Why Has My Steering Wheel Become Hard?

Your vehicle may be having several extra features that were put in place so as to add comfort and enjoyment to one’s driving.

Among these is the smooth and easy turning of the steering wheel. You should see how some drivers really enjoy driving their vehicles as they smoothly turn the steering wheel while manoeuvring on the road.

But sometimes this comfort and smooth run is brought to an unexpected end when the steering wheel suddenly becomes very hard and the manoeuvring response of the vehicle becomes sluggish. So, why would a vehicle that was steering ever so smoothly before suddenly become so hard to handle?

The abrupt hardening of the steering wheel is not uncommon in vehicles and could happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time. But we must ask ourselves what could be the causes of such a condition.

Some of the main causes of steering wheel hardening are:

A broken fan belt. A fan belt, like the name suggests, besides running the fan that cools the radiator in older model vehicles, also runs the steering wheel pump. This is a component that pumps the hydraulic fluid which enables the easy and softer steering of the wheel. When this pump malfunctions, little or no hydraulic fluid circulates in the steering system, rendering the steering very hard and giving the vehicle a dangerously slow response to steering.

Bent or broken pulley. A pulley is a metallic wheel-like component attached to the hydraulic pump. This is where the fan belt sits and the pump is driven when the belt runs and rotates the pulley, thereby pumping hydraulic fluid to the steering system and softening it.

A leaking hydraulic pump. This will definitely make the hydraulic fluid levels drop. And when all or most of the fluid has leaked out, it will lead to the inner parts of the steering system ‘eating themselves up’ as the vehicle runs. This will cause it to break down, leading to steering hardness.

Leakages through the steering pump cover, rubber seals or hydraulic pipes. This will make the steeringhydraulic pump lose hydraulic fluid, creating difficulties for the steering pump as it tries to pump the fluid.

Poor (non- recommended, very light or very heavy) fluids. Heavy and expired oils could also make the steering wheel to harden. This is also true in the case of the non-recommended type for a particular vehicle. The very light oils evaporate faster while the very heavy oils make it difficult for the pump to successfully do its job, creating a hard steering.

Blocked hydraulic pipes. Hydraulic pipes are the conduits through which the hydraulic fluid is circulated throughout the steering system. If these are blocked for any reason, it will lead to the hardening of the steering.

Leaking seals of a broken steering rack will reduceempty hydraulic fluid from the steering pump, hence the hardening of the steering system.

In a nutshell, the hardening of the steering wheel is largely due to the lack of hydraulic fluids in the steering system, caused by a broken hydraulic pump, fan belts or leakages at different points in the system.

Source : The Observer

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