What happens during a steering wheel feels loose inspection?

In this inspection, a mechanic will identify the origin of the loose-feeling steering wheel. To better access the suspension and steering components, they will first elevate the vehicle and remove the wheels.
They will then typically assess damage or wear and tear for the various parts, including the tie rods and ball joints.
If any of those issues are the cause of your steering wheel loosening, the mechanic can replace those parts and test drive the vehicle to ensure the steering wheel is working properly again.

How do I know if I need this inspection?

If you are able to move your steering wheel more than an inch or so without actually moving the car wheels, then your steering wheel is probably too loose, and this could lead to a problem.
If you feel like you don’t have an accurate idea of your wheels’ positions at any given time, it’s definitely worth getting an inspection.

How important is it to get an inspection of a loose steering wheel?

A steering wheel that feels loose may not be accurately indicating the position of your vehicle’s front wheels. Without an accurate understanding of your wheel positions, your response time and maneuverability may be compromised.
If you find that the steering is becoming less responsive, you should immediately stop driving and have the car evaluated by a mechanic.

Tips for this inspection

There are a few common reasons for your steering wheel to feel loose:
  • Worn tie rods, which serve as the connection between the steering unit and tires, can lead to a squeaking noise as the wheel is turned.
  • Worn ball joints, which connect the vehicle’s wheel hubs to the rest of the suspension, can lead to a banging sound, especially when driving over bumps.
  • Worn pitman arm, which connects the steering wheel and steering rack via a gear. It’s only present in vehicles that have recirculating-ball steering.

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