A car that’s pulling in one direction is inconvenient to drive. More importantly, it is dangerous to drive your car in this condition, as it can become difficult to control it in an emergency. Last but not the least, it causes further damage to your car.
Possible Root Causes for why your car might be pulling in one direction:
- Uneven Tire Pressure: Uneven tire pressure is a very common reason for a car to pull to one side. Lower pressure on one side changes the height of the tire, which causes the alignment to change. This is especially true if you have an underinflated rear tire. If the tire is underinflated, it will have increased rolling resistance which will make the pull to one side much more noticeable. Over inflated tires are just as bad. This condition will also cause the alignment to change. An overinflated tire will cause the vehicle to push away from that tire, also creating abnormal tire wear. You can see this in two ways. An underinflated tire will show wear on the outer edges, whereas an overinflated tire will show wear down the center of the tire. If you have an air pressure gauge, check air pressure in all the four tires, and inflate all tires to their proper pressure. The recommended tire pressure can usually be found on the driver’s side door jam. The optimal pressure is on a sticker. After you have inflated the tires back to their specifications, drive the vehicle to verify the pull is now gone.
- Wheel Alignment: Another common cause of a car pulling to the side is a wheel that is out of alignment. Another symptom of misaligned wheels is uneven tread wear. Out-of-alignment wheels will quickly wear down and can lead to more serious issues if not addressed. You should have your vehicle aligned as soon as possible if this is the root cause of the pulling. Alignment is not an adjustment of the wheels or tires, but of the suspension. The suspension will be adjusted so that the angle of the tires is optimized and the tires make contact with the road according to the manufacturer specifications.
- Brake Issues – Stuck Calliper, Collapsed Brake Hose, Unlubricated Slide Pins: Issues with the brake system can cause a vehicle to pull to one side. One of the most common brake issues is a stuck calliper. Brake callipers are powered by the hydraulic brake system and apply pressure to the brake pads to bring the car to a stop. If one of the callipers is stuck, the car will pull to that side. Other brake issues that cause a car to pull include a collapsed brake hose, or slide pins that are in need of lubrication.
- Faulty Wheel Bearing: If you have a faulty wheel bearing, there will probably be more serious symptoms present, but pulling to one side is also a warning sign. Wheel bearings allow the friction-free rotation of the wheel hub assembly, providing smooth wheel rotation. There are four wheel bearings on a vehicle, one at each wheel. When a wheel bearing wears out you will hear a grinding noise from the tire area, the steering wheel will sometimes shake, and the car will possibly pull to one side if it is starting to seize. This latter symptom often occurs long after you start hearing the grinding noise. You should not drive your vehicle in this condition.
- Worn Out Suspension Components: At some point in your vehicle’s lifetime, most of the suspension will need replacing. Whether it is shocks or struts, ball joints, control arms or bushings, all the components wear out over time. As they become worn, they will often shift or lean to one side, especially during braking, which causes the car to pull to that side. For example, a worn-out control arm bushing will shift when the brakes are applied, causing the vehicle to pull sharply to that side. Suspension parts tend to wear out slowly, so it is possible that you may not notice until they actually go bad. The suspension is a key component of your car’s safety system and you should not drive it with faulty or worn out parts.
- Worn Out Steering Linkage: A weak tie rod end will cause the steering wheel to shift to one side or the other while turning. If it gets extremely bad, the steering wheel could shake violently from side to side. Newer vehicles use a rack-and-pinion system that can sometimes be serviced. Older vehicles use a steering box and linkage system that is serviceable. A faulty or severely damaged steering linkage is extremely dangerous, as it could result in loss of control of the steering wheel.
- Torque Steer: Torque steer is when the car pulls to one side as the car initially accelerates. There can be several causes of this condition. Sometimes, loose steering components are the culprit. Other times, a faulty engine mount is the cause. Too much slack in a tie rod, a failing lower control-arm bushing, or a ball joint with excess movement can all cause this problem. You can test for this problem by putting your car in neutral and coasting it down the street. If the pull does not happen when coasting, alignment is probably not the problem and torque steer could be the source of the issue.