Steering Wheel Malfunction: Problems; Diagnose (Fixed)

Steering Wheel Malfunction

Nobody ever wants to deal with malfunction errors appearing on their vehicle’s dashboard. Most of the time, it means that you are going to be dealing with an expensive repair job.

The worst error to receive, though? A steering wheel malfunction error. If you have a steering wheel malfunction error, then it may make you terrified to drive your vehicle.

So, let’s teach you how to deal with the problem, shall we?

What Is a Steering Wheel Malfunction Error?

A steering wheel malfunction occurs when there is a problem with your steering wheel. This could be a problem with:

  • Leakage of power steering fluid
  • Intermittent power issues
  • Jammed steering wheel
  • Failure of a drive belt
  • Blown fuses (rare). 

Thankfully, most steering wheel malfunction errors are not that serious. Well, if you catch them early on, at least.

Most vehicle computers have been programmed to spot issues long before they pose an issue for the driver.

So, if you have a steering wheel malfunction error, the quicker you get the problem dealt with, the easier (and cheaper) the repair will be.

Can You Drive With a Steering Wheel Malfunction Error?

With most vehicle malfunction errors, you will probably be able to get away with driving the vehicle without any major issues.

Obviously, you will need to fix the problem as soon as you can, but your vehicle should be perfectly safe to drive. This isn’t so much the case with a steering wheel malfunction error.

Most of the time, a steering wheel malfunction error is not going to be a huge issue. It is your vehicle informing you that there is a problem long before there actually is a huge problem.

Although, since you need that steering wheel to function properly if you are driving on the roads, then you should probably get the problem looked at immediately.

You can either diagnose the problem yourself, or you can head to a dealership that deals with your vehicle to have the problem diagnosed.

Remember, the sooner you get the problem looked at, the less damage will be caused to your vehicle. Small problems have a tendency to become big problems when they are ignored. 

Read also >> Windshield Wiper Malfunction (Here Is How To Fix)

Read also >> Drive-Start Control Malfunction (Step by Step Guide!)

How Do You Turn Off a Steering Wheel Malfunction Error?

The only way to completely turn off a steering wheel malfunction error is to fix the problem. There are some guides that will tell you to disconnect the battery for 15-30 minutes and then reconnect it.

It is true that this probably will clear the error, but it will only clear it temporarily. It is not a long-term solution. You aren’t actually fixing the problem, just getting rid of that annoying message for a day or so.

Do bear in mind that there are some steering wheel malfunction errors that will come and go. There are a variety of reasons why you may have intermittent steering wheel malfunction errors.

In most cases, it will be an issue with your vehicle’s computer and you probably won’t have to worry about it too much.

You should only be concerned if the errors keep returning. 

How To Fix a Steering Wheel Malfunction Error

There are two issues with seeing a steering wheel malfunction error:

  • There are a lot of things that can cause an error to appear.
  • Fixing the problem will be dependent on the type of vehicle that you own.

We are going to give you a few brief ideas on how you can fix a steering wheel malfunction error yourself. These methods are vehicle agnostic i.e. they will work no matter what type of vehicle you own.

However, if you are still struggling after this guide, or you aren’t quite sure what is causing the steering wheel malfunction error, then we suggest you head to a mechanic to fix the problem.

You really don’t want to be playing about with such a critical system in your vehicle. 

Diagnosing The Problem 

If you are seriously into ensuring that your vehicle is maintained properly, then we suggest that you invest in an OBD-2 scanner.

This cool gadget is what the garages will be using to diagnose your problem. It plugs directly into your vehicle’s computer system (see your vehicle’s manual to check how to do this), and it will allow you to see the exact problem.

Each time your vehicle has an issue with the steering or anything for that matter, it will log an error code.

These error codes can be read by the OBD-2 scanner, allowing you to know how to tackle the problem. These scan tools should only set you back about $50, so they aren’t too expensive. 

You can also head to a garage and they will do the same job. However, that’s going to be way more expensive than the OBD-2 scanner!

Steering Fluid Issues

If your vehicle has power steering, then one of the first things that you should check is the level of power steering fluid in your vehicle.

The power steering fluid tank should be under the hood. You will check this in the same way that you would check your vehicle’s oil i.e. there is a dipstick, and you want the power steering fluid to be between the min and max lines.

You don’t need to drain the old power steering fluid. You can just top up the levels.

If you seem to have constant issues with the power steering fluid leaking, then we suggest that you check for any leaks. You may notice the fluid drips beneath your vehicle. It is red in color. If you see a leak, then you can patch it up by replacing the component. You can order the right components online.

Battery Issues

If the power steering fluid levels are fine, then you can move on to battery issues. While it is rare, we have known people to have a steering wheel malfunction error in the following cases:

  • When their vehicle’s battery is old. This means more than 4-5 years old.
  • If the vehicle’s battery has low power.

If the battery is old, then replace it. Should cost $100-$200 and you can fit the new battery yourself. If the battery needs charging, just plug it into a car battery charger overnight. 

Remember, even if the issue isn’t with the battery, the problem may clear up temporarily. This is because disconnecting the battery may reset the vehicle’s computer! So, don’t get excited if the error disappears.

It will appear again if the battery wasn’t the problem. 

Broken or Worn Drive Belt

We are back to the issues strictly limited to power steering users here. The power steering system requires a drive belt.

When the power steering is active, the drive belt will run a pump, letting the hydraulic fluid flow through the system.

If this drive belt breaks or slips out of place, then the power steering system won’t work properly and you may have a steering wheel malfunction.

The power steering drive belt should be located close to the engine. Your vehicle’s manual will tell you where it is. Once you have located the drive belt, give it a quick visual inspection. If it is broken or worn, then replace it.

A replacement belt shouldn’t be too expensive. You can do this job yourself, even if you have no mechanical knowledge. Just lift the old belt out and put the new one in there.

Stiff Electric Steering

If you have stiff electric steering, then this is likely a problem that you can’t fix yourself. You can check the following:

  • Fuses
  • Wiring

But most stiff electric steering issues are down to faulty components in the system, and they can’t really be ‘repaired’, they can just be replaced. Using an OBD-2 scanner will tell you the exact component that has the issue.

Most of them just unclip from the system. However, since the whole thing is so delicate, we would probably leave in the hands of a professional. 

You can check the fuses and wiring, though. If any fuses have blown, then replace them. If the wiring seems to be damaged, then replace that. 

Stiff Electric Steering In One Direction

If you have stiff electric steering in one direction, then your system needs to be calibrated. Whether you can do this yourself will depend on the vehicle that you own so, as always, consult your vehicle’s manual.

In some cases, you will probably need to head to a dealership to have the vehicle recalibrated.

If you can recalibrate the steering yourself, then this is how you do it.

  1. Switch the vehicle on
  2. Move the wheels so they are pointing straight ahead. You want all of the wheels to be parallel to one another.
  3. Open up the option in your vehicle’s dashboard to recalibrate the wheels.
  4. Follow the options on the screen.

Basically, you are ‘zeroing’ your wheels. 

Vehicle’s Steering Wheel Pulling In One Direction 

If your vehicle’s steering wheel is constantly pulling in one direction, then there may be one of two issues here:

  • You have low tire pressure
  • The tires have worn down

If tire pressure is your issue, then you need to pump them up. Most gas stations will have air pumps that you can use. Consult your vehicle’s manual to know the pressure that each tire should be.

Tires should be replaced every few years, more if you are spending a lot of time driving on harsh surfaces. Swapping the tires out should fix that problem.

Of course, if the pressure is fine, and the tires don’t seem worn, then there may be an issue with the steering column. This can only be fixed by a professional. 

Other Issues

Other issues could mean damaged steering columns, broken sensors, etc. Without mechanical knowledge, it can be tough to replace these systems, so we can’t give you the step-by-step here.

The process is far too complicated. As you probably know by now, this is something that you really don’t want to get wrong!

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why a steering wheel malfunction error may appear in your vehicle.

It may be because the system’s power steering fluid is empty, it could be electrical issues, or it may be wheel calibration issues.

Many issues can be fixed from home (after using an OBD-2 scanner). However, more technical issues e.g. computer, steering column, may be best left in the hands of an experienced mechanic. 


Steve P.

Steve is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Riviera. Steve is based in Boise, Idaho.

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