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The Ultimate Guide To Steering Column Repair: Function, Symptoms & Method

August 9, 2022
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Feel like you need to put extra effort into turning your steering wheel or hear strange noises from the steering system? 

You probably have a faulty steering column.
The steering column plays an essential role in helping you control your vehicle’s movements. So any damage or malfunction to it is a serious issue.

How do you spot a faulty steering column?
What’s the best approach for a steering column repair?

In this article, we’ll go over all you need to know about steering column repair, including what it is and how it works, symptoms of steering column failure, how it’s replaced, and related costs.

This Article Contains: 

Let’s dive in.

What Is A Steering Column?

The steering assembly consists of a steering column (a shaft on the steering gear). It connects the steering wheel to the rest of the steering system. 

The bottom part of a steering column has a universal joint (intermediate shaft) that helps it turn along with the steering wheel, while the upper part connects it to the underside of the dash. 

The steering column housing consists of several vehicle features, including:

Most modern cars have an airbag and collapsible steering column as a safety measure. These steering columns collapse during front-end collisions to prevent severe injuries. However, once a steering column collapses, you should replace it.

Let’s see how a repair is performed.

How Is A Steering Column Repair Done?

Steering column replacement is generally time-consuming and needs specific technical expertise. So it’s best to call a car repair shop to have a certified steering repair specialist work on it.

That said, here’s a general guideline for replacing the steering column:

  1. Start by disconnecting the battery and wait at least 20 minutes for the airbag to disconnect. If your radio has a theft-lock system, unlock it first to prevent damage. 
  1. Lift the plastic trim and unscrew the hush panels from the steering shaft.
  1. Unclip the knee bolster from the steering column, and unbolt the steel backing from the bolster
  1. Ensure the wheels point straight and loop the seat belt through the steering wheel. If your ignition switch locks the steering column, leave the ignition unlocked.
  1. Remove the pinch bolt (which holds the steering column to the gear) from the steering coupler. Depending on where it’s located, you may have to drop your engine cradle by a few inches or pull back the rubber boot. When you do, mark the wheel position to return to the original column position (before the pinch bolt removal).
  1. Once you disconnect the steering column’s wires and connectors, remove the old or original column carefully. 
  1. Next, line up the new steering column inside the coupler and fasten it to the dash.
  1. After reinstalling the pinch bolt and the boot over the coupler, reconnect all wires and connectors. 
  1. Reinstall the steel backing, knee bolster, and hush panels.
  1. Finally, reconnect the battery and test drive your car to ensure the steering works properly.  

A steering column replacement can be pretty complicated. So, let’s see how much repairs could set you back.

How Much Does A Steering Column Repair Cost?

The replacement and repair costs usually depend on your locality’s labor charges and spare parts. Spare parts pricing depends on your vehicle type as cars and heavy vehicles like a truck have a different steering system. 

Typically, a steering column replacement costs nearly $400-$900

You can expect to pay around $100-$300 for spare parts and the rest as labor charges. The labor costs are usually high as a steering column replacement requires expert knowledge and technical skills. 

Any steering problem is pretty serious.
Should you get a repair ASAP?

How Urgent Is A Steering Column Repair?

It’s best to repair or replace your faulty steering column with a new steering column immediately at the earliest sign of malfunction. 

Not only does the steering column help you maneuver your car with the steering wheel, but it’s also connected to vital components like the ignition switch and turn signal. These parts help you be in control of your vehicle. 

If you’re wondering why this repair is so urgent, then you should learn a little more about what the steering column does and how it works.

How Does A Steering Column Work?

Most modern vehicles use the power steering assisted rack and pinion system. The rack and pinion system converts the circular motion of the steering wheel into a linear motion that turns the wheels’ direction.

Here, the steering wheel is attached to a shaft, while the shaft’s end is attached to a pinion (gear wheel). The pinion is placed on the steering rack connected to the wheels via the tie rod. The tie rod then links to the steering arm connected to your vehicle wheels.

When you rotate your steering wheel: 

Considering how much the steering column works, is it durable?

How Long Does A Steering Column Last?

Although steering columns are one of the most used car components, it doesn’t suffer the same wear and tear as other car parts. 

Ideally, the steering column should last as long as your vehicle. However, unprecedented events like accidents or malfunctions like a bad steering shaft may cause steering column issues. 

Road conditions may also affect your steering column’s durability. For example, driving on rough, curvy roads may damage your steering column due to heavy turning.

So, let’s find out how to tell there’s a problem.

What Symptoms Indicate A Steering Column Failure?

If your steering column develops problems, it may be difficult for you to control your car’s movements. Since most of the steering column assembly is hidden, the only way to detect issues may be through symptoms of a problematic steering wheel.

Here are a few faulty steering column signs to look out for:

1. Rough Steering Wheel

Steering wheels are designed to turn and operate smoothly. So the most common symptom of a faulty steering column is difficulty turning the steering wheel. 

Drivers may also hear a ‘pop’ sound when turning, especially at low speeds. This can be caused by dirt or debris inside the steering column housing. As the steering column housing has many vital components, even tiny debris can cause a steering failure. 

Low tire pressure may also be the culprit for steering failure. Or, if you have a power steering system, you may need an alternator repair as a bad alternator causes the steering to go out.

A certified steering repair mechanic or a car repair shop will do a proper inspection and resolve the issue correctly.

2. Faulty Tilt Steering Mechanism

The tilt steering system lets the driver control the direction of the steering wheel. Although it’ll move freely, a properly functioning steering wheel should ideally lock into a position of your choice.

If the steering wheel doesn’t lock in place, it indicates a faulty tilt steering mechanism. 

Call a mechanic or repair shop as soon as you spot the issue, as driving with this malfunction is dangerous. 

3. Steering Wheel Not Centered

In a power steering system, the steering wheel must return to the center anytime you let go of the wheel or finish making a turn for a safe driving experience. 

If the wheel doesn’t return to the center, your power steering system may face steering wheel blockage or have broken gear inside the unit. A faulty lock plate could also cause this issue.

4. Strange Noises From Needle Bearing Corrosion

A rusted needle bearing causes strange noises. 

The needle bearing doesn’t usually need regular greasing (to prevent corrosion and rust) as they’re completely sealed inside the steering column. However, oil or grease may dry up over time. This lets moisture get into the needle bearing easily — causing rusting and corrosion. 

Rusted needle bearings can damage the steering column if ignored for long, so contact a mechanic or a repair shop for a thorough inspection. 

Closing Thoughts

It’s not easy to drive around with a damaged driveshaft. Unfortunately, it could be difficult to spot and even more complex to fix a faulty steering column. 

That’s why you need the help of an expert auto repair service like RepairSmith

We’re a mobile car repair and maintenance solution, available 24/7. Our services come with upfront pricing, convenient online booking, and a 12-Month, 12,000-Mile warranty on all your repairs.

So contact RepairSmith the next time you suspect a faulty steering column, and our ASE-certified mechanics will drop by to deliver top-notch car repair services!