Why Steering Wheel Does Not Return To Center After Turn? (2023)

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.

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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!


  • 1 Why Does the Steering Wheel Rotate to the Center?
  • 2 3 Reasons Why Steering Wheels Don’t Return to The Center
    • 2.1 Reason 1: Alignment Problems
      • 2.1.1 Solution
    • 2.2 Reason 2: Bad Tire Conditions
      • 2.2.1 Solution
    • 2.3 Reason 3: Faulty Hydraulic Actuator
      • 2.3.1 Solution
  • 3 FAQs
    • 3.1 What causes a steering wheel to lock up?
    • 3.2 What is the most common steering problem?
    • 3.3 Can you replace the steering wheel?
  • 4 Wrapping up

Why Does the Steering Wheel Rotate to the Center?

It’s a universal system regarding steering wheels. Whichever type of steering wheel you rotate will always return to the center. This is an automatic process of the wheel.

Now, let’s acknowledge what causes the steering wheel to return to the center. 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 or left turns. 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.

Why Steering Wheel Does Not Return To Center After Turn? (1)

Source: Amazon.com

You can also get ATD Tools Steering Wheel Level if you don’t like this one. 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 way to fix alignment issues is to align the front end. 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 also buy packages. 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.

Why Steering Wheel Does Not Return To Center After Turn? (2)

Source: DrivingPress

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.

My tire is has little metal splinters where the tread was, is that bad? That is a dangerous condition for your tires as it means the tread is gone and your tire is running on its inside. A blowout is imminent if this is not addressed. Call 512-766-6230 for help! pic.twitter.com/cRf4juQWd1

— WilcoTX Tread Connection (@WilcotxC) October 5, 2020

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-

AstroAI Digital Tire Pressure GaugeBuy Now!
AstroAI Digital Tire Inflator with Pressure GaugeBuy Now!
FOVAL Digital Tire Pressure GaugeBuy Now!
TIRETEK Tire Pressure GaugeBuy Now!

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-

  • 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!

Wrapping up

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!

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Robert Lozano

I'm Robert Lozano— A great passion for engineering has fueled my desire to share my skills and educate others on challenging engineering terms and topics. Thanks to our readers, I am currently receiving a lot of nice feedback. While writing an article, I am always learning and assessing myself. Share articles with your friends and join us if you liked the material on this site.
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Why Steering Wheel Does Not Return To Center After Turn? ›

Sticking or binding components, such as a king pin, ball joint, bell crank or even the steering column can prevent the steering wheel from returning to center after a turn. Alignment can also be a factor; improper caster

The caster angle or castor angle is the angular displacement of the steering axis from the vertical axis of a steered wheel in a car, motorcycle, bicycle, other vehicle or a vessel, as seen from the side of the vehicle.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Caster_angle
, and to some degree, improper toe-in, can be contributing factors.

What are the factors affecting steering returnability? ›

Return-ability depends on kingpin moment which is related to kinematics caused by geometry of suspension and steering system and bush compliance effects. In addition to the kingpin moment, tire characteristics, friction and steering torque hysteresis are also significant return-ability factors.

What is poor steering return? ›

Slow Steering Wheel Returnability

Typically, your steering wheel will return to the centre once you've let go of it after turning. If it takes some time to re-centre itself or you have to manually turn it back to centre, then your steering wheel is experiencing what is called poor returnability.

Why is my steering wheel not returning to center smoothly? ›

Sticking or binding components, such as a king pin, ball joint, bell crank or even the steering column can prevent the steering wheel from returning to center after a turn. Alignment can also be a factor; improper caster, and to some degree, improper toe-in, can be contributing factors.

What causes steering wheel to not be centered? ›

We here at Oxford Automotive can answer that question quickly and easily: Your steering wheel is off-center when you're driving straight because your wheels aren't aligned correctly. This is one sign of a bad wheel alignment, and you might notice the steering wheel is crooked right after you've had the wheels aligned.

What affects steering response? ›

The steering maneuverability is most affected by the tread type that the tyre has. If the tread is sophisticated in its make, ensuring that the best of its features are achieved, then the steering is also top grade. If the tread type is meant for lower steering response, then the control suffers as a result.

What is the most common steering problem? ›

1. Low Power Steering Fluid. Low power steering fluid is one of the most common issues that you'll have as a driver. Your car will need its power steering fluid topped-up every once in a while, to ensure that the hydraulic power steering system continues to function smoothly.

How do you know if your steering column is messed up? ›

What Are The Symptoms Of A Faulty Electric Steering Column?
  • Steering light illuminates on the dashboard.
  • Intermittent loss of power steering.
  • Heavy steering one way (or sometimes both ways)
  • Failing to start.
  • Torque sensor fault.
  • Steering angle sensor fault.
  • Steering wheel vibrates when you turn the wheel.
May 3, 2019

What are the symptoms of a bad steering linkage? ›

When your tie rods go bad, the symptom you're most likely to experience first is a vibration or shaking sensation in your steering wheel. You may also hear associated clunking and rattling noises, especially when turning the vehicle at low speeds. These sounds are caused by tie rods that are starting to wear out.

Which angle has the greatest affect on steering wheel return? ›

The caster angle is a major contributor to directional control. A too-small (not positive enough) caster angle may make the vehicle too twitchy (but would require less driver input to turn the wheel), especially as speed increases.

What does a bad rack and pinion feel like? ›

A steering wheel that is hard to turn, or very tight could be a sign that you're having problems with your rack and pinion. If your gearbox builds up heat, or loses hydraulic pressure from lack of steering fluid, this can be another indicator.

How much does it cost to realign steering wheel? ›

The national average for a complete wheel alignment service is between $50 to $168. Although, cost can vary depending on the service provider and the type of alignment. Wheel alignment should be performed once a year, but it may be required more frequently, depending on your driving style and where you drive.

How do you know if you need an alignment? ›

Here are some common signs that you are dealing with poor alignment: Your vehicle pulls to one side. Uneven or rapid tire wear. Your steering wheel is crooked when driving straight.

Does wheel alignment fix steering wheel? ›

A wheel alignment may restore the steering wheel to a centered position if there aren't other undiagnosed problems. When alignment angles are out of the vehicle's original specifications, steering can feel slightly loose. This condition can be corrected by a wheel alignment.

Why do I have to turn my steering wheel so much to turn? ›

The most common cause of a stiff steering wheel is when you are running low on power steering fluid in your system. Often, this happens when there is a leak in the system from the pressurized hose area. Most of the time, it is due to a cracked or loose hose causing the fluid to leak out.

What are 4 indicators that you should have your steering system checked? ›

4 Common Indicators of Power Steering Problems
  • Squealing Upon Ignition. First, when turning your key, you may hear a squealing sound. ...
  • Steering Wheel Vibration. ...
  • Difficulty Steering Normally. ...
  • Power Steering Fluid is Leaking.
Mar 20, 2020

What signs can indicate damage to steering components? ›

The 5 warning signs of steering problems
  • Difficulty steering the wheel. You will know how much resistance your steering wheel will normally take when turning it. ...
  • Steering wheel vibrations. ...
  • Slipping steering wheel. ...
  • Grinding or screeching noise when steering. ...
  • Discoloured liquid coming from the car.
May 14, 2021

Do tie rods affect steering? ›

Because the tie rods link the steering wheel to the front wheels, steering problems can be a symptom of a loose or damaged tie rod. Common signs include a steering wheel that shakes or vibrates and looseness or excessive play in the steering wheel. The vibration typically becomes worse as you accelerate or turn.

How do you troubleshoot a steering problem? ›

How to Diagnose Power Steering Problems
  1. Check the power steering fluid level. If there's not enough fluid, it'll be hard to make turns. ...
  2. Inspect the hoses and lines around the power steering pump for possible leaks.
  3. Lift the front end of the car with a jack. ...
  4. Check for loose belts.
Feb 10, 2021

How do I know if my rack and pinion bushings are bad? ›

Symptoms of Bad or Failing Steering Rack Bushings
  1. Clunking or jerking while turning.
  2. Clunking when going over bumps.
  3. Shaking steering wheel.
  4. Excessive free play in steering.
  5. Inconsistent steering resistance.
  6. Improper alignment, car can't stay straight.
  7. Leaking power steering fluid.
Jan 17, 2022

How do you know if a steering column bearing is bad? ›

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Steering Column
  1. Steering tilt function does not lock.
  2. Clicking or grinding sounds while turning the steering wheel.
  3. Steering wheel operating roughly.
  4. Steering wheel doesn't return to middle.
Jan 12, 2016

How much does it cost to fix a steering column? ›

The average cost for a Steering Column Adjust Motor Replacement is between $576 and $615. Labor costs are estimated between $148 and $187 while parts are priced between $428 and $428.

What are the signs of a bad pitman arm? ›

The most common vehicle symptoms associated with a worn pitman arm include play in the steering wheel, wandering, tire edge wear, and loose or erratic steering. Idler arm inspection techniques and specifications vary; have your vehicle inspected by a qualified service professional.

Which alignment angle causes the steering wheel to return to center when let go? ›

In practice, the steering axis inclines from the vertical or normal angle. This inclined angle is what we call the caster angle, which is primarily the reason steering wheel returns to the centre.

Which angle provides stability on turns and returns the steering wheel to the center? ›

Positive caster angle

The purpose of this is to provide a degree of self-centering for the steering—the wheel casters around in order to trail behind the axis of steering. This makes a vehicle easier to control and improves its directional stability (reducing its tendency to wander).

What alignment angle affects steering? ›

Your caster angle helps balance steering, stability, and cornering. Specifically, it's the angle of your steering axis when viewed from the side of your vehicle. If you have positive caster, the steering axis will tilt toward the driver.

What sound does a rack and pinion make when going bad? ›

A clunking or knocking sound is another sign of a steering rack problem. The clunking noise will sound like someone knocking on your door but from below your car – “kok!”.

How many miles should a rack and pinion last? ›

Eventually, a rack and pinion system will fail from everyday use, but these components are engineered for long-term operation. It will be unusual to have to replace the steering rack before 100,000 miles.

What happens if your rack and pinion goes out in your car? ›

The steering system utilized in many modern cars is a rack and pinion steering system. The steering rack is essentially the heart of the steering system. When it wears out or breaks entirely the ability to steer your vehicle is compromised. If this happens while you are driving, it can be extremely dangerous.

What are the symptoms of a bad upper ball joint? ›

4 Signs Your Vehicle Needs The Ball Joints Replaced
  1. Clunking, Rattling Noise.
  2. Loose, Wandering Steering Feel. ...
  3. Harsh Cabin Vibrations. ...
  4. Uneven Wear On Front Tires. A loose ball joint in the front suspension will introduce some "play" that allows one of the front wheels to come out of alignment with the other. ...
May 5, 2021

What connects the steering wheel to the center link? ›

Pitman Arm: The Pitman arm connects the steering box, attached to the bottom of the steering shaft, and the center/drag link. The Pitman arm converts the radial motion of the steering column or shaft into the linear motion that turns the automobile's wheels.

Does steering center link wear out? ›

Over time, the ball joints and center link can wear out or become damaged. Once the center link is not working properly, you will notice the vehicle starting to vibrate and wobble as you are driving down the road. It will make your car more difficult to handle and will also be a driving hazard.

What is the most likely cause of bump steer? ›

The main factors that contribute to bump steer are your upper and lower control arm, ball joint, and pivot points, and where they are in relationship to where your steering rack is mounted – as well as rack length and tie rod length.

What is steering wandering? ›

Problem: Steering Wander

Wander is a vehicle's tendency to to drift from one side of the road to the other. Possible Cause #1: Mismatched tires or uneven tire pressure. Possible Cause #2: Linkage binding or insufficiently lubricated. Possible Cause #3: Steering gear binding or insufficiently lubricated.

How much does it cost to fix a steering rack? ›

While a rack and pinion assembly can be fixed, it's usually easier and less expensive to just swap out the part. In addition, steering repairs are best left to a professional mechanic. According to RepairPal, it typically costs $1,440 to $1,734 to replace a steering rack.

What is the average life of a steering rack? ›

The typical lifespan of a steering rack is around 80,000 miles. However, this can vary depending on a few factors such as the type of vehicle and how it is driven.


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