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Steering wheel that jerks right and left

If you notice that the steering wheel jerks from one side to the other, an inspection is in order. Here are some potential causes for this jerk to search for and address.

Road conditions

Observe the condition of the road you are traveling on and see if it has a grooved sidewalk, which may cause the vehicle’s tires to follow the grouting. If these tracks are slightly crooked, your vehicle will try to steer with the track direction. Tracked roads guide your steering to follow the tracks – this effect is most prominent in paved paved roads with heavy truck traffic. If rutted or paved roads are not the problem, proceed to check the vehicle.

Inspect the control components

Stop your rear wheels to prevent rolling, then jack up the front of your vehicle and support it with jacks. Have a helper either observe what happens when you shake the wheels and steering components or shake as you observe. With the front wheels free from ground contact, shake them from side to side and up and down. Note which components, if any, have slack and how much. If this test shows slack in both up and down and from side to side movements, your wheel bearings are loose or worn. If only slack from side to side is obvious, the most likely problem will be wear bar ends or problems with the guide arms.

Rotate the tires and wheel assembly and check for curved / sloping wheels, round tires or bulges in the tire, which indicates that the belt has slipped or is about to blow out. The control equipment may have too much play from being too much. Check the steering wheel back and forth before your tires and wheels start moving. Any movement greater than 2 ”at the outer edge of the steering wheel indicates excessive wear in the steering gearbox. Check the flexible joint in the steering axle between the steering wheel and the gearbox. Any slack or wear in this component indicates a need to replace it.

Measure toe in and toe from front wheels

finger pointing at worn tire toe

Toe out can cause steering hiking and cause a vehicle to slip from side to side. Too much toe in and the vehicle is difficult to steer and will have a tendency to point from side to side. Each vehicle has a specified distance for the correct toe.

The wheels must fade in, because when the vehicle reaches the motorway speed, the forces on the tires tend to fade out of the wheels. It needs enough toe in when it is stopped to compensate for the toe out that occurs at highway speeds for the wheels to run straight.

Check suspension components

workers inspecting car suspension

Check all rubber bushings in the suspension (A-frame and / or spring bushings). As they age, the rubber deteriorates and sometimes falls out of the metal casing, which means that the suspension components cannot be adjusted.

Repair and replace

Take notes on what is too much off or wear and repair and replace as needed. Usually when a control component is worn, it is likely that the other control parts are also worn. Tires with bulges (sliding belts) or knots must be replaced along all curved wheels. Hard impacts with curbs and hits for many pits can damage tires, steering and suspension components.


Adjusting the wheels is important and crucial for good steering.

Camber refers to the wheel’s in / out inclination in a vertical plane. Caster refers to the front / rear inclination of the wheel in a horizontal plane. Toe in / toe out refers to the relationship between the straight line track and each other between the wheels on the same axle. If any of these adjustments do not meet the specifications due to worn parts, bent components or loose or missing fasteners, the vehicle needs a wheel alignment. This includes all wheels because misalignment of the front and rear wheel ratio will make the vehicle “dog tracks” or go along the road slightly sideways. This makes it difficult to control the forward movement of the vehicle, especially in wet or icy conditions.

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