
As we drive around the city and hit potholes or damaged pavement the balancing weights can be knocked off or the rim can also bend or crack throwing the wheel off balance.
This will normally cause the steering wheel to shake when the car is above 40 miles per hour or faster. In this case the wheels and tires need to be inspected for damage and if they pass inspection then need to be re-balanced.
Worn Suspension or Steering system
The least common, but most problematic cause tends to be worn suspension and steering system components. These require proper diagnosis since multiple components can be at fault at once and cause issues to cascade.
Worn constant velocity joints can cause vibration and steering wheel shake during acceleration. Worn wheel bearings can cause shake while cruising depending on how close they are to catastrophic failure.
Worn components in the steering are dangerous and will also cause vibration as well as poor handling. In these circumstances immediate diagnosis and repair necessary as the vibration you feel in your steering is an not just a annoyance, but symptom of serious failure that could leave you stranded.