Difficulty turning steering wheel

Two days ago I started having difficulty turning the steering wheel in my Nissan Altima. It would turn ok at first but about half way through the turn I would have to force it to move, and then it would not return by itself – I would have to physically turn it back. Same thing with turning in both directions. This happened all of a sudden, but after it started it didn’t get any better. Checked the fluid-- it was fine. Just had the car checked and its oil changed, and they didn’t mention anything out of the ordinary except that I’d need new break pads in a few months. I have been hearing some creaking when turning the car but thought it might just be from the cold weather. Was worried the steering problem might be the U-joint. We took it to the car wash because my fiance had a suspician it might just be road salt build-up. Washed the undercarriage area-- now the car seems to be turning normally. Is this something I should continue to worry about, or does it sound like there was just road salt/dirt build up?

YES, this is something you should get checked out immediately. You may have a ball joint binding up, and failure to get it address could manifest itself in sudden total loss of control and a serious accident. It could even come apart on the highway, and you cannot imagine the accident you’ll be involved in.

DO NOT continue to drive this vehicle until you get this checked out. Have it towed to your shop. The risk is too great.

I am a locksmith, and not a general mechanic… so take any suggestions with a grain of sodium chloride:

Steering Rack
Power Steering Pump
Control Module
Other Front End Components.

Take mountainbike’s recommendation, and get this to a quality mechanic for proper repair.