Monthly Archives: April 2016

Car squeal when you steerin wheel

If your car is making a squealing or squeaking sound when you turn the steering wheel, there could be any of several culprits at play.

One common cause is low power-steering fluid. When the fluid that powers and lubricates conventional power-steering systems gets low, it can lead to a squealing noise that may sustain for as long as the steering wheel remains off-center. Checking the fluid and replacing if necessary might be enough to solve the problem. Contamination of the fluid by dirt and debris also could be at the root of the problem. A failing power-steering pump could likewise be the cause. If adding fluid doesn’t solve the problem, a technician should be able to identify the cause and recommend a repair.

A suspension or steering component that’s lost lubrication also could cause a squeak or squeal when the steering wheel is in motion. Tie-rod ends, seals, ball joints and universal joints all need lubrication, and if they dry out, that could lead to noise. Again, a technician should be able to identify the problem and recommend a repair.

We’ve also experienced squeaks from the steering wheel housing in new cars rubbing against interior trim — typically in hot weather when materials expand and gaps close up. In these cases, a trip to the dealer or body shop might be in order — hopefully for warranty work.

Finally, tire noise could be the cause of the squeal that you’re hearing, especially if it happens only when the vehicle is driven on certain surfaces.

The Different Wheel Size Make

Larger wheels give cars a more aggressive stance and greater stage presence, which is why automakers install king-size rims on concept cars. They look cool.

Whether you move to a larger-diameter wheel as an option on a new vehicle or as an aftermarket upgrade on the car you already own, there are plusses to plus-sizing, but some minuses as well. When you move to a larger wheel diameter (such as from 17 to 18 inches), you need tires to match. Those tires need a lower profile (or sidewall height)  to maintain adequate clearance when they go over bumps and potholes, which makes the suspension fully compress and rebound. If the wheel diameter increases by one inch, the height of the tire should decrease accordingly to compensate, in order to keep the overall diameter the same.

For example, if the original stock tire size is 215/65R17 and you buy 18-inch wheels, the right tire for the larger rims might be 225/55R18, with the differences being the larger diameter, wider tread (225 millimeters instead of 215) and lower profile, 55 instead of 65. That means that the height of the sidewall is 55 percent of the width of the tread.

If you change to larger wheels without taking sidewall height into consideration, you not only run the risk of damaging the suspension, wheels or tires, you’ll also get incorrect speedometer readings because the wheels are turning at a different speed than before. By matching lower-profile tires to larger-diameter wheels, speedometer and odometer readings should change only a little, if at all. With larger wheels and lower profile tires — and the resultant shorter sidewalls — they’re stiffer and there’s less of an air and rubber cushion than before, increasing the chances that hitting a large pothole could damage the tire, wheel or both.

While larger-diameter wheels and tires should improve handling and high-speed performance, lower-profile tires also tend to have a firmer ride and may be noisier than the smaller, standard rubber.

Some potential performance benefits may be offset by the additional weight of the larger tires and wheels. An 18-inch tire, for example, will probably weigh at least a couple of pounds more than a 16- or 17-inch tire. That could also be true of a larger wheel. A steel wheel weighs more than an aluminum alloy wheel, so the latter enhances performance by reducing the unsprung weight. But replacing a standard 17-inch alloy wheel with an 18- or 19-inch alloy rim will add weight — unless it’s an expensive, lightweight type.

Bigger wheels cost more money. The bigger you go, the more expensive the wheels and tires. If you buy larger wheels as part of an option package on a new vehicle, or get them as standard equipment on a higher trim level, the initial cost may not be that high. But when it comes to replacing a damaged wheel or tire (or just the tires when the tread is worn), the extra cost can be substantial.

For example, when Cars.com compared the replacement costs of some wheels and tires, a standard 16-inch steel wheel for a Toyota Camry was $172 to replace at a dealership. A 17-inch alloy wheel on a Camry XLE, however, was $379. For an 18-inch alloy wheel on a Chevrolet Traverse, one dealer quoted us a price of $371, but for an optional 20-inch wheel, the price was $569.

Drive car tips

We recommend driving every two to three weeks to make it less likely that you wind up with a dead battery, flat-spotted tires or other issues that can be caused by letting a car sit for weeks.

We’ve heard many people say they let their cars sit for months with no problems, but you’re better off driving it a couple of times each month and for at least 10 miles, with some speeds over 50 mph if possible. You not only want your engine to get fully warmed up but for the entire car to get some exercise as well.

Letting a car idle for 10 minutes will get the engine up to normal operating temperature but accomplish little else. Driving the car for several miles wakes up the transmission, brakes, suspension, power steering, climate system (including the air conditioner) and all the fluids, seals and gaskets for those components that have been on a long snooze.

Batteries slowly lose their charge when they sit idle, and starting the car will drain it even more. That is one reason you want to drive several miles afterward, so the battery has a chance to recharge. If a car sits for a month or more, the battery may lose so much power that it will need a jump-start — or a  charge before the engine will start. To be sure your car will always start, consider a battery tender as described in our guide, “How to Store Your Car for Winter.” Unlike the rechargeable batteries in electronics, conventional car starter batteries don’t like to cycle deeply, so keeping them topped off could improve their longevity.

Here are more reasons not to let your car sit for several weeks or longer:

  • Tires slowly lose air under all conditions but especially during cold weather. As they do, the weight of the car keeps pressing down on the tires, which causes flat spots to develop on the segments sitting on the ground. Driving the car and adding air if necessary will usually make the tires round again, but letting the vehicle sit for extended periods on underinflated tires can cause permanent flat spots that you will be able to feel and hear when you drive.
  • Rodents might take up residence under the hood or even in exhaust outlets. If they get hungry, some may munch on the wiring harnesses and other parts made of soy and other organic materials that are used on modern vehicles.
  • Moisture can collect in the gas tank (especially if it isn’t full) and in the oil over time, and that can lead to corrosion.

Suspension Problems Tips

Suspension components, including springs, shock absorbers (or struts on some vehicles), anti-roll bars, control arms and other parts, are like combat troops serving on the front lines: They take a pounding daily from pock-marked streets, railroad tracks, rain, snow, road salt, gravel, all manner of dirt and grime, and the occasional piece of scrap metal or other debris that drivers see too late to avoid.

Under those conditions, just about any suspension component can be damaged or worn out from years of abuse, resulting in a number of symptoms and/or noises that should be your wakeup call to see a car doctor. Here are some common issues vehicle owners are likely to encounter:

  • Poor wheel alignment: The wheels have to be pointed in the right direction (literally) and aligned for toe-in, camber and caster. If they aren’t, your steering won’t be centered when you’re going straight and tire wear will increase. Wheels get knocked out of alignment by potholes and curbs, but getting the wheels aligned won’t fix damaged springs, controls arms or other parts that affect alignment. When you buy new tires, it’s a good idea to have the alignment checked so suspension issues don’t shorten tread life.
  • Shock absorbers: They really should be called “dampers,” and when they wear out you should notice more bouncing after a bump and a whole lot of shaking going on over rough roads because they can’t keep the tires planted on the pavement. Shocks contain fluid that dampens the bouncing, and once they start to leak, performance will deteriorate.
  • Springs: These are what hold the weight of the car, and as they wear they can sag or break. If your car is on level ground but one corner is lower than the others, that’s a sign of a damaged spring. You can measure the height of the corners to confirm your visual cue. You might also hear clunking noises over bumps, and the car may not corner with confidence because a damaged spring can’t control the weight it’s supporting.
  • Ball joints: These are pivot points that attach the suspension to the wheels, and they absorb some of the shock from up-down movement and rotate as the steering angle changes. You’ll know they need replacing when you can hear them squeaking and creaking, especially when turning. You’ll know you waited too long if a ball joint breaks and suspension parts are dragging on the pavement. A mechanic can tell if they need replacing by the amount of wheel movement they can force by hand or, in some cases, by wear indicators on the ball joints.
  • Control arms: These are hinges that hold the wheels to the frame and connect the steering to the wheels, so when you turn one the other responds. Lower control arm bushings are more prone to wear out on front-wheel-drive cars than on rear-wheel-drive cars. Bushings are rubber and/or metal parts that help absorb shock, and when they wear they can cause ride and handling problems and accelerate tire wear. So can a bent control arm. Signs of wear include clunks or rattles — because the wheels move back and forth in acceleration and braking — and loose, imprecise steering.