Google, Nissan and Volkswagen are all working on technology to allow cars to drive themselves, but until that vision becomes a reality, drivers must rely on themselves to keep the car on the road and navigate turns and twists. It is impossible to drive without touching the steering wheel, so drivers may not even realize how in tune they are with its performance. Chances are that you will notice right away if the steering wheel begins to behave uncharacteristically. It may vibrate, fight the driver's grip or feel loose and difficult to control, which may indicate a number of problems.
When your steering wheel acts out, it could mean that the wheels are out of balance, and a simple alignment will correct the issue. The tread on your vehicle's tires might also be wearing unevenly, which can happen when the wheels are out of alignment. It may also indicate that there are loose bolts on the wheels. If left unchecked, they could come loose while you are driving, which is extremely dangerous.
There are also sounds that indicate problems with the steering mechanism. A loud clunking noise whenever you drive over a bump often indicates that strut bearings or shock absorbers are worn and need to be replaced. A broken strut assembly or broken ball joints can also cause this sound.
High-pitched screeching noises generally indicate that the brake pads are wearing out and need to be replaced, but if this is not the issue, it could mean that the steering belt needs attention. If the belt is loose, it can be tightened, but if it is wearing out or damaged, it will need to be replaced.
If you notice that the steering wheel has a mind of its own on the road and makes it look as though a drunk driver is behind the wheel, the steering fluid level could be too low. Low fluid levels can be topped off, and should be checked again in a few days. if the level is low again, it could be indicative of a leak.
At any rate, if you notice your steering wheel acting up, it is best to address the issue as soon as possible to avoid causing further damage to the transmission and engine of the vehicle.