You might be finding it hard to steer the wheel of your Toyota 4Runner, and there are plenty of reasons why this might be happening. The whole power steering system reduces the amount of effort that’s required from the driver to turn the steering wheel. It involves different parts that should be checked up on regularly, otherwise it can’t properly function, and the only force that turns the wheel is the driver.
Although it won’t necessarily damage your car, it’s important to make sure certain parts of your 4Runner are maintained and running well because it can be dangerous driving without power steering.
Here is a list of the top reasons why your Toyota 4Runner steering wheel is hard to turn.
1. Power Steering Fluid is Low
This is one of the first places you should look. A really common cause of having a difficult time steering is from a lack of power steering fluid. If enough has leaked out, then it won’t function properly.
What does power steering fluid do?
What allows your power steering to function properly is the power steering fluid applying pressure against the piston inside the rack and pinion. Without enough of this fluid, the amount of force that is applied lowers. As a result of this, the steering isn’t as assisted by the power steering system, leaving the force needed to turn the wheel up to the driver.
2. Power Steering Belt is Damaged
Since the power steering system is driven by the belt, it could be a reason why your 4Runner is hard to steer. Try to notice if it looks worn or damaged, or shiny and glazed. You can also make sure the engine’s off, then pinch it lightly and try to move your fingers. It’s a bad belt if it doesn’t grip them at all.
As one of the most easily-affected parts of the car, belts can crack, snap, or loosen more easily than other parts. When the power steering belt breaks, the power steering system can’t function.
Since this belt gets worn out over time, the wheel starts showing stiffness when the belt starts to erode and become loose. If you ignore the problems with the belt, the lack of repair will cause the belt to break and make the wheel dead.
3. Damaged Steering Rack
You know that it’s the steering rack if it’s only hard to steer when you first turn on your car. Steering racks can damage over time from wearing and tearing, which causes steering your 4Runner to be harder. If the steering rack is damaged, then it’s going to be worse when it’s cold. It will go away as the 4Runner warms up and the rack becomes hot and lubricated, but it never really goes away.
What is the steering rack?
The steering rack is the main component of your steering assembly and works together with the power steering system. It’s what takes pressure from your power steering system and applies it to the wheels.
4. Bad Fluid
A reason why your Toyota 4Runner steering wheel is hard to turn could be due to bad power steering fluid. A possibility is that the fluid got so thick over time that it doesn’t do its job as a hydraulic fluid anymore. You would need to flush the 4Runners power steering fluid if this is the problem.
How does the fluid become bad?
The fluid collects dirt and debris over time, which makes it too thick to lubricate all the parts of the system if it’s not changed within the necessary amount of time. The power steering needs fluid to function right because it applies the pressure against the piston inside the rack and pinion.
5. Low Pressure in Tires
Even though a heavy steering wheel is usually caused by issues with the power steering system, low air pressure in one or more of your tires can be a reason for this as well. All of the tires for your car should be inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended PSI.
6. Bad Power Steering Pump
The Power Steering Pump on your 4Runner is something that can go bad itself. If it doesn’t pump fluid into the 4Runners rack anymore, it won’t be able to pressurize the power steering lines. This takes away the steering assistance and makes it harder to steer.
A bad pump doesn’t completely stall the wheel, but it requires a lot more effort to move it. This can be dangerous on the roads, especially when needing to make a sharp turn.
7. Tires are Unaligned
Another factor to keep in mind is the front-end alignment. Any uneven wear on the front tires can make your car pull to a side while you’re driving or even making a turn. This can lead to the wheels getting misaligned, and can cause the steering to be stiffer and harder when driving.
8. Damaged Front End Parts
It’s important to check on your front-end parts like the ball joints and rod ends for wear and lubrication. Although ball joints usually get looser than tighter over time, it can be dangerous and make your steering wheel turn.
Tips to Avoid Issues With Power Steering.
Here are some tips you could consider to either fix or avoid your steering problem:
- Check the air pressure on your tires if you notice that it’s hard to steer while driving at a slow speed. Make sure your tires are all filled with equal air and are at the manufacturer’s recommended PSI.
- Check the power steering condition and fluid level. You should maintain the fluid at the correct full level and change it if the fluid is the wrong color.
- Check the pulley on the power steering unit. To check the proper tension, you can press your thumb down on the belt, and usually, it doesn’t exceed one inch of play or three quarters. There should be no cracks or frayed edges.
More 4Runner Resources
If you enjoyed reading about the Toyota 4Runner, you will surely appreciate my other related articles. These articles delve deeper into specific aspects of the 4Runner such as its off-road capabilities, interior design and technology features.
Additionally, I have compared the 4Runner to other popular SUVs in its class to help you make an informed decision about your next vehicle purchase. Give them a read; I am sure you will find them as interesting and informative as the first article.