So you’ve just gotten comfortable behind the wheel, put your belt on, lifted off the brakes and you’re ready to head out when you notice your steering causes an alarming noise. Luckily, you aren’t the first to encounter such sounds. If your car is making a squealing or squeaking sound when turning the steering wheel, there could be any of several culprits at play, and it’s important to get the problem checked out with a car mechanic.
One common cause is low power-steering fluid, which affects how your steering wheel feels and sounds. When the fluid that powers and lubricates conventional power-steering systems in a car gets low, it can lead to a squealing noise that may sustain for as long as the car’s steering wheel remains off-center. It can also be fairly loud.
Checking the fluid and replacing it if necessary might be enough to solve the problem. Contamination of the fluid by dirt and debris also could be at the root of this problem with your car. 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 for your car.
A suspension or steering component that’s lost lubrication also could cause a squeak or squeal when you turn the steering wheel. Your car’s tie-rod ends, seals, ball joints and universal joints all need lubrication, and if they dry out, that could lead to a squeal, screeching or similar noise; you may even hear a grinding noise. Again, a technician or mechanic 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 to wear it down — typically in hot weather when materials expand and gaps close up. In these cases, a trip to the dealer mechanic or body shop might be in order for your car — hopefully for warranty work.
Finally, tire noise could be the cause of the squeal that you’re hearing, especially if it happens only when you are driving on certain surfaces.
If your vehicle is making a squealing sound when the steering wheel is being turned, start by checking the power-steering fluid level and replacing or adding the fluid as necessary — and if that doesn’t eliminate the noise, make an appointment with a service technician to find out if something else is going on.