Bike handlebars not turning wheels? 6 ways to fix it! 

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When it comes to how bikes steer, it’s pretty straightforward.

You’ve got the handlebars, which you grip tightly, and the front wheel attached to the fork. When you turn the handlebars, the front wheel follows suit.

And when this doesn’t happen, you know there’s a problem. But why will handlebars not steer the bike? Why are bike handlebars not turning wheels? 

If this is a problem you’re currently dealing with, we have answers and solutions for you, so stick around!

Why are bike handlebars not turning wheels?

Having handlebars that smoothly turn the wheels is super important for staying in control when riding your bike. But sometimes, bike handlebars just won’t cooperate, which can be frustrating. 

If you find that your handlebars aren’t turning the wheels as they should, there could be several possible reasons for this. 

The first thing that comes to mind is the presence of an obstacle, like a lock or strap, preventing the handlebars from moving freely. But if you carefully check your handlebars and find nothing, then you can proceed to other possible causes.

Here are a few common reasons, and we’ll discuss them in a minute.

  • Misaligned or loose headset 
  • Damaged or worn-out components 
  • Improper cable tension or routing 
  • Stuck or malfunctioning brake calipers

Misaligned or loose headset

The headset connects the fork to the bike’s frame, and any form of misalignment or looseness in your headset may cause problems with your handlebars. 

If your headset is not properly aligned and adjusted, you might experience difficulty in turning them smoothly or notice some wobbling, and this will affect your steering.

To fix it, you’ll need to check if the headset bearings are properly adjusted and tightened. If they’re not, a simple adjustment can get your handlebars back on track, ensuring a more controlled and enjoyable ride.

Related Post: How to fix loose bike handlebars

Damaged or worn-out components

Bike parts and components wear out over time, and sometimes the various components involved in handlebar steering, like the headset bearings, fork, or handlebars, can suffer damage or wear. 

When this happens, the damage can affect the functionality of the handlebars. 

For instance, bent or damaged parts can prevent the smooth movement of your handlebars, making it difficult to turn the handlebars and steer your bike. 

In some cases, the handlebars can become stiff and unresponsive.

Worn-out components can also cause excessive play or instability, which can compromise the control and safety of your bike.

To fix this problem, you need to inspect the headset, handlebars and fork for any signs of damage and replace them if necessary

Improper cable tension or routing

Improper cable tension or routing can also mess with your bike’s handlebars. 

If the cables that control your brakes or suspension aren’t properly tensioned or routed, it can restrict the movement of the handlebars, making it hard to turn smoothly. 

You might experience resistance or limited range of motion. 

To fix this, you have to check for any kinks, frays, or incorrect attachment points along the cables. 

Making sure they are properly tensioned and routed will ensure that your handlebars can move freely, allowing for responsive steering and an overall smoother ride.

Stuck or malfunctioning brake calipers

If you have rim brakes or disc brakes, your brake calipers can malfunction and interfere with the handlebars’ ability to turn freely. 

When your bike’s brake calipers get stuck or malfunction, it can create resistance or uneven braking, which can make the handlebars feel rigid and affect steering control. 

The friction and uneven pressure from the brake calipers can prevent the smooth movement of the handlebars, making it difficult to turn them. 

To address this issue, check the brake calipers for signs of damage or sticking, clean and lubricate them if necessary, and ensure proper alignment and adjustment. 

Doing this will restore the handlebars’ ability to move freely and improve overall steering performance.

Related Post: How to fix handlebars not aligned with wheels

How to fix bike handlebars not turning wheels

If you have a problem with your bike handlebars, either they’re stiff or not turning the wheels, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to identify and fix the issue. 

Here’s a guide to help you:

Check for obstacles: First make sure that there are no obstructions, such as a lock or strap, preventing the handlebars from moving freely.

Inspect the headset: Carefully check the headset for misalignment or looseness. If there is play or wobbling, you may need to adjust the headset bearings.

Adjust the headset: Loosen the stem bolts slightly, then adjust the headset by turning the adjustment bolt or hex key fitting to increase or decrease tension. Make small adjustments and test the steering after each one.

Check cable tension: If your bike has cable-actuated brakes or suspension, ensure the cables are properly tensioned and routed. Adjust as needed, making sure there are no kinks or frays.

Check the brake calipers: If the handlebars are still not turning smoothly, inspect the brake calipers. Look for any signs of damage or sticking. Clean and lubricate the calipers, or replace them if necessary.

Check for damaged components: If all else fails, carefully inspect the handlebars, fork, and other components for damage. Bent or worn-out parts may require replacement to restore proper steering.

Finally, if after you’re done everything you can, and you’re still unable to diagnose or fix the issue on your own, then it wouldn’t hurt to consult a professional bike mechanic for a thorough evaluation and repair.

Also, if you’re uncertain or uncomfortable with any step, it’s best to seek expert assistance to ensure a proper resolution.

Tips to prevent further problems with handlebars not turning wheels

To prevent further problems with handlebars not turning the wheels, consider the following tips and precautions:

Regular maintenance

A routine maintenance schedule for your bike will help you to detect issues quickly and prevent any unusual problems. 

Your regular maintenance schedule should include checking and adjusting the headset, lubricating moving parts, and inspecting components for wear and tear. 

If you regularly check your bike parts, you can catch potential issues before they become major problems.

Proper installation

You may not know this, but some bike problems are due to improper installation. 

It’s absolutely important to make sure that every part of your bike, and each new component you buy, is correctly installed

When installing new components or making adjustments, take care to double-check alignments, tighten bolts to the recommended torque, and follow manufacturer guidelines. 

And if it’s something you can’t do on your own, don’t hesitate to take it to your local bike shop. It may cost you a few dollars, but doing this will save you from a lot of stress in the long run.

Cable care

This isn’t talked about well enough, but it’s important to routinely inspect the cables and housing for signs of wear, fraying, or damage. And always replace any worn-out cables promptly and ensure proper cable tension and routing.

Handlebar alignment

Any potential problems with your handlebars can be prevented if you periodically check the alignment of your handlebars with the front wheel. 

Misalignment can cause handling problems. Carefully adjust your handlebars as necessary to maintain a straight and centered position.

Avoid excessive force

When steering, avoid applying excessive force or making abrupt movements. Smooth and controlled steering helps prevent strain on components and reduces the risk of damage.

Proper storage

Store your bike in a safe and dry location to prevent exposure to harsh weather conditions and potential damage. 

Using a bike cover (like the Puroma waterproof bike cover) or keeping it indoors can help protect it from unnecessary wear and tear.

Regular inspections

Develop the habit of visually inspecting your bike before each ride. Look for any signs of loose bolts, damage, or abnormalities that could affect the steering and handlebars.

Professional servicing

If you frequently experience issues with handlebar movement or suspect a more significant problem, don’t hesitate to take your bike for professional servicing from a qualified bike mechanic. They can provide expert assistance and ensure thorough repairs.

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