My Steering Wheel Is Crooked? What Do I Do?

Do you have to adjust your driving because your steering wheel is off by a few degrees? Do you find your vehicle pulling to one side? Or does your car vibrate when you reach higher speeds? A misaligned steering wheel can contribute to all these problems. We’ll cover the basics of the steering system and then dive into what different problems can mean.

How steering works 

The most common type of steering system found on lightweight vehicles is called the rack and pinion system. Two gears transfer the command from your hands at the steering wheel to the wheels: the linear gear, called the rack, and the circular gear, called the pinion. 

Next, steering systems split into manual and power. You may have driven long enough to remember manual steering systems. Or you love the connection between the driver and the road and therefore still drive one. But manual steering systems require the driver to supply their power. 

Most of us drive a vehicle with power steering, of which there are three types: hydraulic, electric, and hybrid. 

Types of power steering

Hydraulic power steering (HPS) systems use a power steering pump and hydraulic fluid to help with steering. Powering the system itself is the car’s engine, via the serpentine or another drive belt. 

An electric power steering (EPS) system uses an electric motor to help the driver steer. This system has fewer moving parts, so maintenance and repair are generally easier. You also don’t require hydraulic fluid to help it run. 

A hybrid power steering (HEPS) system uses hydraulic fluid and a pump to operate but is powered by an electrical system and not the car’s engine.

Symptoms of a crooked steering wheel 

Although these symptoms can suggest other problems, they can also contribute to steering wheel misalignment: 

  • uneven tire wear 
  • driving straight requires turning the steering wheel slightly to one side 
  • vibrations in the steering wheel 
  • noises when turning the steering wheel 

Causes of steering wheel problems 

Unlike a clogged cabin air filter, which can be diagnosed and fixed quickly, the cause of a misaligned steering wheel can be more complex to identify and repair. Any of these can contribute to the problems you’re having with your steering wheel: 

  • regular wear and tear of any steering components 
  • improper installation of any steering components (e.g., after having your vehicle serviced for another reason) 
  • hitting a curb or pothole 
  • poor maintenance 
  • a change in the vehicle’s height without adjusting the suspension 
  • worn tires 
  • incorrect tire pressure 
  • misaligned wheels 

Most of these causes require an auto technician’s knowledge to diagnose and fix. However, you can check and adjust your tire pressure at home if you have the tools. If that doesn’t solve your steering problem, bring your vehicle in to a NAPA AUTOPRO service centre for help. 

Steering wheel maintenance 

Even steering wheels require maintenance from time to time, but this needs to be done by a qualified auto technician. If you have an EPS or HEPS, ensure the technician working on your car has the required knowledge: these steering systems have extra computer and electrical components that purely hydraulic systems don’t have. 

The technician will inspect and clean all the parts of the steering system. They will replace anything broken or worn enough that you’ll soon have problems with your steering. If your car uses a hydraulic steering system, the auto technician will replace the hydraulic fluid, too. 

If you drive an electric vehicle, you’ll still need to arrange for steering wheel maintenance. Although steering systems in gas-powered and electric vehicles share similarities, you won’t find any hydraulic steering systems in an EV. That means that, as part of your EV steering wheeling maintenance, the technician won’t have to change any fluids. 

For any questions on steering wheel maintenance, or to schedule an appointment, contact the NAPA AUTOPRO service centre nearest you, and we’ll be happy to help you.