Why Is My Car Pulling to One Side?

Is there anything more frustrating than having your car pull to one side while you’re driving? It’s difficult to focus on safe driving when you’re constantly pulling your steering wheel left or right just to keep a straight line.

Steering pull is a safety issue and not something you should ignore. If it happens, get your car checked out as soon as possible.

Here are a few reasons your car might be pulling to one side and the steps you can take to fix it.

5 Reasons Your Car Pulls in One Direction When You Drive

If you find your car pulling to one side, your first step should be to clarify the nature of the pull. Does your car consistently pull to the right? Or does your car always pull to the left? Does it pull when you accelerate, or only when you apply the brakes? Pinpointing the details and relaying this information to your technician can help them narrow down the possible cause and diagnose the issue quicker.

1. Wheel Alignment Is Off

One of the most common reasons your car may be pulling to the left or right is that the wheel alignment is off. In other words, your wheels aren’t pointing quite in the right direction.

Wheels are correctly aligned when your tyres are in line with the axles, making a rectangle parallel to each other. As well as giving you a safer, straighter drive, properly aligned wheels will:

  • Reduce wear and tear on the tires
  • Improve handling and overall driving performance
  • Improve fuel economy
  • Reduce steering problems

The main reasons your wheel alignment may be out of kilter are:

  • Hitting a pothole – thanks to cold, wet weather, potholes are a major problem on UK roads. Smashing into them repeatedly can cause your wheels to point in the wrong direction.
  • Mounting the kerb – a hard bump onto the kerb can damage your tyres and throw off your wheel alignment.
  • Not slowing down for speed bumps – racing over a speed bump can affect your wheel alignment, damage your suspension and even get you a speeding fine.

How to fix it: unless you’re a skilled mechanic, you’ll need to take your car to the garage to get the wheels realigned. But the good news is that it’s a reasonably quick and inexpensive fix. Some service centres will even offer an initial inspection for free to get you through the door.

2. Tire Air Pressure Is Uneven

Improper tire pressure is one of the top reasons a car might feel like it’s pulling to one side. With over or under-inflated tires, your car may feel like it’s leaning. This pull can occur from the right to left — almost like a heaving motion.

Over or under-inflated tires can lead to tire wear issues down the road, so it’s best not to let this one linger. Find your recommended tire pressure and head to the nearest air-fill station to check and/or refill your tires.

Why Is My Car Pulling to One Side

3. Your Brakes Are Wearing Unevenly

If you notice your car pulls to one side when braking, there could be a problem with the braking system. A common cause of uneven braking is a stuck caliper.

Calipers are used to apply pressure to the brake pads – like clamps. If one of them sticks, you’ll usually hear a grinding noise as the brake on one side grabs harder than the other, causing the car to veer.

A clogged brake hose could also be the problem. The brake hose delivers brake fluid to the tyres. If it gets clogged, the fluid won’t be pumped around evenly and could cause the car to pull.

Here are some of the common brake issues:

Stuck Calipers

The brake calipers apply the pads to the rotors when fluid pressure is delivered to the piston chamber in the caliper, but the piston can stick in one caliper and cause a pull while braking.

Collapsed Brake Hose

Because the suspension and steering moves the wheels separately from the vehicle frame, high pressure hoses are required to feed brake pressure to the calipers.

Sometimes, a brake hose will begin to swell shut on the inside and you may feel a pull when you initially start braking, only to feel the pull go away as you continue to apply brake pressure. But anything that hinders the natural flow of the fluid can cause the car to pull to one side when braking.

How to fix it: if you notice anything odd about your brakes, no matter how slight, get them checked out by a mechanic straight away for safety’s sake.

4. The Wheel Bearing Is Bad

When wheel bearings wear out, the signs are obvious. Usually, the car will show other symptoms before it starts to pull.

Normally you will first hear grinding noises from the tire area and your steering wheel will shake. Eventually, the car will likely pull left or right.

If the wheel bearing is bad, contact your mechanic immediately. Your vehicle is not roadworthy in this condition.

5. Suspension or Steering Parts Are Worn Out

If your tires aren’t the culprit, you’re steering or suspension components could be the root culprit. If any of this wears out, your car could start to pull to one side or the other.

When suspension components are worn, they shift when the brakes are applied. In the case of a fatigued lower control arm bushing, the arm will displace under braking, causing the car to quickly pull in one direction. This pulling stops as soon as the braking stops. A sharp turning steering wheel when slowing down and braking is another indicator of worn suspension components.

Annual inspections help you keep up to date to ensure nothing is worn out. If your vehicle displays any of these five signs by pulling in a direction while driving, don’t hesitate. Take your vehicle to a local mechanic and they will take care of it.

6. Tire Separation

If your car is shaking when you are driving it at low speeds as well as pulling to the right or left, then the issue may be a different type of tire problem. The treads may have become separated from the tire casing.

This can be caused by a number of things including:

  • A manufacturing defect
  • A flat tire that wasn’t repaired properly
  • Hitting a pothole
  • Over-inflating your tires

How to fix it: If your tire has become separated, don’t ignore it. It could cause you to get into an accident. Get it checked out and replaced.

7. The Slope of The Road

Most roads are built with a camber or slope to them. This allows for water to run off to the sides where it can drain away and not pool in the road. The following video will explain further what road camber is.

When your wheels are aligned, the technician will usually account for the slope in the road in their calculations.  If the slope of the road is different from their calculations, you could notice a pull to the right or the left.

You may find that pulling occurs only on certain roads. This could be because the slope of those roads is slightly different than the others you are used to driving on.

How to fix it: Get your wheels aligned by a trained professional who knows how to take into account the camber of most roads.