Trucks and SUVs with larger aftermarket tires and wheels require the use of a steering stabilizer bar stop in order to protect the suspension from damage, help to reduce suspension travel, and produce a smoother and safer ride. These parts are aftermarket accessories that are installed typically after completing suspension upgrades or tire upgrades that are past the required recommendation of the vehicle manufacturer.
The suspension designed for vehicles sold from the dealer are engineered to utilize a specific tire or wheel size which works in conjunction with the stock suspension. When truck and SUV owners make the decision to upgrade their stock tires and wheels or suspension, the direct results often produce what's referred to as a "death wobble". This condition is caused by additional weight and strain to the steering components and supporting suspension parts and can lead to premature wear and tear of multiple components.
To reduce these situations from occurring, the steering stabilizer stop was designed and is commonly used. However, like all mechanical parts, eventually the steering stabilizer stop will wear out or show signs of failure.
Here are a few typical warning signs that pop up when the steering stabilizer is wearing out or needs to be replaced.
1. Vehicle shakes when driving
The most common damage that occurs with a steering stabilizer stop is faulty seals that contain pressurized fluid inside and permit the stabilizer to do its job. However, when the seal pops, the tires and wheel combo tends to overload the stock suspension and cause a vibration that is felt in the steering wheel. Unlike tire balance issues which typically show up at higher rates of speed, this shake will be noticed at slow speeds and progressively get worse as the truck increases speed.
If you notice that the vehicle shakes when you start to accelerate, stop the vehicle and check under the front suspension and look for fluid that has "sprayed" under the front end. If you see this, it's most likely due to the seals that have popped in the steering stabilizer stop. This will require you or an ASE certified mechanic to replace the steering stabilizer stop as soon as possible to avoid further damage to your vehicle.
2. Steering feels loose
Another common warning sign of a faulty steering stabilizer stop is when you feel as if you don't have control over your steering. The steering wheel will feel loose or the truck will seem to float on the road, or worse, will not respond to your manual steering input. This is commonly a warning sign of a steering stabilizer stop that is wearing out, or the seal is starting to leak fluid. If you notice this warning sign, it may be possible to repair the worn out seal; however, it's recommended to replace the steering stabilizer stop entirely on both sides of the vehicle. Like any other suspension or brake job, it's recommended to always replace both sides on the same axle.
3. Steering is choppy when driving
When the steering stabilizer stop is broken, the suspension will be looser than usual which typically causes a shaking motion in the steering wheel. However, this problem can also cause the steering to feel choppy or bumpy when you're driving. This is caused by the additional travel in the suspension when the steering stabilizer stop has broken.
The solution here is to have the steering stabilizer stop replaced with a new unit and then have the front end suspension aligned to ensure proper tire wear.
The steering stabilizer stop ensures that even though you may have installed oversized tires on your vehicle, your steering will remain reliable, safe, and effective. If this part starts to act up it can make driving quite difficult since you won’t have that same control, but worse, it can cause serious safety concerns when driving.
Anytime you recognize any of the above symptoms of a bad or failing steering stabilizer stop, have a certified mechanic replace the failing steering stabilizer stop to eliminate any further complications with your vehicle.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Steering Stabilizer Stop and was authored by Timothy Charlet.