Wobbly steering wheel and hard to turn front wheels

2004 Buick Lesabre Custom
My front wheels are very hard to spin when the car is off the ground. There is also a bad wobble in the steering wheel when I’m going 50+. Could it be a transmission problem or a bad wheel bearing or ball joint? The back tires spin freely when car is off the ground.

You start taking things apart, and figure out what failed.


Could be the calipers are sticking (hard to turn front wheels) - which could heat up the front wheel bearings and ruin them (which might cause some wobbling). Like Tester said, you’ll have to investigate a little further. Start with the front brakes and making sure they’re not sticking or dragging. It should be fairly obvious if the are. You can go so far as removing the calipers and seeing if the wheels turn significantly easier without the calipers in place.

The car is front wheel drive, though… So the front wheels aren’t going to just spin freely when it’s jacked up. “Hard” to turn is kind of relative…

Yes, any of those could be the cause. The transmission would be the least likely cause of the three. Generally you’d start by swapping the wheels around to see if that had any effect on the steering wobble. Could be a wheel/tire that’s out of round, is bent, needs to be rebalanced, etc. Make sure all the lug nuts are present and tightened properly of course.

Does a shop agree with your assessment about the front wheel vs rear wheel ease of manual rotation? All front wheel drive cars will act that way to some extent. My Corolla’s front wheels don’t manually rotate nearly as easily as the rear wheels. The rear wheels just free spin on their spindle bearings, sort of like a bicycle wheel, but the front wheels are rotating the axle bearings, the half-shaft, cv joints, and parts of the differential innards.

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Could be Sticky brake slides Stuck calipers, damaged brake line or bad bearing. When pads get stuck they cause friction which causes heat. Then things expand and warp causing pulsations. A cheap infrared thermal gun can help you determine if there’s a problem like this and where. after a drive take the temperature of each wheel at rotors and center of wheel.

Is the transmission in neutral ?

Yeah, that would really make the front wheels hard to spin … :wink: