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Steering has changed

Hey all,

I’ve been driving my car with a set of winter tires for about 2k kms, now the last couple of weeks the feeling in my steering wheel has changed.

Recently I drove at high speed on a good road at night, but suddenly the road changed into a very bad washboard / cobble stone road, the car shook violently and I slowed down immediately, it felt really bad.

I can’t recall if immediately the feel in my steering wheel had changed, but a couple of days / a week later, I started noticing it. Almost as it gradually happened.

First thing I noticed: my steering wheel felt looser to turn, still turned well and drove straight. It just seemed I had to turn a little more on my steering wheel to make the same corners as before.

And the second thing: I notice more feedback in my steering wheel when driving over bad uneven roads.
when both front wheels drive over the same obstacle, no feedback in the steering wheel.

When one wheel does and the other doesn’t, I get feedback, my steering wheel moves and it feels “loose”.
when driving at higher speeds over uneven surfaces, it rarely happens or it’s very less noticeable to almost not noticeable at all, no feedback.
When I drive over a washboard / cobble stones road at low speed => my steering wheel moves and makes it feel very loose. When I drive over that very same road at higher speeds, I get less feedback in the steering wheel.

Sometimes when I drive over uneven surface with one wheel and push on the gas pedal, wheels getting power, it prevents the steering wheel from getting the feedback. when I don’t push the gass pedal and let it go over it at a lower speed without giving it power, I do get the feedback.

My first thought was, something broke / bent or came loose driving at high speed over a damn crappy road.

So, I took it to my local garage,
he checked my entire suspension and steering mechanism.
He said he couldn’t find a thing and it was rock solid. He also drove it and said he felt it runs OK, but he asked me to check it myself. And I did and I’m not convinced, so I might get back to him, but I feel like I need to ask around here first to get some knowledge and input first.

He did give me an alignment and the car drives perfectly straight
after turning and cornering my car re-aligns to center perfectly.
my steering wheel doesn’t vibrate at all driving, nor does it wander.
When accelerating hard it keeps straight, when braking hard it stays straight.
It’s just going oven uneven roads, I get more feedback in my steering wheel and it feels a little looser than before at low-ish speeds. Everything tightens up the faster I drive, as in I get less feedback in my steering wheel, my steering at higher speeds seems to tighten up, but not as firm as it once was.

I run my car tires on 30 psi as per car manufacturer recommendation , this morning I upped the pressure to 33 psi and did notice that while cornering my steering felt a bit more solid, still loose, but a little less loose than on 30 psi.
But really not THAT much of a difference, but I noticed some. I enjoyed the ride a little more though.

I don’t have much car knowledge, but I really HATE the feedback I get in my steering while while driving at lower speeds over little bumps or uneven roads. I’m starting to dislike to drive my car this way.

So, even-tough I specifically asked him about the steering stabilizer/damper, from the little research I did online, this would be my first suspect. I’m thinking about asking him to change it out and put it a new one.

But first, I’d like to hear what you guys think any input would be greatly appreciated!

Exactly what vehicle do you have?

Does your vehicle even use a separate steering damper?

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2011 Mercedes A180 CDI w169

Also, I bought the car used a couple of months ago, I had to replace the front shocks a month ago.
So, i was thinking that maybe the car has seen some action and the steering wheel damper might not be what it used to be either? but that’s just a shot in the dark and a very simplistic way to look at things by me, but that’s as far as my extremely limited car knowledge goes

I don’t believe your car even has a separate steering damper

AFAIK, your car has rack and pinion steering, which does not feature a separate damper. However, the damping function might be built into the rack. I’m saying that, because some Benzes do have the damper function built into the rack. Not sure about yours, though, because I don’t think A-class has ever been sold here

Could be a problem with the rack and/or tie rods. Can’t really make a proper diagnosis from where I’m at

I think somebody is going to have to put the car on the hoist, and perform a thorough inspection. Sounds like the first guy didn’t really do that, as you can duplicate the looseness, yet he didn’t do anything to address that.


Thanks for the replies db4690!
I’ll be doing some research on rack and pinion steering

I find myself wondering how much wear your snow tires have on them.
Well worn snow tires can develop a pretty loose feeling. They’re designed to be more pliant and use softer compounds to work better on poor road surfaces, but that makes them more susceptible to wear-related stability changes.

It’s not a diagnosis, just a thought to ponder.


Make sure the tires are properly inflated and that there are no unusual tread wear patterns on any of them. If all that checks out, best path forward is to pay a Mercedes specialist shop to make a visual inspection.

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I agree, except that I’d change that “visual inspection” to a thorough inspection.

Whatever is causing this could be a safety issue. You absolutely did the smart thing by having a good going-over by one shop, but with a symptom like this it never hurts to try again. Let us know how you make out. We do care.

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thanks guys,

I bought new winter tires (4) 2 months ago and drove about 1500 miles on them, I also check my tire pressure weekly to make sure they’re always properly inflated.
As far as I can tell nothing much has changed there, my tires and inflation remain the same all throughout.

The only thing I could think of might be a breaking in period of the tires, but a 1100 miles break-in seems like a lot

A second opinion does indeed sound like a very good idea, safety is my number 1 concern, I don’t exactly get a safe feeling from the car at the moment

I’d put the all-season tires back on once the spring weather breaks. I’ve noticed that tires can significantly alter the feel of the car through the steering wheel. And, although I don’t use ‘winter’ tires, I did try summer tires from Hankook verses all-weather tires from Goodyear, and noticed the feel of the car through the steering wheel changed dramatically. Which makes sense, since the connection of the car to the pavement is in the tires.

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Indeed, and I will
I’ve also felt a big difference in steering feel and handling on my previous cars when I switch from summer to winter tires;

I’ve never had my steering feel change when I was still using the same tires, ergo why I’m very suspicious about the evolution of things at the moment

I’m ordering new summer tires next week, as the current ones the car came with are shot anyway; so at least I’ll know those will be good and new

if my problem persist, I’ll be going to a nearby Mercedes garage. (truth being told, none of the Mercedes garages in my country (Belgium) get good reviews, I’ll be asking only for an inspection and not for a repair yet
and if possible I’ll ask if I can get a look under my car with the mechanic, not sure if they will allow it; my local garage always lets me do it,
with these dealerships around here, when you walk in the door, you can easily see it’s about money; I wouldn’t be surprised they fool customers and charge for unnecessary repairs, but that’s nothing new )

Thanks everybody for replying, greatly appreciated!

cute little car. About as manly as my wife’s Prius.

You don’t need to use a dealership for this unless the car is under warranty. A good inde shop is fine. But definitely selecte a shop that specializes in Mercedes or at least German car repairs. VW, Audi, and the like. IIf the situation is similar to the USA, the inspection won’t be bargain priced, it’s a Mercedes after all, no bargains expected, but for just an inspection, that should be priced within reason.

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Thanks for the replies and help guys, appreciate it!
This really is a great place to bring people together and talk about car related things,
valuable advice being given, thank you!

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Okay so a little bump

  • I had my entire suspension checked by my local mechanic after the incident and he didn’t find anything.

  • I had my car checked by a certified Mercedes mechanic a month ago and he didn’t find anything either, he took me and my car for a test ride and was a very helpful man. He told me if I weren’t happy with my car I could ask for an expert’s advice. So I did

  • I just had my car checked by a Mercedes “expert” and he also found nothing. The only thing he said was that the struts/shock absorbers weren’t the original ones that came with the car and that’s causing the problem.
    Although they’re still good and weren’t leaking, that’s what he told me.

I bought my car second handed and indeed the OEM struts were replaced with brand new ones, not OEM though, they’re Monroes.

I drove my car without ill effects for a while with the Monroes equipped, until I drove over a very bad road at a great speed with very deep bumps that made my car on both sides go up and down violently, my car was shaking like mad.

So basically what I’m left with now is: my steering feels looser and more imprecise and gives more feedback driving over bumps.

They supposedly checked my tie rods and tie rod ball joints, my steering column, etc. so that should all be good.

The mechanic that I drove with the first time told me if it were my control arm it should make noise when driving over bumps etc.
He also jacked up my car and checked for looseness and grabbed my wheel left and right and top and bottom and checked for looseness/play, didn’t find a thing. He also looked at other parts of my suspension, but he didn’t find anything suspect.

My suspects were tie rods, ball joints, control arm; but apparently those were checked and nothing was found.
I have no noise coming from the car when driving over bad roads either. And in all honesty my struts feel like they’re working fairly well, they don’t absorb impact like they used to though, so maybe as they gotten looser could it impact my steering?

So, now my question, the Mercedes expert said it was my shock absorbers in the front, BUT the Mercedes mechanic told me that in all honesty he’s not sure that changing my struts to OEMs is going to change a thing.
(I gotta appreciate the mechanic’s honesty though, he said he isn’t sure that’s the problem and he wouldn’t want to work on my car and make me pay a decent amount of money for a repair that isn’t going to change or improve anything)

I’m having my struts changed anyway by OEM ones anyway and hoping for the best. But I’m not sure if that’s gonna change much at all.

TL;DR: they told me my shock absorber/struts on the front are causing my looseness and feedback in my steering wheel and I’m not sure to believe it or not.