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Often, but not always, when I turn the steering wheel (during parking for example) I can hear a shuffling sound from somewhere near the steering wheel mounting. This happens when turning in both directions and regardless of whether the car is moving or stationary.

Any suggestions on this?

Could it be some bearings being worn out and just waiting to seize when I'm doing 130km/h on a motorway?

Are there any easy steps to narrow down the possible causes?

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Does it have a steering wheel airbag? Could be the clock wire for the airbag binding up/releasing. –  Brian Knoblauch Apr 27 '12 at 14:41
    
Yes, it has an airbag. Can I determine if it's the wire without demounting the wheel? Any telltale signs? –  bububaba Apr 27 '12 at 14:48
    
What is a shuffling sound? –  jamietelin Apr 28 '12 at 13:31
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@jamietelin A sound similar to the one you make when you walk without lifting your feet. Or when you press two sheets of paper against each other and move them around. –  bububaba May 2 '12 at 12:17
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2 Answers 2

Noise from the strain of the power steering pump can cavitate (or 'reverberate' is probably more accurate) through lines and even to the steering wheel itself. Check fluid levels, and pump condition. If it all checks out it may just be normal.

Typically bearings will not seize when they are already in motion. They can fail catastrophically, but it is unlikely.

Steps to pinpoint the cause would be having someone inspect on a lift while someone else turns the wheel, if the problem can be reproduced on a lift. Otherwise, a rolling road or test drive with the hood open and a quite environment.

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Are you sure about the location of the sound? It might be a loose or worn power steering belt that is slipping when the power steering pump is put under load.

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I'm pretty sure it comes from underneath the steering wheel, as is my brother who also drives the car. He also pointed out that when the sound is heard, you can feel something is different - a small change in resistance I guess. Not too big though, as I missed it altogether. –  bububaba May 2 '12 at 12:21
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