Car MaintenanceDriving Articles

How to Check the Steering on a Used Car

There are few functions involved in driving that are more important than steering. That’s what makes learning how to check the steering on your car so important, and more specifically, how to check the steering, power steering and the handling of your vehicle. 

Checking the actual mechanical condition of your power steering, however, isn’t something that is easy to do. It’s tricky to see after all because of its location in the car, so the easier ways to keep in mind are actually from feeling it instead. Checking power steering fluid levels isn’t always an easy task after all, nor is identifying the type of power steering the car has. See wear and tear explained.

How to Check Steering When Stationary

The first thing to do is learn how to check your power steering while stationary, since checking it on the road may well be dangerous. The car will handle much more differently than you are used to if there’s an issue since power steering is involved in pretty much every car on the road.

The easiest thing to do is to have the car switched off, in neutral with the handbrake on. When you’re ready, turn the wheel until it begins to resist heavily. That shouldn’t be far since you are stationary. When you’re at the point where you’ve stopped, turn on the engine. When you do that, the power steering will activate, and as a result, the wheel should turn very slightly further without you adding any extra force what so ever. That’s what power steering is for, after all. See also tyre wear indication.

How to Check Steering While Driving

The next thing to learn how to do is to check the power steering of any vehicle is to test how it works in motion. The test drive is always a great way to determine if there are any issues, that’s why we make them pivotal in all of our pre purchase vehicle inspections.

When you’re on the road, the first thing to do is to simply drive normally, but ideally somewhere quiet and slow. That way, you can get a better feel of how your steering is behaving. If there’s an issue, chances are it’s going to be much heavier to steer than it usually would be. That won’t be difficult to spot.

As well as the wheel simply being heavy when you’re trying to turn, there will be another few symptoms too. Things to look out for in particular are heavy vibrations when you’re steering, juddering or shaking, almost like a flat tyre feeling, and by alternating slight left and right turns to see how responsive the car is since this should feel light even when moving slowly.

How tracking Comes into Play

The only other key to mention if you’re learning how to check your power steering more generally and subtly is to see how your car performs on the road in terms of accuracy. Specifically, checking how your car tracks. If your car tends to veer slightly in either direction, that’s a fairly reliable sign that your steering is off. 

On top of the veering, you can also take a look at your tyres to see if this might be an issue too. Although it sounds ridiculous, over a number of miles, if your steering has been out and your car has been slowly turning to one side in particular, chances are that the tyre on that side is slightly more worn than the tyre on the other side. Although tyre wear comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, it’s a good thing to remember.


Ultimately, the workings of your steering just like everything else on a vehicle are subject to wear and tear. With so many moving and friction bearing parts, it’s bound to happen as age and mileage rack up. That doesn’t mean that you’re helpless to wait for issues to strike, however. If you already own a car, keeping on top of these symptoms is always the best thing to do before they worsen. 

If you haven’t even bought the vehicle you’re checking yet, it’s the perfect time to develop your skills and try these tests on any car you use. What’s more, if you’re still unsure, there are services out there like CarExamer that will professionally inspect the vehicle for you. For a small price, you can buy a car with confidence knowing we check everything you need to save you money and stress that comes with problematic used cars.

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