One of the most common complaints among drivers is when the steering wheel pulls to one side. Apart from being an annoyance, it can cause significant safety issues and make driving a less pleasant and more fatiguing experience. It can range from a slight tug to severe drift that could easily cause an accident if not kept under tight control. What causes this problem, and what can be done about it?
The most common cause of off-centre steering is wheels that are not correctly aligned. The wheel alignment can be skewed over time, or it can be thrown off suddenly by a collision or by your vehicle hitting a pothole. It should be checked regularly – at least as often as you change your tires, if not more often. When your vehicle’s alignment is as it should be, your wheels and axles form a rectangle, all parallel to one another and at right angles to the road. When this is thrown off, even by a few degrees, the vehicle will start to drift slightly or pull to one side while you are driving. Correcting your wheel alignment is part of the service whenever you get a new set of tires fitted, but you should have it fixed whenever you start to feel a tug in your steering.
If the wheel alignment is not a problem, the wheel balancing might be. Many people get confused between the two, but they are completely different things. Alignment refers to the position of the wheels relative to each other and the road surface. Wheel balancing refers to the distribution of weight around each wheel. If you feel a pull in the steering together with a shaky steering wheel, then one or more of your tires is probably unbalanced.
Air Pressure In Tires
Another common cause is when your tires have inconsistent air pressure. All four tires should be inflated to precisely the same pressure. The required pressure depends on the manufacturer’s stipulations for your particular vehicle. When one tire has lower air pressure than the others, your steering will tend to pull in the direction of that tire. If you feel that your steering is starting to pull to one side, check your tire pressure before doing anything else.
Worn Out Parts In Steering or Suspension
If none of these explanations solves the problem, you may have a more serious situation on your hands. There may be components in your suspension or steering that need to be repaired or replaced. An example of this is a phenomenon known as memory-steer, which is when your car tends to pull in the direction you just turned. For example, if you turn left down a street, you suddenly find that your car insists on pulling to the left. This usually means that there are tie rods, strut bearings or ball joints that are worn out. You will need to take your car to a mechanic, who will then locate the faulty components and replace them.
The problem may not be in your steering or suspension and may not have anything to do with tire pressure. It could be a fault in the tires themselves. Some tires have a manufacturing fault called conicity. This is when one part of a tire’s tread hardens into a conical shape during the manufacturing process, rather than the usual cylinder shape. Conicity is not all that common and can usually be spotted right away. The tire’s warranty also covers it in most cases, which means you can simply get the faulty tire replaced at no extra cost.
Tire separation might be the cause of your problem, but this is relatively unlikely unless your tires are poorly made. It occurs when the steel belts in a tire start to separate from the tire’s frame. You can spot this at low speeds because the steering wheel will begin to shake. Tire separation can potentially cause a tire to fail, so it is essential to have your tires checked immediately by professionals if you suspect this might be a problem.
Uneven wear in the brakes
Another reason you may feel that irritating tug in your steering could be that your brakes are wearing unevenly. If you notice the pull when you brake, this is the most likely cause. One of your brake callipers might be stuck, which will cause the brake pads on that particular wheel to wear out differently from the one on the opposite side.
What about torque steer?
A less usual problem, occurring only in front-wheel-drive cars, torque steer is when your steering pulls to one side as you accelerate. There are several causes for torque steer: tie rod problems, a ball joint with too much movement or a deteriorating lower control arm bushing. More complicated causes include an unequal driveshaft angle. This problem is unlikely to happen in conventional rear-wheel-drive vehicles. If you do experience any pull as your accelerate, you should have your car checked out by a mechanic immediately.
If your steering is pulling to one side, bring your vehicle to us
The best thing to do when you start to experience problems with your steering is to take your car to an auto repair workshop. Special Interest Automobiles is an auto service workshop in Cambridge, ON, and we provide a complete range of car services, from tires and suspension to detailing and A/C repair. We have been proudly, reliably serving Cambridge automobile owners since 1985. If your steering wheel is pulling to one side, let us take a look at your vehicle and get your steering back in line. Contact us now.