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Random steering jerks while driving (not me) - stuck on vacation!

It’s a 2001 Lexus LX470 with 160,000.
While driving, I’m getting sporadic jerks in the steering. Enough to pull the car to the driver’s side slightly.
There are no noises associated so I’m guessing wheel bearing or serpentine belt are out. I jacked up the wheel and checked for play and couldn’t find any. So I am not thinking it’s a joint. There is some slop in the CVs and/or front differential but it seems to be the same from side to side and I’m not getting and clucking or clunks while turning.
Fluid level is fine. Rack doesn’t seem to be leaking.
It sort of feels like a random dead spot in the power steering at low speeds. I’d think power steering pump, but there is no noise.
Does this sound like a pressure control valve?

Jack up both wheels and, with the engine off, turn the steering wheel from side to side. If the effort to turn it from side to side changes as you turn then the steering shaft is bad.

My recommendation is to take it to a reputable chassis shop and have the undercarriage looked at, and worn parts replaced, and a good 4-wheel alignment done. Guessing at and changing parts will be very expensive and is highly unlikely to solve the problem. Besides, you may even have a dangerous condition developing and the visit to the shop could help save a life.

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Will do. Thanks knuckles.

If one wheel’s brake is engaging this could happen. Feel the wheels after a short drive, is one of them much hotter than the others? Careful, if the brakes are sticking the wheel can get very hot.

For a mechanic, please see:

Good luck!

I’m thinking this sounds like “bump steer” Bump steer describes a condition wherein bumps when hit, even small bumps, introduce steering inputs to the knuckle. In a stock vehicle, that’s almost always caused by worn parts in combination with or causing alignment issues.

In short, it needs a good look-see by a competent shop.
Special thanks to Carolyn for providing the listing. :grin:

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Some car’s have automatic steering correction features for accident avoidance situations. Like if you try to pull into an already occupied lane. Ask your shop if your Lexus has that feature.

Not to sound snarky . . .

I doubt a 2001 Lexus has that kind of feature

That’s a good suggestion, and one I would not have thought of. I’ll try to remember for future reference.
Perhaps for cars that do have this system there’s a way to disable the system (fuse pulled?) to test the theory. I suspect these systems will soon be ubiquitous if not mandated.

My son’s new 2016 civic has lane assist. To me it’s annoying and feels like the car is taking over, wait it is. Don’t think a 2001 has it though.

Lane assist = texting while driving assist…



The Lexus LX470 is based on the Toyota Land Cruiser. Those trucks did not have lane assist 16 years ago.

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I’ve never driven a car with it, but I suspect I’d feel the same way.