Why your steering wheel shakes going downhill

After a day of hiking, skiing, snowboarding or camping out in the mountains, there's always the long drive home to look forward to. While safe driving and frequent checkups on your car are recommended, you may find that your steering wheel shakes as you're making your way downhill even if you've done everything right. This article will explore common reasons for a shuddering steering wheel and when to bring it into a mechanic.

Driving on a steep, hilly road? Read on to learn why your steering wheel may be shaking.Driving on a steep, hilly road? Read on to learn why your steering wheel may be shaking.

Mechanical issues with your vehicle

While not every sound or shake from your vehicle will call for a trip to your local mechanic, it's important to understand what your car may be trying to tell you when something does pop up. Here are some instances you should know about.


The most common reason for the steering wheel to be shaking while you're driving is because your vehicle is out of alignment. Before you start racking your brain trying to remember objects you may have run into or a possible hit and run, you should know that your car can get out of alignment simply by driving too quickly over a pothole or other road hazards.

An easy way to check this is to head over to an open, quiet stretch of road, accelerate up to 60 MPH and let go of your wheel for a moment. If your car starts to veer to the right or the left, your wheels are out of alignment. This can cause your tire treads to wear down prematurely and can add unnecessary stress on your steering and suspension. A mechanic can quickly and easily realign your vehicle so you can get back on the road without worry.

Brake rotors

Also known as brake discs, brake rotors are the large metal plates that your brake pads will squeeze to help slow your car down. Under a lot of heat and pressure, rotors can begin to warp over time, with one side becoming thinner than the other. This causes an uneven surface for the brake pads and fundamentally changes the function of your brakes. For example, your brakes may not be able to come into contact with a part of the rotor if it's warped inwards.

Warped rotors can become a dangerous issue when you need to slow down quickly or for any length of time. New rotors will solve the problem and should be replaced by a professional, as it can be tricky to do on your own.

Brake pads

If your rotors are old and warped, chances are your brake pads are in a similar condition. While some pads are meant to last for up to 80,000 miles, you should check them every 40,000 just to be safe. If you happen to live in a city or travel up and down mountainsides, it's recommended that you check them every 20,000 to 30,000 miles instead. Along with constant usage, they're also subject to the elements, with snow, rain, debris, mud and oil easily caking on overtime.

If your wheel is shaking downhill and you hear squeaking sounds coming from your car when you apply the brakes, these are sure signs your pads need to be replaced.

But what if you've done everything right?

This is not an exhaustive list of issues your vehicle may be facing and most of these are a result of a vehicle that has more than 40,000 miles on it and is under-serviced. If you have a brand new vehicle or take your car in for service frequently, there is one other reason your car may be shuddering as you drive downhill.

Driving patterns

More often than not, you may be holding onto your brake pedal for too long while travelling downhill. Heat causes metal to expand and can cause warpage to your brakes to the degree that you feel the vehicle shuddering. Tap on your brakes as you ease downhill to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you instead to avoid a shaky steering wheel.

For more expert information and tips on braking, check out our blog page. Greening Testing Laboratories is a fully certified brake testing lab that provides a variety of brake testing services worldwide. Contact Greening for a complimentary consultation for your car manufacturing business.