Steering becomes a challenge
Steering your vehicle takes little effort - a correction here or there is all it usually takes to keep you moving down the road. However, if you sense your vehicle pulling to one side and leave your vehicle feeling like you just had quite the arm workout; it’s time to look into the issue.
Aside from being annoying and difficult to steer, when your car pulls to the left or right it is often an indication of a problem with the brakes, tires or the steering and suspension. Following are some of the most common causes of your vehicle pulling to the left or right.
When your car pulls to the left or right it is often an indication of a problem with the brakes, tires or the steering and suspension.
Examine front brake calipers, linings, discs and shoes
If your vehicle pulls to one side during braking, visually inspect the front brake discs or rotors and front brake drums for hot spots or areas damaged by excessive heat. Inspect calipers for proper operation and movement within their mounting brackets. Check for fluid leaks on the front brake linings or pads.
Uneven friction between the right and left front brakes can cause the steering wheel to pull right or left. If the condition of the front brakes appears fine, check to make sure the disc calipers or brake shoes are adjusted properly, so that the right and left pads or shoes are moving at the same rate of speed and distance when the brake pedal is applied. Brakes are a critical safety component and all repairs should be performed without delay.
Check tires for suspicious wear
If your steering issues aren’t related to your brakes, look at the tires for tell-tales signs of front end steering and/or suspension problems. Visually check the wear pattern of right and left opposing tires for differences.
Look for feathering or rough edges on the inside or outside of one or both tires for indications that the wheels are not pointing in the proper direction. The absence of wear is not a guarantee that no issue exists. Impact damage to the steering, from a bump or flying debris, can cause the steering wheel to pull to the right or left well before damage occurs to the tires.
Inspect steering links, ball joints and tie rod ends
Worn out or weakened components in your car’s steering and suspension system can cause your vehicle to pull to the left or right. Performing an inspection of your steering and suspension system will help you determine if this is where the problem is.
If you look behind the front right or left wheel of your vehicle, you’ll find the wheel attached to a steering knuckle. Each steering knuckle links to the steering and suspension systems. If you trace the steering system from a steering gear box, you’ll find a series of links terminating at the steering knuckle. If you trace the steering system from a steering rack and pinion, you’ll find it too, terminates at the steering knuckle.
Worn out or weakened components in your car’s steering and suspension system can cause your vehicle to pull to the left or right.
The final link between either the steering gear box or the rack and pinion, and the steering knuckle on the right and left is called a tie rod end. Each tie rod end sets into a ball joint, firmly inserted in the steering knuckle. The ball joint is a steel component attaching the control arms to the steering knuckle. The tie rod end is a 90° male elbow. The fit between the two must provide both stability and an ability to pivot. All these parts should be intact, with practically zero play between each tie rod and its paired ball joint.
Both the right and left tie rods adjust in order to adjust the toe angle of the front tires. If there is no damage to the steering links, suspect the wheel alignment is the cause of the vehicle pulling right or left. Conduct all the repairs above prior to having a wheel alignment performed by a qualified technician.
Consult a mechanic for assistance
If you suspect that you need repairs to correct your vehicle’s issues, it might be time to take it to your trusted mechanic. With their skills and expertise, they’ll have you on the correct path in no time!
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