All cars have steering wheels with the same mechanism and that is rotation. Rotating a steering wheel will automatically return to the center. But users may see exceptions like wheels not rotating back to the center.
So, this might bug you that why your steering wheel does not return to center after turn?
For starters, alignment complications are the most common when the steering wheel doesn’t center itself. Also, bad tire conditions such as wrong pressure & size may cause this problem. Furthermore, if your hydraulic actuator is faulty, that can be a reason. However, there are viable solutions to this problem.
Eager to learn about the solutions to those issues? I’ve mentioned everything you need to know to fix this puzzling issue.
Let’s start then!
Why Does the Steering Wheel Rotate to the Center?
It’s a universal system regarding steering wheels. Whichever type of steering wheel you rotate, it will always come back to the center. This is an automatic process of the wheel.
Now, let’s acknowledge what causes steering wheel to return to center. Basically, the car wheels are attached to the car by a caster angle. This angle moves to the wheel with respect to the ground.
Whenever you turn the steering wheel, the caster angle provides centripetal force on the wheel. It results in the steering wheel returning to the center. To make it more understandable here’s a video for you-
Now, you may be asking, why won’t my steering wheel return to center?
Let’s see the causes behind it.
3 Reasons Why Steering Wheels Don’t Return to The Center
There can be a handful of reasons behind steering wheels not returning to the center.
I have included some common reasons and their respective solutions below. Check it out here.
Reason 1: Alignment Problems
One of the most common reasons behind steering wheel problems is alignment problems in general. Many things can mess up the alignment of your steering wheel.
It’s caused by hitting something with force in general. You’ll see your steering wheel does not return to center after right turn or left turn. To check the alignment there are spirit level tools.
The tool I use is the Steering Wheel Level Alignment Tool from Kommen Tools. It fits almost every car’s steering and gives you a great read about your steering alignment.
If you don’t like this one you can also get ATD Tools Steering Wheel Level. It also does a marvelous job when it comes to leveling.
If you’ve modified the heights of your vehicles, it needs proper alignment as well. Many drivers like to change the looks of their ride but forget the necessary adjustments.
If you’re worried, don’t worry anymore. I’ve given the solution for misaligned steering wheels below.
The correct method of fixing alignment issues is to get the front end aligned. This alignment process should be done at shops. Years of mechanical experience are needed to pull this job off precisely.
Take your vehicle to the nearest car shop and fix it. Alignment issues are not specifically for steering wheels.
For instance, noisy deceleration, sloppy steering, uneven tire wear, etc needs alignment fixations. All the shops have the facility to align your vehicle!
Fixing the alignment of your vehicle isn’t very expensive. It can cost from 65$ to 100$ depending on the brand.
Since fixing the alignment is not a one-time job, you buy packages as well. Economically, the packages with your preferred garage will save you money!
So, you can get rid of the steering wheel centering issue by aligning your car. Just take your car to your trusted car shop and get it fixed!
Reason 2: Bad Tire Conditions
This is an underrated reason behind the missing steering self centering. Tire condition has many aspects to it. For instance, the pressure inside it, the size of it, etc.
The more pressure you have inside the tire, the better. It helps the car to move easily and to be controlled accurately. If you don’t have enough pressure inside the tires, the control will be messy.
Additionally, the tire size is important. Let’s say you have 3 same-sized tires in the car and 1 different sized tire.
You already know that in this case, the car will be tilted to one side. It happens commonly when you attach a spare tire to a car; which is smaller.
Moreover, if your tire’s metal splinters are out then that’s your cue to abandon those tires.
In a sense, the entire steering wheel returnability depends on the tires. So, bad tire conditions can definitely mess up the returning mechanism.
Let’s see the fixes for bad tire conditions below!
Solving the low tire pressure and mismatching tire sizes is pretty easy. Just follow the step-by-step guide I provided here-
- First, remove the valve stem cap from the tire. There should be a plastic cap on the tire, unscrew it, and set it aside.
- After that, check the pressure of the tire. You can use a tire pressure gauge to check it. Checking the existing pressure will help you calculate the next step.
For your convenience, here are some quality tire pressure gauges-
You will always be able to calculate the accurate pressure by using these gauges.
- Then, check the recommended pressure for your tires. You can find it in the owner’s manual or on the door of your car.
- Finally, by using an air pump, fill air into the tires. Inflating the tires will cause the pressure to rise. Keep checking the pressure of the tire.
When it reaches its recommended pressure, remove the air pump. Don’t forget to screw the valve stem cap in!
For mismatching tire sizes, you should always buy a tire of the same size. Same-sized tires will never create problems for a car.
This goes for the spare tires too! Try to keep the same sized spare tires in the back of your car.
Reason 3: Faulty Hydraulic Actuator
Hydraulic actuator issues are rather rare in cars, but it’s possible. Hydraulic actuators are also known as hydraulic cylinders. These cylinders use fluids to control mechanical energy; which determines the center of the wheel.
You may notice the steering wheel pulling back and forth if the actuator is damaged. Misadjusted actuators can literally turn the steering wheel on their own!
When your steering wheel fights back when turning, just know the actuator adjustment isn’t right.
Similarly, faulty systems inside can create other problems as well. For example, if your car is honking when turning the steering wheel, it’s a connection problem. Electric power steering not centering is another symptom of faulty actuators.
You may feel anxious after knowing the consequences of faulty hydraulic actuators.
Well, fortunately, I’ve got your back. Below, I have provided the fixes for faulty hydraulic actuators.
Since the actuators are essential for the car, they must be fixed well. See the steps to fixing the actuator here-
- First, check the actuator for leaks. When it leaks, it messes up the adjustments. If the actuator is leaking, seal it with a Mirror Shine – Super Gloss Ceramic Wax & Sealant.
- After that, check if the fluid lines are compact or not. Just to be safe, you can replace and reconnect all the fluid lines.
If you see any damage in the actuator, it has to be replaced. It’s better to take your car to the workshop and get it repaired. If it’s not possible to repair it, consider replacing it!
So, these are the reasons and solutions when steering wheels don’t rotate to the center. By executing these fixes, you’ll definitely notice the return of steering wheel to original position.
What causes a steering wheel to lock up?
Dirty fluid and particles can easily cause your steering wheel to lock up! Generally, when steering wheels are locked, it means that there is something blocking the rotation. Grease buildup is the most common scenario in these cases. However, dust particles may hamper the rotating mechanics too.
What is the most common steering problem?
Some common steering problems are; the steering wheel getting locked at times, and not rotating. These problems can be created for a number of reasons. Worn out steering parts, fluid leaks, a loose steering wheel, etc. However, these problems are fixable. Changing a few things will restore the car.
Can you replace the steering wheel?
Yes, you can definitely replace the steering wheel. Replacing steering wheels is a popular aftermarket change that is inexpensive and quick to do! You can find different shapes and sizes of steering wheels. These designs will add to the aesthetic, and better the experience of driving!
Hopefully, now you know why your steering wheel does not return to center after turn. You can also fix the steering wheel!
It’s better not to try any fixes at home. Small changes in the steering wheels can mess up the entire calibration of your car!
Best of luck!