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Why Is My RV Steering Wandering?

Why Is My RV Steering Wandering?

Driving an RV is hard enough, but trying to do so while battling a RV steering wheel wandering can be next to impossible. If you value safety while RVing, you can’t ignore addressing the issue. Unfortunately many motorhomes are known for wandering steering even from the factory.

Its time to get to the bottom of what’s causing your RV steering to wander because the problem won’t fix itself. In many cases, it will only worsen until you do something about it or find yourself in a serious situation.

So why is your RV steering wandering? Let’s look at some causes and solutions.

Why Is My RV Steering Wandering?

So many factors go into steering that it can be very challenging to identify what’s causing the issues. 

Some can creep up on you so slowly that you don’t notice them until someone else drives your rig. They may even ask you, “Why is there a lot of play in your steering wheel?” Once they point it out, you’ll likely notice it.

If you don’t know where to start fixing your RV steering wandering, check with others online in Facebook groups and online communities. There’s a good chance you’re not the first person to experience what’s happening with your rig. Make sure to check about your specific chassis. Chassis are shared across many RV types but might share the same problems.

Let’s look at some of the most common reasons for wandering steering in an RV.

Tom from Mortons on the Move driving on road.
Driving an RV can be challenging, especially if your RV steering is wandering.

Sloppy Steer Gear or Rack

One of the first places you should consider inspecting is the steering gear or rack and pinion. The steering box connects to the wheel through the steering column.  Some of these can adjust, meaning you just need to tighten it, and you’ll fix the issue. 

Worn-out linkages in the steering gear can cause your RV steering to wander, creating a sloppy driving experience. Adjusting the connections can sometimes fix the issue. Even the steering column or U joints connecting to the steering gear can wear and are usually supposed to be greased in an RV.

However, if you have a lot of miles on your vehicle, you may need to replace the entire gearbox or rack and pinion.

steer gear on spartan chassis
This is the steer gear on a spartan chassis.

The older a vehicle gets, the more likely parts will start to wear out. Heavier vehicles, like RVs, are more susceptible to worn drag links and tie rod ball joints. 

You may not realize it, but you use these anytime you turn your steering wheel. When you add years and miles to your rig, it can wear out these important parts.

You’ll likely hear some knocking or clunking sounds or notice uneven tire wear. Unfortunately, you’ll usually need a mechanic to help with this one. However if your brave you can crawl under your RV and grab the drag links and tie rods and twist them. They should not move with the force of your hand. If there is any play they need replacing.

loose motorhome drag link
This is the drag link on our motorhome. It moves back and forth but should not rotate or have any play in the joint. The same goes for the tie rods between the wheels.

Weak Sway Bar

Not every vehicle has a sway bar, but high-profile vehicles greatly benefit from them. If you’ve ever taken a corner too fast and felt a slight dip, you may have wished that you had a more robust sway bar on your vehicle. 

Manufacturers sometimes skimp when installing sway bars. If you experience serious issues and wandering when driving on uneven roads or during windy conditions, you may consider beefing up the sway bars on your RV.

This is particularly beneficial for gas-powered RVs that do not have air-ride suspension. Because of the high center of gravity, a sway bar can significantly help in uneven and windy conditions.

Poor Suspension Geometry Design for Load

Many of us haven’t done geometry since middle or high school. However, vehicle manufacturers must dial in their geometry skills when designing vehicles. 

Sometimes they forget to carry the one when doing the math, resulting in an inadequate suspension for the weight and size of the RV.

If something has felt off since you drove it off the dealership lot, you might want to reach out to the manufacturer. If they hear enough complaints, some manufacturers create “fixes” for specific chassis. An example of this is the Monoco watts kit that is designed for Monoco roadmaster chassis that had a loose front axle.

Tom and Catilin from Mortons on the Move driving RV
If you notice issues with your steering, check your steering gear, rack and pinion.

Can Alignment Cause Steering Wandering?

If you experience wandering steering, a good start is to have your alignment checked. However, most alignment issues will cause a pull to one side and not a wander or stability issue. However, a toe-out condition could cause this. This condition is usually caused by worn suspension parts, however.

When your wheels are properly aligned, you can keep your RV straight when traveling on a flat and smooth surface, whether your hand is on the wheel or not. If your steering is out of alignment, it can pull to one side or the other. 

An experienced mechanic can make slight adjustments to your tires’ angles to ensure they stay straight. Even slight adjustments in these angles can have a huge impact. Usually when having an alignment performed a mechanic will also check over the suspension and can diagnose loose or worn parts.

Will Overinflated Tires Cause Wandering? 

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of regularly checking your tire pressure. Overinflated tires shouldn’t cause the steering to wander, but it’s not impossible. However, you should never overinflate your tires.

Check the maximum sidewall pressure printed on your tires. If you evenly fill all your tires, then any wandering indicates an issue with your steering or suspension system.

Pro Tip: Overinflated tires can cause major damage to you and your vehicle. Always have This RV Tire Blowout Product That Could Save Your Life on hand.

Catilin from Mortons on the Move driving RV
Get your alignment checked if you notice your RV steering wandering.

Is It Better to Over or Under-Inflate Tires?

While both over and underinflated tires are dangerous and something you want to avoid, underinflated tires can cause more of a problem. However, we can’t understate that neither is a good option. 

Driving with overinflated tires increases the risk of an accident. The excessive pressure in your tires will create a rougher ride and stretch the rubber compounds enough to weaken them. 

As the tire heats up and the air expands, you could have a tire blow out. A tire blowout while RVing can damage your rig and cause a serious accident.

On the other hand, underinflated tires aren’t any better. Driving on an underinflated tire increases pressure on your sidewalls and generates a lot of heat. 

The heat gets generated from the increased traction between the tire and the road’s surface. This can cause increased wear and tear on your tires, tread separation, and, eventually, a blown tire. 

Always check your tires have the right pressure before each trip. Failure to do so could result in changing a spare tire on the side of the road during your next trip.

Tom from Mortons on the Move driving RV
Don’t put off getting your RV checked once you notice steering issues.

How Can I Improve My RV Steering?

Various products can help correct RV steering issues. However, you need to get to the root of the problem. If you and a trusted mechanic have tried everything, here are some things you can do and use that can help.

Get an Alignment (and have a mechanic look over steering components)

Before you start taking things apart or replacing items, you should first get a professional to align your RV. If you take it to a knowledgeable mechanic that knows RVs, have them look over the steering components. 

They can inspect each part to ensure everything operates as it should. A reputable mechanic can look at suspension components and tire wear and narrow down the possibilities for identifying what’s causing your RV steering to wander.

Upgraded Track Bar

A track bar can help improve your RV’s steering and handling capabilities by holding the axle in place. These bars connect between the frame of the RV and the axle to prevent side-to-side movement. The track bar that came with your rig may be insufficient.  

However, upgrading to a more capable track bar can help you arrive at your destination safely and comfortably without worrying about your steering wandering while you travel.

Exact Center, or SafeT Steering Stabilizer

If you feel tired of battling the wandering in your steering, a steering stabilizer can help ensure your vehicle stays straight while you drive. 

These devices avoid unwanted movements from crosswinds and various road conditions. These work by helping pull your wheels to the center. Its kind of like having someone helping you steer by pulling the wheel straight all the time, but from the chassis instead of the steering wheel.

Pro Tip: Learn more about What Is An RV Steering Stabilizer to help you decide if you should install one.

roadmsater exact center installed on motorhome
This is a roadmaster exact center installed on a motorhome.

Heavy-Duty Sway Bars

As mentioned earlier, manufacturers sometimes opt for less than beefy sway bars. Upgrading to a bit sturdier option is easier to do.

Many of the upgraded, heavy-duty sway bars are almost twice the size of the originals. You’ll likely notice quite a difference between the two when you install them.

Air-Spring Motion Control System (For Air Ride Coaches)

For coaches with air bags an air-spring motion control system can help give you optimum control of your rig. It can eliminate the sway, body roll, bounce, and rocking motions that can cause wandering steering while you travel. 

These are simple systems that slow the airflow out of airbags so that when your coach leans, the air does not get squished out of the bag as quickly. This reduces body roll and improves sway. It’s like adding a sway bar for big rigs.

How Long Should You Let RV Steering Wander Before Getting It Checked?

If you experience issues steering your RV, you shouldn’t put it off. It could signal something seriously wrong with your RV. If that’s the case, you don’t want to discover how quickly things can go from bad to worse.

In some situations, it could only take hitting the right bump or pothole in the road before things get serious. Have a trained professional look over your rig as soon as possible.

Have you ever noticed your RV steering wandering? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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