Why the steering wheel shakes at 60 mph? 6 possible causes!

(Last Updated On: July 8, 2023)

The steering wheel shaking at 60 mph is usually a straightforward problem to rectify that is 90% of the time caused by an imbalanced wheel. But other components can cause the steering wheel to ‘shake’ at 60 mph. Although wheel balancing is the most common, you wouldn’t usually describe the fault as the steering wheel shake but rather as a steering wheel vibration. So, other areas of the car can cause the steering wheel to shake.

6 reasons the steering wheel can shake at 60 mph

1.Wheel balancing

When a tire is changed, the wheel undergoes balancing on a wheel balancing machine; this machine quickly rotates the wheel and looks for the impurities in the wheel and tire. It then tells the technician where to apply these weights. A balance weight can become loose and dislodge over time. An impact on the wheel, like hitting the curb, can also affect the wheel balance.

The reason for balancing the wheel is to counteract the imperfections in the wheel and tire, and one side is slightly heavier than the other; one side of the wheel may have a minor buckle even from new, not noticeable by the eye, of course. This shows itself when you drive, and the steering wheel vibrates.

When you drive at around 50 – 55 mph, an imbalanced wheel starts to manifest itself, and the vibrations become prevalent. The vibration works through all of the suspension’s components, although back to the steering wheel. As you speed up past 60 – 65 mph, the vibration will become less noticeable until it completely disappears. This is because when traveling at speeds, the imperfections in the wheel and tire rotate fast enough that any defects are bypassed. Think of it as though the tire spins quickly to trick the car into thinking it is a perfect circle when it isn’t.

2.Wheel bearing

A wheel causing a steering wheel shake at 60mph is rare, as when a wheel bearing is faulty, the car sounds like an aircraft. However, the bearings rotate on a track in a housing packed with grease. Old wheel bearings or those with the casing split can become dry. Dry bearings rotating get extremely hot, and the bearing internals falls to bits, causing a vibration. It isn’t common at all, as wheel bearings give other indications there is an issue.

3.Driveshaft problem

As per its name, a driveshaft drives the wheels connecting the gearbox/engine rotating to accelerate down the road. These usually are perfectly straight but can become bent from an impact. Imagine trying to spin a banana instead of a straight rod; at 60 mph, this would violently shake. Not only would the steering wheel shake, but depending on the severity, the whole car too.

4.Buckled Rim

A buckled wheel that is noticeable to the eye will not balance correctly. A wheel should be round or as close to perfectly round as possible. Imagine trying to drive down the road on an egg-shaped wheel (it probably won’t be this severe, I know); the shaking from the wheel would be amplified through the car.

A quick test to see if the wheel is the problem is to move the wheel to a different side of the vehicle. For example, a buckled wheel at the front of the car will cause the steering wheel to shake, but a put on the back of the vehicle, the whole car/seat will vibrate, and you will feel it through your bum on the seat rather than the steering wheel.

5.Worn suspension components

Worn or loose suspension components such as ball joints or connecting rods can be damaged from minor impacts or worn over time. Most suspension components worn will usually give a knocking noise over bumps in the road as you drive. But problems such as a severely worn ball joint will wobble in its housing, manifesting as a shake on the steering wheel. Rarely, you would only get this, though, as pointed out, you will probably notice other problems like banging or rattling noises.

6.Seized brake caliper

A seized brake caliper will rapidly overheat a brake disk causing it to distort and warp. Like an unbalanced wheel, a warped brake disk can cause a vibration as you drive. However, a brake disk can’t be balanced to rectify the issue and will need replacing. Usually, warped brake disks would cause the steering wheel and brake pedal to shake under braking only and not when driving along.

A brake caliper can seize for several reasons, most commonly the seal inside that moves the brake piston forward and backward inside the caliper. Either the seal turns over, not bringing the piston back when you release the pedal, or it falls apart and jams the calipers piston.

Wheel balancing

Is it safe to drive with a shaking steering wheel?

The severity of the shake would determine whether you should even consider driving. For example, a steering wheel shake caused by a wheel balancing issue would generally be a minor vibration that will not cause any further problems immediately, so you would probably continue your journey.

However, a wheel shaking at 60mph is quite vicious. You probably shouldn’t drive for more than one reason.

Number one, it will likely cause more damage to other components.

Number two, if a faulty wheel bearing causes it, for example, the wheel bearing will get extremely hot and start to melt driveshafts and all sorts; as a worst case, the wheel could even come off, but that would need to be the last resort!

It’s tough for anyone to point their name on whether it’s safe to drive cause without knowing the cause of the problem; it’s impossible to say. If you notice a vibration starting to appear on the steering wheel, especially when getting up to 60 mph, you should get your mechanic to check over the vehicle. The best-case and most common scenario are that it’s a simple wheel balancing issue that is inexpensive and takes almost no time to fix.

How to diagnose a shaking steering wheel

Diagnosing a steering wheel shake is pretty straightforward. When driving at 60mph, drive through to 65-70 (if the speed limit permits) and see if the shake goes away or becomes weaker. If it does, you can be sure that you need to have your front wheel rebalanced. Although wheel balancing costs are pretty insignificant, it would be wise to get all four wheels balanced.

If the steering wheel shake remains, you can be sure it is probably from another area of the car, and you will need your mechanic to inspect it if you’re not too familiar with diagnosing a fault like this yourself. The thing with cars and shaking is there are many similarities between the car jerking and the steering wheel shaking; it is essential to differentiate the two before deciding to replace something that may not be worn.

Final thoughts on why the steering wheel shakes at 60 mph?

It will likely be a wheel balance issue that is causing a problem if your steering wheel shakes at 60 mph. Most other components that cause a steering wheel to shake manifest themselves differently. If you experience issues with the steering wheel shaking, getting your mechanic to check the car and rectify any faults would be wise. If you couldn’t find what you are looking for in this article, take a look at 13 potential reasons why your car is shaking when driving fast.

My name is Tom although my friends call me Tommy. Messing around with cars and bikes has always been a hobby of mine even from a young age. So I made it my day job 17 years ago. I am a fully qualified mechanic as you would expect. I've worked in all different areas of the motor trade, valeting, panel beating, engine repairs, I'm sure you get the idea. I enjoy sharing my wealth of knowledge and experience with others, which is the reason I spend a lot of time here writing for this website.

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