Why is My Car Pulling to the Left or Right?

March 8, 2018

Cars sometimes act like they have a mind of their own, but if yours seems to be pulling to one side, you may have a wheel alignment problem. This problem can range from slightly annoying to “I can’t drink my coffee and drive at the same time,” and it definitely can be a safety issue. Luckily, a car that pulls to the right or left is usually easy enough to diagnose and fix.

How your suspension system works

Your tires, shock absorbers and struts are what keep your vehicle comfortable while you drive over bumps and potholes, and help keep your car running in sync. Wear and tear or damage to your suspension system and alignment can also cause your brakes to stop working as effectively. This can eventually cause other problems with your vehicle down the road. Your car is engineered for every system to work together as a team.

Struts and shocks work to absorb any impact you may encounter, such as driving over a speed bump, uneven terrain and potholes. In addition to your shocks and struts, your suspension system relies on your tires to help you move smoothly and drive in a straight line. Your tires will wear down gradually as you drive many miles, but if they are out of alignment, they can wear unevenly and cause a safety issue.

Get it diagnosed by a professional

Reasons your car is pulling to one side 

It can happen gradually or suddenly — you’re driving down the road and notice you have to put a bit more effort steering to keep your car from drifting to the left or right. Here are some of the more common reasons why this happens:

Low tire pressure: If you have a tire with low pressure, the car will tend to pull to that side. Check all your tires to ensure they are set to the correct pressure. 

Wheel alignment: This is the most common reason for a car not driving straight and it may or may not result in abnormal tire wear. This can be a result of normal driving or from hitting a curb or pothole. 

Tire wear: Take a look at your tires and see how they are wearing. Do they seem worn down more on one side than the other? This can mean your alignment is out of whack. If this is the case, you’ll want to get them aligned as soon as you can. You may also need new tires, depending on the severity of the wear.

Tire defects: Other tire problems can come into play here as well. If you see any visible metal strips seemingly coming out of your tire, you should get it replaced. It’s best to replace all of your tires at the same time, as having one new tire and three old ones will just cause your car to handle poorly.

Tires out of balance: Tires that are out of balance can cause your vehicle to feel wobbly. This can also lead to problems with them wearing unevenly in the future. When tires are balanced, it’s usually done by adding small weights to your rim. 

Excess load: If the vehicle is weighed down with a heavy load, it can cause your suspension to work extra hard. If you regularly find yourself exceeding maximum weight limits for your vehicle, you might want to switch to a vehicle that’s more heavy-duty. However, if the car or truck is sagging and pulling without being weighed down, one of the springs may be cracked or otherwise compromised, decreasing its weight capacity. It should be inspected and replaced.

Impacts and accidents: Accidents and collisions can cause unseen damage to your suspension system. Even hitting a pothole the wrong way can potentially damage your suspension. If your car has been in a collision, or if you’ve recently accidentally driven over a curb or other big bump, it’s a good idea to take a look at your suspension system before it becomes a safety hazard.

» MORE: Get an accurate estimate for your car repair

What to do about the problem

Typically, a wheel alignment will stop your vehicle from pulling to the right or left. A certified mechanic can perform an inspection of your suspension and steering system, identify the issue and correct it.

If your tires are too worn, you may need to get new ones, and if your braking system is playing a role, it will need to be addressed as well. 


About the Author

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