What Happens When Your Steering Angle Sensor Malfunctions

Video what happens when a steering angle sensor goes bad

Modern vehicles are equipped with advanced sensors that communicate with the car’s central computer or PCM. One crucial sensor is the steering angle sensor, responsible for maintaining the stability and traction of your car. While manufacturers may have different names for their stability technology, the underlying principle remains the same.

In this article, we will explore the symptoms of a faulty steering angle sensor, its location, and the cost of replacement. Let’s dive into the signs that indicate a potential issue.

Symptoms Of A Bad Steering Angle Sensor

The most common indication of a malfunctioning steering angle sensor is the appearance of warning lights on your dashboard. These lights could be the traction control light or the check engine light, depending on your car model. Other uncommon symptoms include heavy steering or unusual steering behavior after a wheel alignment.

Any sensor can wear out over time due to constant use. Electronic components, like the steering angle sensor, have a limited lifespan. When nearing the end of its life, the sensor’s efficiency decreases. However, failing car parts usually exhibit signs that alert you to take prompt action.

Here is a more detailed list of signs to watch out for:

1. Check Engine Light

Check Engine Light Reset Itself

In older cars, a sensor connected to the ECU illuminated the check engine light, signaling any ECU-related issues. If this warning light appears on your dashboard, it could indicate a faulty steering angle sensor. Since the traction control and engine control unit rely on signals from the steering angle sensor, a faulty signal would trigger the warning light.

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2. Traction Control Light Illuminates

Car Esp Light

As mentioned earlier, the steering angle sensor is also linked to the traction control system. It measures how much you’re turning the car and makes necessary adjustments when driving on slippery surfaces. If the sensor fails to provide an accurate signal, the traction control light will illuminate. Additional warning lights, such as the ABS or airbag light, may also come on. If the steering angle sensor wiring is broken, it could affect the airbag’s functionality.

3. Heavy Steering Wheel Turning

Heavy Steering

Most modern cars utilize electric power steering. To ensure proper functioning and activation of the power steering pump, the steering angle sensor measures the steering angle. If the sensor provides inaccurate information to the car’s onboard computer, it may result in unnecessary automatic adjustments or a complete loss of information transmission, triggering the traction control light and disabling the power steering.

4. Car Acts Strange After Wheel Alignment

Wheel Alignment Car

This applies specifically to cars equipped with an electric power steering pump, which is common in modern vehicles. If your car behaves oddly or drives abnormally after a wheel alignment, it could be due to a failing steering angle sensor. It is crucial to reset the sensor after an alignment. If your mechanic overlooks this step, you may experience these issues. In such cases, revisit your mechanic to reset the sensor and realign the wheels.

What Is a Steering Angle Sensor?

Steering Angle Sensor

Modern vehicles utilize various sensors that communicate with the car’s onboard computer to respond to specific conditions. The steering angle sensor is an essential sensor that contributes to your car’s performance.

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As the name suggests, the steering angle sensor detects the steering angle. There are two main types of steering angle sensors: analog and digital. These sensors employ different methods to detect the wheel angle, turn rate, and other crucial information. The digital sensor, the most prevalent type found in cars, uses an LED light to measure the steering angle and transfers this information to the ECU for adjustment of the traction control.

Location of the Steering Angle Sensor

Steering Angle Sensor Location

In most car models, the steering angle sensor is located behind the steering wheel, wrapped around the steering column. In rarer cases, it may be positioned in the steering gear. Some cars even have two steering angle sensors, underscoring the importance of replacing the correct one. To access the sensor, you often need to remove the steering wheel.

Diagnosis of a Failing Steering Angle Sensor

Diagnose Car

Diagnosing a faulty steering angle sensor is generally straightforward with the right equipment. While using a multimeter can be challenging for most cases, it is better to rely on a diagnostic tool.

Connect the diagnostic tool and check the live data from the traction control system or engine control unit, which receives signals from the steering angle sensor. Ensure your steering wheel is straight, and observe if the signal reads zero degrees when you turn slightly to the right or left. If the values don’t change, there is a high chance of a faulty steering angle sensor. Check if the sensor is receiving power and ground to confirm the diagnosis.

Steering Angle Sensor Replacement Cost

The average cost of replacing a steering angle sensor ranges from $150 to $500, depending on the car model and labor expenses. The sensor itself costs between $120 and $250, while labor costs average between $80 and $250.

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It is important to note that the replacement cost can vary significantly due to several reasons. The price of the sensor may depend on your car’s make and model year. Additionally, finding a mechanic with the necessary diagnostic tools is crucial for this job. After replacing the steering angle sensor, calibration is necessary, although this is quite rare. In some cases, where the steering angle sensor is integrated with the steering column control unit, programming it into the car can significantly increase the cost.

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