Volvo S90 steering wheel vibration causes and diagnosis

Driving your Volvo S90 with a shaking steering wheel is not only irritating, it can also be dangerous. Such vibrations are symptoms of an underlying problem with your S90, which must be resolved at the earliest for road safety and driving comfort.

Volvo S90
Volvo S90 – (Roman Vyshnikov / Shutterstock)

The most common causes for a shaking steering wheel in Volvo S90 are unbalanced wheels, misaligned wheels, tire damage, bent rim, bad wheel bearing, worn engine mounts and loose lug nuts. Less common causes are bad axle, worn suspension or steering parts or incorrect tire pressure.

1. Unbalanced wheels

The leading cause of steering wheel vibration in Volvo S90, especially when driving at high speeds, is unbalanced wheels. If only front wheels are out of balance, the vibration is typically strongest at the steering wheel. If rear wheels are out of balance, the vibration can be felt throughout the vehicle’s body.

What causes Volvo S90 wheels to go out of balance?

An imbalance in the wheels of your S90 is usually caused by uneven wear of the tires, or from contact with potholes or obstacles. This shifts the center of gravity of the rim and tire unevenly around the axis. In combination with the centrifugal force that occurs at high speeds, the wheel begins to vibrate and the steering wheel begins to wobble. This not only increases the wear and tear on the wheels, but also the wear and tear on other components of your vehicle.

Do brand new tires need to be balanced?

New tires can have imperfections from the manufacturer. If you have new tires fitted to the rims of your Volvo S90, it is standard procedure that you also have the tires correctly balanced to avoid vibrations and premature wear caused by the imbalance of the rotating wheels.

How are S90 wheels balanced?

Volvo S90 wheels can be balanced on a specialty piece of equipment called a wheel balancer, which is available at most car workshops. The wheels are clamped in the machine and then rotated. During the rotation, various sensors determine whether the wheels are running smoothly or unevenly. If an imbalance is detected, it is corrected by attaching small weights to the rim. These compensate for the unevenly distributed weight of the tire and ensure that the wheel runs smoothly.

Wheel balancing service is available in almost all workshops and tire shops. Many tire shops offer free balancing as part of package when you purchase new tires.

How often should Volvo S90 tires be balanced?

There are no fixed intervals for balancing tires on your S90, but it is recommended to balance the wheels with tire rotation every six months or 5,000 to 7,000 miles. Regular balancing not only reduces tire wear and prevents expensive consequential damage to the vehicle, but also increases driving comfort and your safety.

2. Bad wheel alignment

Misaligned wheels can also cause steering wheel vibration in your Volvo S90. Wheel alignment is an important and often overlooked aspect of maintenance. Potholes and curbs can easily misalign your wheels, resulting in poor control and excessive wear on your tires.

What are the symptoms of bad wheel alignment in Volvo S90?

The most obvious sign of misaligned wheels in S90 is when your vehicle pulls to one side and you constantly have to adjust the steering wheel to drive in a straight line. Some other signs include uneven or rapid tire wear, crooked steering wheel when driving straight and squealing tires.

How is wheel alignment performed on Volvo S90?

Wheel alignment is primarily carried out using electrical diagnostic tools. Using sensors that are attached to the wheels of S90, a computer system recognizes the extent to which the actual values ​​deviate from the target values. The target values ​​are the standardized values ​​specified by the manufacturer. The measured values ​​can be compared on a computer and deviations are interpreted and corrected directly.

Wheel alignment can be performed in a workshop equipped with special diagnostic alignment equipment. Nowadays, the axle geometry is measured precisely with the help of computers and modern electronic devices such as lasers and sensors or with the help of reflectors on the wheels. Based on the values, the toe, the camber and the so-called caster values ​​are then correctly set again.

How often should wheel alignment be performed on Volvo S90?

In contrast to wearing parts, there are no fixed maintenance intervals or manufacturer specifications for wheel alignment. Therefore, such a review is usually at your own discretion. Nevertheless, it is advisable to check the treads for abnormal wear at least as part of the tire rotation every six months or 5,000 to 7,000 miles. Do note that driving habits can heavily influence how often you need to get your S90 wheels aligned.

3. Tire damage

Tire damage is one of the common causes for a wobbling steering wheel. Visually inspect all the tires on your Volvo S90 for any cuts, cracks, bulges and uneven wear. But sometimes the damage to the tire is not easily visible, for example when the belt breaks inside the tire, which can even happen to brand new tires.

A break, bulge or bubble in the sidewall of your tire is an indication of damage to the carcass or casing of the tire and occurs when you drive over certain obstacles, like deep potholes.

4. Rim damage

A bent rim can also cause the steering wheel to shake on your Volvo S90. Such damage usually occurs when obstacles such as curbs, speed bumps or deep potholes are driven over too quickly. Balancing the wheels would probably not fix the problem, a bent rim must be replaced.

Examine the wheels carefully to ensure that the rims are not bent and that the spokes are not damaged.

Even if there is no visible damage, the whole rim could be deformed resulting in uneven diameter. An experienced mechanic can tell if the rim is bent by mounting it on the wheel balancing machine.

5. Bad wheel bearing

A defective wheel bearing can cause steering wheel vibrations in Volvo S90. The most common signs of bad wheel bearing are grinding noise in the cabin when driving straight, a knocking noise when cornering, and the vehicle vibrates. The faster you drive, the louder the grinding noise and stronger the vibration.

It becomes dangerous if you choose to ignore the symptoms of a defective wheel bearing and continue driving. In worst case scenario, affected wheel locks up while driving or even tears off. Don’t let it get that far.

What causes bearings to fail in Volvo S90?

Even when driving your S90 in a straight line, the bearings have to absorb high radial forces. The entire weight of the vehicle rests on the bearings. When driving, the speed creates additional forces. If a curve is then also driven through, axial forces occur. High impacts on the bearings also occur on uneven roads or when driving through potholes. Impacts of all kinds are much more damaging to bearings than the high loads. Therefore, all wheel bearings eventually fail. However, how soon they fail depends on driving habits. In normal driving conditions, they typically last around 100,000 miles.

Recommended video:

6. Worn engine mounts

The purpose of the engine mounts in Volvo S90 is to hold the engine in place and minimize transfer of vibrations to the vehicle body. Engine mounts are under constant stress, exposed to high forces, strong vibrations and environmental influences. Therefore, regardless of the quality, they all begin to wear down after usage and eventually require replacement, typically after 5-10 years.

The easiest way to recognize a defective engine mount in S90 is by its typical symptoms. In particular, clearly noticeable vibrations on the body, the steering wheel or the gearshift lever, even when idling, indicate a defect. Unfamiliar noises are also clear signs of a defective engine mount. Further symptoms are pounding noises when starting and stopping the engine as well as a loud or uneven engine running. However, this only applies if the engine itself is running technically flawlessly and smoothly.

As a wearing part, engine mount must be checked regularly by a professional, for example as part of an inspection.

7. Loose wheel nuts

Another cause of steering wheel vibrations in your Volvo S90 is obvious and simple to diagnose, the wheel lug nuts may have come loose or were not properly tightened when changing tires. This cause can be checked and ruled out with the help of a lug wrench.

Use a lug wrench to tighten the nuts on all four wheels of your vehicle.

Important for every tire change: The wheel hub and the area on the back of the rim around the center hole should be cleaned, preferably with a wire brush, in order to remove all dirt safely.

8. Bad axle

A worn out or faulty axle component can also result in unwanted vibrations in your Volvo S90. An axle is a rod or shaft that rotates the wheels and supports the vehicle’s weight. They are responsible for transmitting power of the engine to the wheels.

9. Worn suspension or steering parts

Looseness in suspension or steering system components can cause steering wheel vibrations in your S90. Overly worn ball joints or tie rod ends makes it difficult to properly align your vehicle. Some common signs include vibrations from the front end or through the steering wheel, clunking or rattling noise coming from your front suspension especially when going over speed bumps or when turning the vehicle. In extreme cases, your front end can not only vibrate but also shake violently at high speeds, this phenomenon has been nicknamed “death wobble”.

10. Low tire pressure

Low tire pressure can also make your Volvo S90 vibrate at high speeds. Make sure air pressure in all four tires is according to the recommended pressure by the manufacturer. The recommended air pressure is listed on the driver’s door jam or in the owners manual.

11. Over-inflated tires

If the tire pressure is too high, the tire only touches the road with the center of the tread. As a consequence, it wears itself down more and it wears out unevenly. In addition, excessively high tire pressure has negative consequences: Longer braking distance due to the small contact area, sidewall stiffness and tread rigidity may trigger vibrations.


There are many reasons why the steering wheel is shaking in your Volvo S90. When looking for the reason, you should always start with the most obvious causes, unbalanced or misaligned wheels.

In any case, it is advisable for laypersons to visit a workshop. A professional mechanic can swiftly diagnose the vibration problem for you.

Author: Nabeel K