steering wheel turns, but wheels don't

Steering Wheel Turns, but Wheels Don’t – Top 5 Reasons

Have you ever gotten into a car and found that your steering wheel turns freely, but your wheel doesn’t? There is a problem in the steering system that connects the power steering system to the wheel.

Don’t panic because some wrong steps can be dangerous. Park your car in a safe place immediately, as driving in this situation can result in serious accidents.

Then try to diagnose the problem, due to which the steering wheels turn but the wheels are not in your car.

The steering wheel turns, but the tire is not due to the breakdown of any steering system components such as the steering rack, serpentine belt, steering column, tire rod, or wheel bearing failure.

If you want to understand the causes and fixes; why the steering wheel turns quickly, but the wheel does not turn at all, you should know the basic working principle of this system.

But if you already know about its functioning, skip this topic and directly jump to the reasons and fixes as your time is very precious to us.

How Does the Power Steering System Turn the Wheel?

Steering a car is much easier than the principle on which it works. But I tried to explain this complex process simply for your understanding.
So let’s know the process!!!

When you turn the steering wheel, it causes the shaft to rotate, which, in turn, rotates the pinion located on top of the rack.

The rotation of the pinion causes the rack to move linearly, which moves the tie rod. The tie rod, connected to the steering arm, ultimately causes the wheel to turn.

How Does the Power Steering System Turn the Wheel
Source: Gomechanic

The size of the pinion directly impacts the amount of turning you will get. If the pinion is large, you will get more turns with less steering wheel rotation, making it more difficult to control.

Conversely, a smaller pinion will make it easier to control, but you must turn the steering wheel multiple times to make the car corner.

Top 5 Reasons and Fixes for Steering Wheel Rotating Freely Without Wheel Responding:

It isn’t very pleasant when the steering wheel spins on its own, but don’t turn the wheel. Driving in such a condition is not recommended because the steering controls a car, and you cannot control it when it does not work.

So we are here to help you in finding the exact problem of why the steering wheel spins freely and the wheels won’t turn. As well as fix it as soon as possible for your comfort. Let’s go towards the reasons together!!

1. Broken Steering Column:

The steering column is an essential component of the steering system. The function of the steering system is to transfer the driver input to the shaft that controls the direction of the wheel. Any damage to the steering column makes it difficult to turn the wheel.

Broken Steering Column

If you feel the steering wheel loose or wobbly or any rattling or clunking sound, it could be a sign of a broken steering problem. But don’t worry; replacing the fractured steering component is easy.

  • Fixes:

The steering column further consists of column bushing and column lock. If only one component is damaged, you can replace the affected one. But if the steering column is completely broken, replace the whole component.

2. Damaged Steering Shaft:

If the steering shaft is damaged, it cannot transfer the motion to the steering rack or gearbox. This can fail car control. This is a rare problem but shows serious effects.

Damaged Steering Shaft

Before fixing the problem, it is crucial to identify the problem. This may involve inspecting the steering system to determine the location and extent of the damage, as well as testing the steering to see how it is affected by the damage.

  • Fixes:

The only solution for the damaged steering shaft is to replace the shaft. First, it must be removed from the vehicle to replace the damaged steering shaft. This may involve disconnecting the steering gearbox, rack, pinion, and other components attached to the shaft.

Then install the new shaft in the same place. The steering system should be tested to ensure that it is functioning properly. Taking your car to the mechanic to replace the shaft is recommended.

3. The Broken Steering Rack and Tie Rods:

The steering rack is part of the steering system that converts the rotational motion of the steering wheel into linear motion. At the end of the steering rack, tie rods are attached.

The tie rod works with a ball socket. They transmit the force from the gearbox to the wheel.
If you feel loose steering, smell, and fluid leakage, these may be the signs of a broken steering rack. If you face any sign from above, it is necessary to fix the problem.

  • Fixes:

When you confirm the damage to the steering rack or tie rod, move toward its fixation. You can fix these issues by yourself quickly.

Follow the steps mentioned in the video to fix the issue!!!

4. Worn Serpentine belt:

If the serpentine belt is worn, it may slip or break, causing the power steering pump to stop working properly. When the power steering pump is not functioning properly, you cannot turn the wheels according to your desire.

A worn serpentine belt produces a squealing noise and overheats the engine. These are some significant symptoms of the worn serpentine belt.

  • Fixes:

In today’s modern cars, it is very easy to replace the serpentine belt because you don’t need to loosen the screw or bolts to change the belt.

You have to rotate the tensioner, remove the old one, and install the new belt in the same place.

5. Damage power steering system:

Any damage to the power steering system can also result in loose the wheel turning control.
But it does not allow your steering wheel to spin at 360 degrees. But stiff the wheel and make it hard to turn.

Many reasons cause your power steering system damage, such as

  1. Fluid leakage
  2. Reverse steering lines
  3. Dry power steering pump
  4. Contaminated fluid
  5. Low fluid level
  • Fixes


If your car wheels don’t turn, check the steering shaft, intermediate shaft, tie rod, steering rack, wheel bearing, power steering pump, and power steering fluid.

It is hazardous to run your car when the steering wheel spinning freely. Try to find out the problem and its solution as soon as possible. 

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