Why Does My Steering Wheel Feel Loose?

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Written By Jason Clarke

When your vehicle’s steering wheel feels loose, it can be not only annoying but also a serious safety risk. If your car is experiencing this, you should determine the reason and resolve the issue as soon as possible. So, what causes a steering wheel to feel loose?

Your steering wheel feels loose because the tie rods or ball joints are worn-out or damaged. It could also be due to pitman arm or steering wheel damage. To fix the problem, take your car to a mechanic to replace the worn-out or damaged parts. 

This post will describe the most common reasons for a loose steering wheel and how to fix them. Keep reading to learn more!

1. The tie rods are worn out or damaged

If your vehicle has a loose steering wheel, the likeliest cause is worn-out or damaged tie rods. These vital parts connect the steering rack to the wheels so that the driver can turn them. As your car ages and with normal wear and tear, the tie rods can become worn out and sometimes damaged. 

Below are some key signs that your tie rods are worn-out or broken: 

  • Difficulty turning the steering.
  • You hear a squealing or clicking sound when turning.
  • Excessive vibration when turning your car.

How to fix

If you suspect that your tie rods are damaged, it’s important to have them checked by a mechanic as soon as possible. They will evaluate them and determine if they can be repaired or need to be replaced. 

That said, be sure to check your car’s manual to ensure the new tie rods are the correct size for your vehicle.

And if you frequently drive on rough or uneven roads, consider installing new shocks and struts to prevent further damage to the tie rods.

2. The ball joints are damaged 

Another possible reason for a loose steering wheel is damaged ball joints. These essential components are a vital link between the suspension system and the wheels. They allow the wheels to move up and down while turning, which helps keep your car aligned and stable.

When they are faulty, it can feel like your steering wheel has no tension or is wobbly. In addition, your car may have trouble staying aligned or handling bumps and curves in the road.

How to fix

To fix damaged ball joints, you will need to take your car to a mechanic. The mechanic will inspect the joints and, if needed, replace them or install new hardware to keep your steering wheel tight.

Additionally, adding fresh lubricant to the joints might help restore their movement and make them more flexible.

3. The pitman arm is damaged 

The pitman arm is another vital part of your steering shaft because it changes the shaft’s rotational movements into linear movements, resulting in the wheels rotating. 

If it becomes bent or broken, your steering wheel will likely feel loose.

The arm may get damaged due to an accident, but it can also happen over time if your vehicle hits a lot of bumps in the road.

How to fix

If your pitman arm is damaged, it’s important to get it fixed as soon as possible. Here’s a roundup of the typical steps involved in repairing a bent or broken pitman arm:

  1. First, the mechanic will inspect the arm and determine whether it can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced altogether.
  2. Next, the mechanic will assess the extent of damage and remove any parts that are beyond repair.
  3. The mechanic will then install a new pitman arm.

That being said, if you’re confident that you can replace your current pitman arm on your own, check out this KOOPOOL Pitman Arm Remover Tool Kit from Amazon.com. It features durable steel construction and is designed to make pitman arm repair less of a hassle.

4. The steering rack is damaged 

The steering rack houses all the components of the steering system, including the tie rods, ball joints, and pitman arm. It also contains hydraulic fluid that helps power the system. When the steering rack becomes damaged or is faulty, it can cause a loose steering wheel. 

Here are a few typical causes of rack damage:

  • Fluid contamination: If the hydraulic fluid in your steering rack is dirty or low, it can wear away at the components of your steering system.
  • Loose connections: If the steering rack isn’t properly connected to other components, it can cause a wide range of problems, including a loose steering wheel.

The following video summarizes the signs of a bad steering rack:

How to fix

If your steering rack is damaged, the simplest and most effective solution is to replace it. That can be a complicated process, so it’s best to leave this job to a qualified mechanic.

To avoid future problems, make sure to get regular maintenance for your vehicle and check for any signs of damage or wear.


When your steering wheel is loose, it can be concerning and also dangerous. If your steering wheel feels loose, there are several potential explanations ranging from worn-out tie rods to damage to the steering rack itself.

It’s important to have any unusual issues with your vehicle checked by a professional as soon as possible to avoid further damage or danger down the road. And if any part is damaged, the best solution is to replace it as soon as possible.

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