Your car should be steady, especially when it is idling. But sometimes, it can run into a problem that makes the steering wheel vibrate.
This vibration is irritating and scary; hence, its cause needs to be identified and fixed as soon as possible. Many components can make it behave that way.
But since it is still, it is safe to rule out an issue with the wheels or the suspension parts.
It would be best to address the following reasons when you encounter a steering wheel vibration at idle.
8 Causes Of Steering Wheel Vibration At Idle
Faulty Knock Sensor
The knock sensor is responsible for regulating the number of vibrations in the engine.
For instance, when idling, the knock sensor should pick the vibration signals and alert the Electric Control Unit (ECU).
The ECU will, in turn, alter the ignition timing accordingly, resulting in no vibration. Therefore, if the knock sensor malfunctions, it will send the wrong signals to the ECU.
Gladly, you won’t have to spend much time diagnosing the knock sensor since a “tap-tap “sound usually accompanies the vibration.
Also, fixing the problem is not hard in most vehicles since it is a single wire that is easily accessible, and with a ratchet, you can easily replace it.
However, in other cars, the knock sensor is concealed by other components, and it will take you many hours to access it.
Faulty Spark Plug
Unless your car is a plug-in, it has a spark plug whose role is to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber.
If the spark plug goes faulty due to lack of periodic maintenance, it will fail to cause ignition in the chamber.
It is called engine misfire and is responsible for the steering wheel vibration.
If you have driven the car for over 100,000km without replacing the spark plug, the chances are high that it is failing and is responsible for this matter.
Therefore, replacing the faulty spark plug will eliminate the vibration.
However, if the problem persists and is accompanied by a check engine light, you have another issue that needs to be fixed.
A Malfunctioned Variable Valve Timing (VVT)
The variable valve timing performs an almost similar role to that of the knock sensor. It adjusts the timing of the ignition to enable the engine to work smoothly.
So if it encounters a problem, a vibration that seems to be coming from the steering wheel will be felt.
For instance, if the engine oil runs low, the variable valve timing will be interrupted. It will, in turn, make the engine run roughly, hence causing vibration.
Unfortunately, diagnosing and fixing the VVT requires both skill and time. Many things should be examined, such as the engine oil, VVT solenoid, and VVT switch.
Therefore, it is best to let a professional handle it for you.
The Motor Mounts Are Worn
Your car has motor mounts that keep the engine in its place.
If the motor mounts wear out, the engine will move randomly and knock on other components, thus causing vibration in the steering wheel.
It is even worse if the rubber insulators on the mounts malfunction.
As you know, the movement of the engine is dangerous hence you should repair the damaged part in the motor mounts.
It doesn’t usually take a lot of time to access, replace or fix the motor mounts.
However, the engine needs to be supported when doing so. It calls for a mechanic to make the process safe and easy.
The Fuel Injector Is Dirty
The engine needs enough and a regular supply of fuel to run smoothly. But the fuel injector that supplies it might get dirty.
For instance, the fuel injector can accumulate impurities over time, blocking the fuel flow to the combustion chamber.
A low amount of fuel in the combustion chamber will lead to engine misfires that result in steering wheel vibration.
Luckily, there are specialized chemicals that you can use to clean the fuel injector.
All you have to do is gain access to the fuel injector, which might be challenging, especially when you don’t have the tools or the know-how.
So, you might have to take your car to a mechanic. But once it is fixed, it would be best to start using a fuel injector cleaner when refilling the tank.
Bad Timing Belt
The steering wheel vibration at idle can also be due to a bad timing belt.
This belt ensures that the synchronization of the crankshaft and camshaft is timed correctly.
It will ensure that the piston operates optimally by opening and closing the valves correctly. If the timing belt goes wrong, this process will be interrupted.
For instance, if the timing belt gets stretched due to a mechanical issue or old age, the synching of the camshaft and crankshaft won’t happen.
As a result, the pistons will collide with the valves resulting in vibration. Regrettably, replacing a bad timing belt is a complicated procedure.
Therefore, you should consult a mechanic when fixing a steering wheel vibration at idle.
An Issue With The Vacuum Hose
The vacuum hose ensures optimal pressure in the engine, ensuring that air and fluid flow properly. It also enables the spark plugs to work efficiently.
However, it can get disconnected from the engine, thus interrupting the pressure. It will make the engine vibrate heavily.
This vibration will seem to be coming from the steering wheel, even when the car is idle.
The vacuum horse can also develop holes due to old age. It will cause similar problems described above.
So, you will have to examine the vacuum hose thoroughly to find out what is making it malfunction.
A detached vacuum hose can easily be spotted and reconnected, but tiny holes on its surface can be hard to find. But you can spray some water on its surface to aid you.
If there are holes, the water will form bubbles, and you will have to seal them using duct tape.
Malfunctioned Mass Air Flow Sensor
If you still can’t find what is causing steering wheel vibration at idle, perhaps it is time you examine the mass airflow sensor (MAFS).
If the mass airflow sensor gets faulty, it will send the wrong information to the ECU. It will lead to injecting the wrong amount of air into the combustion chamber.
The timing of this injection will also be wrong, making the pistons collide with the valves. As discussed above, these two scenarios will cause engine misfires and vibrations.
The good news is that a faulty MAFS will also make the check engine light come on. So you will have to read the diagnostic codes to confirm it.
Once you conclude that it is faulty, you can repair or replace it depending on the magnitude of the damage.
Steering Wheel Vibration At Idle – Conclusion
A steering wheel vibration at idle is both terrifying and annoying. Therefore, it is vital to know what’s behind it and eliminate it.
This problem is generally caused by issues related to the engine, such as the knock sensor, spark plugs, MAFS, vacuum hose, VVT, motor mounts, etc.
So, by replacing or repairing these parts, you will get rid of such vibration.
Patrick started his love affair with cars in his childhood. Over the years, he claims a sturdy hold on his driving skills, along with a thorough understanding of cars. We can expect some interesting, holistic, and pleasurable blogs with his flair for writing and his love for cars.
Being a car enthusiast, Patrick has experience comprising of two decades in which he has ridden some of the meanest and strongest machines in the automotive industry. His previous avatars include an automotive professional, photographer, and journalist, and you will certainly experience the roundness of experience in his piece on this site.
In his second decade of reviewing cars and analyzing tools, Patrick is all set to give you convincing, reliable, and the latest information regarding what’s happening in the automotive industry. Currently, he owns a BMW Z3 but cannot get his eyes off Aston Martin DB5. He is a car enthusiast; he loves cooking and listening to music, especially jazz. Here are some of the pieces written by our ace author.