What causes my steering wheel to shake?

Question:

Does a shaking steering wheel mean that my tires are out of balance?

Answer:

Other issues can cause a steering wheel to shake – such as bent rims, warped rotors, or even a defective tire. But when somebody brings us a car with a steering wheel that shakes at normal cruising speeds, we first check the balance on the tires. Hopefully, you won’t wait until you get a shaking steering wheel before you get the tires rebalanced. Consider this:

  • If you keep your tires in balance, you’ll enjoy more “even” wear, and your tires will last longer (by at least 10 percent).
  • You should probably plan to get your tires re-balanced about once a year.
  • Tire weights used to be made of lead, and when they ended up on the side of the road, they caused a problem for the environment. The industry has gradually shifted to zinc in those tire weights, so now about 80 percent of the weights are lead-free.

Bottom line: If you let your tires get to the point that the steering wheel is shaking, you are probably reducing the lifespan of a 50,000-mile tire down to about 40,000 miles.