Steering Column Noise

Cross section view of the inside of an automotive steering column.

Steering columns and wheels typically have electrical issues or problems with the tilt mechanism, but sometimes there's a grinding or popping noise that’s coming from inside the column itself. They have a bearing located at the top of the shaft and one at the bottom. Worn or faulty bearings cause a grinding or humming noise when wheel is turned. This is usually a problem with older cars; steering column bearings usually last the life of the vehicle.


The clockspring maintains a constant connection between the airbag control unit and the airbag. It also provides power for the horn, cruise control, radio and many other accessories manufacturers have mounted in the steering wheel. They wear out from turning so often and can become noisy. This problem is more common than noisy steering wheel bearings. They're made of plastic and contain a ribbon or wire.

A failed clockspring will result in an SRS/ABS warning light. It can result in a grinding noise when turning the steering wheel. An open in the clockspring will result in an array of codes as well as problems in cruise control, horn, and other systems incorporated into the steering wheel. Other accessories mounted in the steering wheel like the horn and cruise control will be affected by the electrical fault.