Have you ever been driving down the road with your car running smoothly, only to discover that when you apply the brakes, the steering wheel begins to tremble like a hairless dog on a cold day? Your first impression may be that you have driven onto a fault line prone to earthquakes. That is a possibility, but it is more probable that there is a problem with your vehicle. Now the query is, “What causes a steering wheel to shake when applying the brakes?” There are multiple potential responses, some more probable than others.
Vibrations in the steering column may be caused by a damaged motor mount, bent wheels, faulty CV joints, or loose lug bolts. However, none of these automobile issues would result in a steering wheel failure.
What are rotors? Good topic. Rotors are the discs that the brake pads press against to halt the vehicle. In other terms, they are quite significant. To understand why rotors may cause the steering wheel to shake during deceleration, it is necessary to review their operation.
Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, rotors are typically made of metal and function at a specific width. When applying the brakes, the rotors are subjected to intense heat, which must be dissipated uniformly across its surface for a smooth halt. Nonetheless, rotors deteriorate over time. In certain areas, the metal may become thinner or deformed as a result. When the brake pads engage the rotor at high speeds, these imperfections create a vibration in the brake pedal, which is then transmitted to the steering wheel.
The good news is that there are some straightforward solutions to the problem, which we will examine in the following section.
Solutions for a Steering Wheel That Shakes When Braking
The first step in finding a solution for a vibrating steering wheel during deceleration is to determine the cause of the shaking. As previously stated, this is almost always due to rotor issues. Other causes of a vibrating steering system would typically result in constant swaying, not just under braking conditions. Consequently, this section will focus on the most prevalent rotor issues and their solutions.
Uneven rotor tightening is one potential cause of vibrations in a car’s wheel. In this case, you should consult a mechanic who is familiar with star-pattern lug nut tightening. This is a fundamental concept that any competent mechanic should understand. Most will also have a torque wrench for measuring the seal’s tightness. Each vehicle has its own torque specifications, which can be located in the owner’s manual or a mechanic’s database.
Typically, a steering wheel that shakes during deceleration is caused by warped rotors, which your mechanic may be able to diagnose with a simple test — that is, by manually spinning the rotors and feeling for imperfections. A properly functioning rotor should rotate freely and without bumps or other indications of resistance regions. If you or your mechanic observe these issues, you most likely have a rotor issue.
Your mechanic will need to remove the rotors and measure them with a micrometer for a more accurate diagnosis. A lathe can be used to re-machine areas that are rougher or more weathered than the rest. This process, known as “turning” the rotors, removes a very thin layer of metal until the surface is once again flat. Nonetheless, this strategy may not be your finest option. Turning can correct minor warpage, but it is of little use if the rotor is deteriorated beyond the manufacturer’s specifications. Currently, total replacement is the most prevalent procedure. If your vehicle has been diagnosed with defective rotors, you may be pondering how urgent this issue is. It depends on a few variables, which we will discuss in the following section.
Is It Safe to Drive if my Steering Wheel Shakes When Braking?
If your steering wheel rattles when you apply the brakes, you will likely need a mechanic in the near future. How quickly depends on several factors, including the cause of the shaking. If the problem is caused by improperly tightened rotors, for instance, you may be able to disregard it for months or even years. The opposite holds true if the issue is caused by slack lug nuts. In such a circumstance, you’d be fortunate to make it to the end of the block.
As mentioned in previous sections, a trembling steering wheel is typically caused by warped rotors. It is possible to disregard this issue, but doing so is risky. Vibrations can loosen or degrade calipers, fasteners, brake pads, ABS sensors, and other components of the braking system. This will rapidly increase the price of a repair that was initially relatively inexpensive. To replace rotors will cost between $300 and $400, including materials and labor.
Larger and more effective brakes are typically more expensive. Typically, rotors and pads are replaced at the same time, with a combined cost of closer to $1,000 for parts and labor. If long-term neglect causes encircling components to fail, the cost could be multiplied by several times. Another reason why you should not disregard your warped rotors is that the vibrations they cause during deceleration can lead to a loss of stability. Driving is already one of the most hazardous daily activities, so there is no reason to increase your accident risk. In addition, very few of us can avoid appearing absurd when holding a wobbly wheel.
In order for your braking system to last as long as possible, you should have the pads and rotors inspected during routine maintenance. Similar to tire treads, brake pads degrade over time and are designed to function at a range of thicknesses. When they are entirely worn down, they will come into contact with metal wear indicators. These produce a loud squealing noise when the brakes are applied and make contact with the rotor, indicating that the pads should be replaced immediately.
Continuing to drive with exhausted brake pads will inevitably result in rotor damage and a higher repair bill. After repeated forceful stops, brakes can overheat and warp, but this is less likely to occur under normal driving conditions.
In conclusion, it is probably acceptable to operate a vehicle with warped rotors for a short time, but you should not disregard the issue for too long. It is likely that doing so will result in significant damage to your brake system and more costly repairs in the long run. All things considered, it is preferable to have the issue resolved as quickly as feasible. So, before you take your shaky vehicle out on the road, be sure to have a trusted mechanic examine your rotors. There is a good chance that you can solve the problem swiftly and affordably.