Why Might Your Vehicle’s Steering Be Pulling To One Side?
May 02, 2016 at 10:41 AM
Driving with your steering pulling to one side is extremely fatiguing and can lead to serious or fatal accidents. While it goes without saying that the problem should be addressed immediately, it’s also helpful to know what may be causing it in the first place.
IMPROPER WHEEL ALIGNMENT
This is the first thought that most motorists consider when their vehicle starts pulling to one side. If your wheel alignment is out, the pull will be consistent, your steering wheel won’t return to its normal position, and you’ll notice wear on the inside of your tyre tread. Contrary to popular belief, improper wheel alignment isn’t the most common reason for vehicles pulling to one side.
UNEQUAL AIR PRESSURE
Some vehicles are more susceptible to uneven tyre pressure than others, with as little as one PSI difference in air pressure causing a noticeable pull. Thankfully, this is an easy problem to correct and an easier one to maintain. Ensure your tyres are inflated to the recommended air pressure and invest in an accurate gauge.
INCONSISTENT TREAD PATTERNS
There’s a good reason why it’s not a bad idea to invest in a new set of tyres, as opposed to simply buying the one. Having the same tread pattern will allow your vehicle to drive straight, whereas wear on existing tyres will try and pull the vehicle in a particular direction.
Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish when buying new tyres, as an accident caused by your vehicle pulling to one side could cost you a lot more.
Otherwise known as ride disturbance or tyre pull, tyre conicity occurs when a tyre inflates into a slight cone shape. This cone shape is the result of the belts in the tyres shifting during manufacture, so this problem can even occur in brand new tyres. It’s an easy problem to see with the naked eye and well worth looking for if you’ve recently purchased new tyres.
This is the biggest tyre-related reason to get your vehicle’s tyres checked as soon as you start experiencing a pull. Air can leak from the air chambers, pass through the belts, and cause the piles of the tyre to separate. If this happens, not only will your car pull to one side, but your tyre could be living on borrowed time. Tyre failure at speed is something you don’t want to experience, so get your tyres checked immediately.
If you notice your vehicle pulling to one side upon acceleration, the problem could be torque steer. There are numerous causes for this, including a tie rod with too much slick, a ball joint that has too much movement, or a deteriorating lower control-arm bushing. More complicated causes include an unequal drive shaft angle caused by an engine or suspension that isn’t level.
Less likely is wear or damage to the differential, which a professional will diagnose by checking for excess metal or burned fluid in the lubricant.
A SINGLE STICKING BRAKE
Alongside worn suspension components including the lower control-arm bushings, a sticking brake will cause your car to pull to one side during and immediately after braking.
The offending component could be a sticking brake calliper, a problem with the wheel cylinder, or a hydraulic fault. If this is the problem, you’ll notice a burning smell at the same time your vehicle pulls.
This unnerving term may infer that your vehicle actually does have a mind of its own. However, binding ball joints, strut bearings, and tie rods can cause your vehicle to pull in the direction last steered. Memory steer can be diagnosed by your vehicle’s tendency to pull to the left after a hard right turn or to the right after a hard left turn.
There’s very little you can do if you’re experiencing memory steer except take it into a professional who will diagnose the problem, replace the offending part, and remind your car that it’s the driver who makes the decisions.
Exclusive Bonus: Download the step-by-step checklist that will show you how to self-diagnose your alignment problem.
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