There are plenty of conflicting opinions out there about cars. Some like them fast, while others care more about safety. Are minivans cool in any way at all? And plenty of opinions fly if you bring up electric or hybrid cars. But there is one thing we can all agree on:

The steering needs to work.

If you pay attention to steering issues now, you’ll be able to spot troubles that could be really expensive to fix later.

Here are five signals that a car might need TLC for its steering system:

Five Signs of Steering Problems

(Frank Albrecht/Unsplash)

1. Is it Supposed to be this Hard?

If you are breaking into a sweat with every three-point turn, then your power steering might be struggling. Most cars today have a power steering system that makes turning a breeze. If you feel like you are wrestling with the steering wheel, then take a look at your power steering fluid levels first. If the fluids are low, top it off and keep an eye on it. If it seems to be dropping much too quickly, you might have a leak somewhere and it would be worth having a mechanic check it out.

2. Shake it Up!

Those 1980s-era arm-shaking devices might be entertaining and effective at toning your arms, but driving your car shouldn’t leave you in need of an ice bath recovery. Combining exercise and steering might sound like an effective use of time, but it isn’t great for the car. Hit the gym to build those biceps, a vibrating steering wheel spells trouble.

It might not be solely a steering problem, but that is the first place to look. If your steering system seems to be in working order, then take a look at your tires. A shaking steering wheel can be a sign of unbalanced tires or worn-out brake pads. And the engine itself might also be causing shaking, though you’d probably sense that throughout the car and not just in the steering wheel.

3. This Car has a Mind of its Own

Unless you have a self-driving car, it should only go where you point it. If the car is drifting to one side of the road without your moving it, then there might be some steering problems under the hood. It might be a simple issue with the power steering fluid or system, or the steering rack or belt could need attention.

This is a signal that can creep up on you. We are good at ignoring issues, but once in a while, it is good to let go of the steering wheel and see if the car stays on a straight path. Veering one way or the other can also be a tire issue, but it is worth checking on the steering components as well.

4. Should it be Making that Sound?

Generally speaking, steering should be a quiet process. But, if you hear noises as you turn, then your car is sending you a message. Grinding can often be a signal of brake pad issues but pay attention to when you hear the noise. Note if it happens when you turn and consistently on one side more than the other. It might be a problem with your power steering belt if the noise comes as you turn.

Turning and braking often happen together, so if you notice the noise, try taking a very slow turn without braking to see if the sounds continue. That will help you know if it is steering or braking.

5. Rainbow Puddles

It is never much fun to see any sort of puddles under your car. Sometimes they are innocent, but if you notice any of the signals above and there is a puddle under the car, then it is worth taking note. If the puddle is colorful or foamy, it especially deserves your attention. A foamy puddle might be a signal that water or air has gotten into the power steering line.

If you sense these issues in your own car, take a look at the power steering fluid and lines. You might also want to take a look or have someone look at the struts as they play a part in your steering. The power steering belt is also an important component and, like every belt in your engine, merits some regular attention.

If you sense these troubles in a car you are test driving, that is a big red flag. Ask about maintenance records, past damages, and repair history from either the private seller or used car dealership. It is up to you if steering problems are a deal breaker. If everything else seems to be just perfect, then factor in repair costs as you bargain for the best price. You can either demand repairs before the sale or get estimates on the cost of repairs and subtract that from the asking price.

A great way to avoid steering issues when shopping for used cars is to explore the option of a branded title car, also known as a rebuilt title car. These cars have been declared a loss by the insurance company for one reason or another but can often be restored to like-new condition. A reputable branded title car dealership can tell you the ins and outs of a car’s history and show you exactly how they’ve rebuilt it.

Call our Salt Lake City auto dealership if you live local. If not, we can ship your car right to your door anywhere in the country, just as we have with thousands of meticulously rebuilt title cars. We won’t steer you wrong!


Are you experiencing some problems with your vehicle’s steering system? You should bring it to your trusted mechanic and have it checked. And when purchasing a car, it is crucial to check for steering issues before swiping your card. We have a list of steering problems to look out for and how to spot them.

Five Signs of Steering Problems