While it is natural for cars to slightly pull to one side while driving, often it is a sign of mechanical problems in your car. And for this, you should not ignore this erratic behavior.
So, if this is your car and you are wondering what the problem is, then you are in the right place. In this article, we look at the most common causes of a car pulling to either side. Let’s get started.
Reasons Why your car pulling to one side
1. Inconsistent tire pressure
The chief reason why your car is pulling to one side is the uneven air pressure in your tires. To address this, you just need to add or remove air from either of the tires. This is common among many vehicles since the pressure of the tires drops gradually as you drive. Visit the nearest gas station once in a while to measure pressure before embarking on a journey.
2. Improper wheel alignment
Another common cause of cars pulling to either side is improper wheel alignment. This can be caused by hitting potholes or when you are involved in a collision. Misaligned wheels can also cause the treads of the tires to wear unevenly.
If you notice these visible signs, you need to consult a professional who’ll align the wheels to their original alignment. Keep in mind that misalignment can happen gradually and that’s why we recommend visiting your mechanic at least once per year.
You can choose between four-wheel or two-wheel alignment depending on the make of your car. Avoid aligning one wheel as this might facilitate other alignment problems.
3. Tire conicity
This is a tire problem right from the manufacturer. All tires are made differently and some may come with defects. Some spots may be heavier than others or the tire alignment may be out of shape. The most common cause of conicity is the treads hardening to form cone shapes rather than cylindrical shapes.
This causes to sway towards the tire with cone-shaped treads. Fortunately, most tire manufacturers provide a warranty that covers conicity. As such, you can replace the tire for free. Note: this only happens with new tires.
4. Different patterns
Tire manufacturers such as Bridgestone and Firestone produce tires with different tread patterns. This means that if you are to use different brands of tires on your vehicle, you are likely to experience your car pulling to one side. Experts recommend changing all tires at once. If you decide to change two tires, ensure to fix the new one on the rear axle.
5. Faulty braking system
Another problem that can cause your car to pull to one side is a faulty braking system. For example, if a brake caliper gets stuck on either of the wheels, your car will pull towards that side. This happens when it is not supplied with enough hydraulic pressure to squeeze against the braking pad.
Also, if your wheel cylinder is misaligned, it can cause friction against the braking pad. This can lead to the building up of heat which produces an unpleasant smell. If this is the case, you should visit a professional who’ll fix the braking system.
6. Worn out suspensions
If the brakes and the tires are okay and you still experience pull when braking, it is as a result of worn-out suspension parts. For example, worn-out arm bushing may allow the wheel to steer in either direction instead of braking. This causes the car to pull towards that direction.
7. Torque steer
Not only can your car pull to one side when braking, but also when accelerating. This is caused by torque steer. It is most common in front-wheel-drive cars. It is caused by several factors such as the difference in pressure between the two wheels, varying traction, and uneven tire treads.
When accelerating, there is a shift in weight from the front to the rare of the car. This causes the front wheels to spin resulting in the car pulling to one side.
Is it normal for a car to shift slightly to the right?
A slight shift to the right is not a cause for alarm. However, if it is persistent, you need to visit a garage for an alignment inspection.
Can a bad wheel bearing cause the car to pull to one side?
Yes, bearing allows for a seamless friction-free rotation of the wheels. They allow the tire, wheel, and hub to work in unison. In case of bad bearings not only will the car pull to one side, but also produce strange noises, makes the car feel “loose” when steering, and cause the tires to wear unevenly.
Why does my car pull to either side after wheel alignment?
This could be due to improper wheel alignment. You should ask your mechanic to check it again. If you’ve conducted two-wheel alignment, you should try four-wheel alignment. You can also seek tire balancing services to ensure the tires have even treads.
How do you know your car needs a wheel alignment?
Some signs you need to look out for include
1. The steering wheel is out of place
Normally, the steering wheel should return to the center after taking a corner or turn. However, if the wheel does not return naturally to the center position, it is a clear indication that your wheels need an alignment.
2. Unstable handling
The steering should feel rigid when driving. But should it feel loose, it is an indication of wheel misalignment and you should visit a garage as soon as possible. A loose steering wheel might lead to unnecessary accidents when driving along the highway.
3. Uneven tread wear
Another indicator of misalignment is the tires wearing out unevenly. They can either get worn out on the inside or outside edges. The mechanic will perform camber alignment to ensure that the tires are aligned as they should.
4. Vehicle pulling to either side
This is the most common sign of poor wheel alignment since the car pulls in the direction of the misaligned wheels.
Your car pulling to one side can be caused by many factors as we’ve discussed in this article. They include improper alignment, uneven air pressure, different treads, and more. Always seek help from trained personnel to avoid further damage to your car.
Sam is Automole’s editor-in-chief and classic car enthusiast. Sam is studying mechanical engineering at Cockrell School of Engineering, Austin. He also writes for many top automotive publications and appears on the Collecting Cars Podcast.