Steering is a pretty important part of the driving experience. Unless you’re simply going in a straight line from one spot to the next, it’s pretty safe to say you’re going to be using your steering wheel. So when that steering wheel starts being difficult to move, it can be pretty inconvenient, not to mention frightening.
What are the reasons for this? Why does a steering wheel get stiff?
Low Power Steering Fluid
The most common reason for a stiff steering wheel is a lack of power steering fluid. This is a pressurized hydraulic liquid that presses on the piston and makes the wheels in a modern vehicle far easier to turn. It’s part of the “power steering” system that is ubiquitous in the modern automobile.
Though one way to fix the problem of low-fluid levels is to simply refill it, it’s wise to also look for the root cause to prevent this issue from happening again, possibly very soon. Likely reasons for low fluid are a loose or cracked pressurized hose, which causes the liquid to leak out.
Power-Steering Fluid Replacement
If it’s not low, the fluid may just be thick and dirty. Similar to how oil breaks down over time and needs to be replaced, power-steering fluid can “go bad.” The solution to this is to have the old liquid flushed out and replaced with some fresh stuff.
Other possible problems with the power steering system include pump failure, a faulty steering rack, or a damaged/loose power steering belt.
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Another possibility for steering difficulty unrelated to the power-steering system is the tire pressure. Especially if your tires are low on pressure, they can be hard to turn. Make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended PSI specific to them.