Steering problems in vehicles can be very dangerous for drivers, passengers, and others on the road. Operating the steering wheel is supposed to be straightforward for drivers but the steering system can be much more complicated. When the driver loses control of steering the vehicle, this can lead to dangerous accidents, resulting in property damage, serious injuries, and even death.
Steering Systems in Motor Vehicles
The steering system transfers the rotation of the steering wheel to the steering shaft on the vehicle, to move the wheels left or right. In most vehicles, this is done through the rack and pinion steering system. Power steering or power-assisted steering provides extra energy to help turn the wheels so just about anyone can turn the wheel with ease. Power steering is generally provided by electrical or hydraulic power.
Common Steering Problems
Steering problems can get worse over time or suddenly appear. Steering problems are dangerous because they make it more difficult for the driver to safely operate the vehicle. Common steering problems can include:
- Difficulty in turning the wheel, especially at rest or lower speeds. This may be caused by a problem with power steering, low power steering fluid, a fluid leak, or worn parts.
- Lack of response from the steering wheel or looseness. This can be caused by worn parts in the steering system.
- Steering wheel vibration or shaking. Vibrations and shaking can get worse over time, when turning, or at high speed. In some vehicles, extreme shaking can be called a speed wobble or “death wobble.” Extreme shaking can make it difficult to control the vehicle and increase the risk of an accident, especially at high speed.
- Drifting or tracking problems. When a vehicle tends to steer to the left or right, does not maintain a straight course, or is stiff in returning to the center, this could make it more difficult for the driver to maintain control, increasing the likelihood of getting into an accident.
- Grinding noises. This can be a steering gear issue or related to worn or damaged parts.
The causes of these steering system safety issues can be related to a variety of defective parts, design defects, manufacturing defects, improper repair, or lack of maintenance. Causes of steering problems can include:
- Defective wheel assembly
- Worn steering or suspension components
- Fluid leaks
- Electrical shorts or malfunctions
- Damages rims
- Damaged tires
- Suspension problems
- Out of calibration steering system
- Low power steering fluid
- Poor alignment
- Broken or defective stabilizers
- Defective suspension bushings
- Defective or damaged control arms
- Tie rod damage
Accidents Involving Steering Problems
The primary sources of control over the vehicle involve steering, acceleration, and braking. When any one of these components is damaged, it can compromise the driver's ability to safely navigate on the road. Losing power steering, lack of response, or unanticipated shaking can make it difficult for even experienced drivers to anticipate how the vehicle will react to steering wheel adjustments.
At higher speeds, steering problems may have a greater impact. When traveling at a high rate of speed, even a small change in steering can make a big difference in controlling the vehicle. Steering problems at high speed also make it more difficult for drivers to drive defensively and avoid an accident ahead.
Turning corners can also be a dangerous place when a vehicle has a steering safety defect. If the vehicle does not turn far enough, the driver could end up in the lane of oncoming traffic or go off the road. Head-on-collisions and accidents off the road can be some of the most dangerous. Head-on-collisions increase the effective speed of the accident and going off the road can lead to rollover accidents.
Examples of Vehicle Steering Problems and Recalls
Over the years, many makes and models of vehicles have been subject to steering problem complaints, NHTSA investigations, and manufacturer recalls. Recent steering system investigations and recalls have included:
An example of a recall warning by the NHTSA includes the 2018 Jeep Wrangler, NHTSA Campaign Number 18V343000. According to the NHTSA, the safety issue involved an intermediate steering shaft that may split. “If the weld seam splits, the steering wheel may lose center positioning causing a loss of steering responsiveness and increasing the risk of a crash.”
California Lemon Lawyer Helping Owners With Steering Defects
California's Lemon Law provides protection for vehicle owners with steering safety problems. Contact The Lemon Lawyer today to help you understand your consumer rights and whether you can take advantage of California's laws to return your faulty vehicle, get a refund, get free repairs or replacement, or have other compensation for your defective vehicle.