Fixing the “steering wheel not returning to center” issue is easy by following a systematic approach. Start by ensuring that your tires have the right tire pressure and are the correct size for your car, change old steering fluid or top it up to the appropriate level and ensure it doesn’t leak, and check for loose or binding components in the steering system, replace the damaged or worn-out ones and finish up by adjusting the front-wheel alignment.
We have explained the steps in detail in this guide. Check them out and learn so you can fix that annoying and hazardous steering issue.
- 1 How To Fix a Steering Wheel Returnability Issue?
- 2 Conclusion
How To Fix a Steering Wheel Returnability Issue?
To fix a steering wheel returnability issue, ensure the tires have the recommended tire pressure and are the correct size. Next, change old steering fluid, fix any leaks, and top the fluid up to the appropriate level. Now check for sticking components, replace the worn-out ones, then correct front-wheel misalignment.
Steering should easily return to the center after turning. When you turn the wheel at a corner, it ought to glide through your hands and return to the central position so the car continues moving straight. That’s what experts call steering returnability.
Poor steering returnability affects your overall vehicle handling. You’ll have to manually spin the wheel to the center after cornering. That leads to discomfort, fatigue, and a generally unpleasant driving experience.
Also, bad steering will likely impact your lane discipline (calls for constant lane correction). It compromises the overall steering stability and increases the risk of crashing or causing an accident. Therefore, the lack of steering self centering is an issue you can’t ignore. Fortunately, it’s fixable, as briefly explained above.
1. Gather the Right Tools
See more details and discover why your Toyota, Honda, or “BMW steering wheel not returning to center” and how to escape that situation.
Before that, you’ll require these tools:
- A steering removal kit (should include wheel puller and other vital tools)
- Tire pressure gauge
- An air compressor (it can also be a portable car tire inflator)
- A suitable power steering fluid (available in your local auto spare parts store)
- A suitable power steering leak sealant (available in your local auto spare parts store)
- Wheel alignment tools kit
2. Fix any Tire Pressure and Size Issue
The first thing you must do when your vehicle’s, e.g., Honda Accord steering not returning to center, is to check the tire condition and fix any pressure and size issues. It’s simple to fix the air pressure problem. All you need is to add air to the recommended tire pressure (usually 30-42 PSI, depending on vehicle type) using the compressor (inflator).
Having the right pressure for your tires can resolve numerous steering and handling issues, including poor returnability and pulling to one side. Use the pressure gauge to confirm the tire pressure is at least 32 PSI.
Take note that your vehicle’s tire pressure monitoring system will often alert you when the tire pressure drops below normal. Responding on time can prevent getting into the problem of steering, not centering.
You also need to use the correct tire size for your vehicle (check your owner’s manual or tire information stuck on the driver’s side door). An incorrect tire size may cause the vehicle to sit lower or higher at one end. If that happens, the suspension angles will likely be off in relation to the ground, resulting in a returnability problem.
3. Fix Old, Leaky, or Low-Level Steering Fluid
Hydraulic power steering uses a special fluid to facilitate easy steering by creating a hydraulic link between the front wheels and the steering wheel. The fluid also keeps the moving parts of the steering system lubricated, ensuring optimal performance. Depending on vehicle type, this fluid has a lifespan of 40,000 to 80,000 miles.
When was the last time you changed your steering fluid? Driving your car with old power steering fluid can cause several issues, including odd sounds and stiff steering. The old fluid itself will have a dark color. Sometimes, if the “steering wheel does not return to center after turn Baleno” old steering fluid may be the one to blame; to fix that, you must change it.
Suppose the fluid is still in good condition. In that case, you’ll need to ensure it’s not leaking because it can lead to serious problems, such as the “steering not centering.” Leaks often occur due to parts’ wear and tear. As your vehicle covers more miles, the seals and O-rings within the power steering system crack or lose flexibility. Pour the sealant into the fluid reservoir to fix a leaky steering fluid hitch (follow the guide printed on the sealant package).
Lastly, add more to ensure that the fluid in the reservoir is at the correct level. Low power steering fluid level can damage the pump and serpentine belt, triggering difficulty in steering and losing control. Symptoms of low level include weird sounds and difficulty turning the wheel, so stay alert.
– Check for Friction, Too Tight, or Binding Components
The next step to cure your steering returnability problem is to check for friction and if there are any too-tight or binding components. For anyone wondering “why does steering wheel return to center” after a turn, it does so because all the components work seamlessly – there’s nothing that hinders the wheel’s movement.
However, the wheel might refuse or take a while to return to the center if there’s friction on the steering system. In such a situation, you’ll need a lot of force to manually steer the wheel to the center and straighten the wheels. So, you must check for friction on the steering components, such as joints, linkages, and knuckles.
Too tight or binding (sticking) components, including the pitman arm, kingpin, bell crank, and rack, will also prevent the wheel from centering after turning. Over-tight steering gear (which can happen when you or a mechanic tries to remove excessive play from the steering system) will cause the steering sector shaft to exert too much pressure on the worm gear.
The excessive tightness or frictional drug will cause an “electric power steering not centering” issue and affect your overall steering experience. You’ll have to start at the wheel and work your way down.
Usually, you’ll need to disconnect the components (as mentioned) along the way and set them aside from the rest of the system. Check binding on the steering column, gearbox, and linkages. You may need to jack up the front axle (shaft) and move the wheels from left to right to see if there’s binding in the linkage, kingpin or ball joints. If you find binding at that point, you’ll have to disconnect individual tie-rods from both sides to know which side is sticking.
– Replace Worn Out Parts
You must replace the worn-out parts because they are one of the notorious causes of a car’s, e.g., Toyota Yaris steering not centering. For instance, bushes or bearings are cushions between the steering rack and the frame. They absorb shock and bumps.
However, they inevitably wear out over time. When that happens, the steering will become loose or sticking. Other components that may need replacement are the tie-rods, which maintain the alignment of the steering and front wheels. Like the bushes, these rods also depreciate over time.
Symptoms of won-out tie-rods include clunking noises, the vehicle pulling to one side, and the inability to steer. Damaged tie-rods can even lead to losing the vehicle’s braking power. In addition to maintaining the alignment of the steering and front wheels, the rods are also part of the pinion and rack mechanism, which facilitate wheel turning.
Therefore, worn tie-rods can also cause steering not to return to the center. So, ensure you replace all these components if needed. After the replacement, you’ll be ready for the next step, which is to align the wheels.
– Fix Misalignment on the Front-Wheel
Your steering may fail to return to the center if it has lost its proper alignment. That can happen if you’ve recently hit a pothole or curb. It’s essential to keep the front wheels properly aligned. Even a slight change in angle will cause the wheels to point in different directions.
So, you must check the alignment of the wheels and find out where the toe, camber, and caster are set. The amount of caster will significantly determine how fast or hard the wheel returns to the center. A positive caster angle of around 6.5 degrees is critical to fix the returnability issue. That means if you’re looking at the strut from the side of the vehicle, the top ought to be leaning backward – some space away from the wheel center.
The 6.5 angle enables self-aligning torque, keeping the front wheels pointing forward. Consequently, you can enjoy better vehicle handling and cornering. Also, the camber and toe angles are critical in steering returnability. The former helps to ensure efficient cornering, while the latter affects steering sensitivity and safety. The wheels will face perfectly straight up if the tie-rod ends are set at noon.
Take note that aftermarket kits for adjusting the caster involve relocating the strut mounts. Suppose you need to increase the caster on a straight-axle vehicle. In that case, a steel caster wedge is recommended (steel wedges are durable). The wedge is installed between the shaft and spring to increase the angle.
Sometimes you may not see the symptoms of the steering problem directly. You must ensure regular vehicle check-ups to prevent issues from developing into costly repairs. Also, ensure you don’t ignore signs when they become apparent. Contact an experienced mechanic if you need help with this type of repair.
Fixing the “steering wheel not returning to center” issue is easy if you keenly follow the steps discussed in our guide above.
Here’s a recap:
- Tire pressure and size issues can affect steering returnability, so fix them first.
- If your vehicle’s steering system uses steering fluid, ensure it’s in good condition and not leaking.
- You must also fix binding or sticking components, replace worn-out parts, and take care of front-wheel misalignment.
Now you know how to fix the steering returnability problem. So, get it done yourself or contact a professional to help you.
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