My car pulls to the right when driving. Is my alignment bad? This is a common customer complaint at our Houston auto repair shop. You may be experiencing the same issue since you are visiting this page. If so, keep reading. This article will address the parts of your vehicle, other than wheel alignment, which may be the cause to your car pulling to the right.
Tire Conicity & Separation
If your car pulls to the right it could be due to tire conicity, which is a characteristic describing a tire’s propensity to roll similar to a cone. This type of rolling has an effect on the vehicle’s steering performance. Conicity is found in new tires, typically after the first rotation. It is basically a defect resulting from faulty manufacturing and is often the cause of a vehicle pulling hard to one side. Belts are not perfectly aligned beneath the tread in tires with conicity. This results tires inflating in the shape of a cone. Belts that are aligned correctly inflate square across the tread. The cone shaping of the tire creates a pull in steering which worsens as the car accelerates.
To test for tire conicity, our technicians will rotate the two front tires. Should the vehicle pull in the opposite direction, then conicity is the issue.
Tire separation is another problem that may also cause a pull. With a tire separation, air has forced the belts to separate from the tire carcass. Symptoms of tire separation are shimmying or shaking at low speeds.
One of the most common reasons why your car pulls to the right is uneven air pressure in your tires. A tire with lower pressure on one side of the vehicle has a different height which causes the wheel alignment to shift. Under-inflated tires have an increased resistance to roll, which amplifies steering pull.
Regularly check your tire pressure when your car begins to pull. Also be sure to inspect the tires in the rear. Low rear air pressure will also affect wheel alignment and create a steering pull, especially on short wheel base vehicles.
Car Pulls to the Right Quick Tip: Place New Tires on the Back of the Vehicle
The design of the tread, as well as tire wear, may also be the culprit behind why your car pulls to the right. Each brand has a unique tread design with distinct roll attributes. These characteristics in roll may also differ within the same tire brand. An example of this would be if you were to replace one tire in a set and experience a pull. Your car might not drive straight if you were to replace a bad tire with a new tire in the front. Tires should be replaced in pairs, with the newer tires being placed at the rear of the vehicle.
Car Pulls to the Right Quick Tip: Inspect Your Vehicle If Pulling Begins After Tire Rotation
Drivers will often notice vehicle pull soon after a tire rotation. There are a handful of reason why this may happen. For one, a tire that was previously located at the back of the vehicle may not match the tire it replaces in the front. The problem would become annoyingly apparent after tire rotation was performed. In this instance, should the tire be road worthy, it would be best to leave it at the rear. Slowly wearing out your tire tread is far less expensive than having to replace the tire completely. You should first attempt to rotate your tires before blaming the vehicle’s wheel alignment.
Non-Tire Related Reasons Why Your Car Pulls to the Right
Car Pulls to the Right on Specific Roads
In order to allow for drainage, engineers design roads that lean and are not quite level. This road slope guides the rain to the drainage, helping keep the streets free from flooding. This same slope or crown in the road affects vehicle steering by pulling ever so slightly in the slant’s direction.
The expert wheel alignment techs at J&T Automotive are trained to account for minor road slant. An accurately performed wheel alignment will allow a vehicle to drive straight on most roadways. It can be quite annoying when your car pulls to the right when driving.
Brake or Suspension Problems
A consistent pull in one direction, no matter what road you are on, is indicative of an issue with your vehicle’s wheel alignment. This pull occurs whenever you let go of the steering wheel, which is a symptom of a bad alignment. If your car pulls to the right when you do something other than release the steering wheel, chances are its not a problem with the wheel alignment. Let us say, for example, your car pulls to the right when you apply the brakes. This could indicate a problem with either brake or suspension components since your vehicle drives true when the brakes are not applied.
A specific example of a failed brake component causing your car to pull right would be a sticking caliper. When a caliper sticks, the brake pad continues to make contact with the rotors even after the brake pedal is released. For vehicles with drum brakes, this would be an issue with the wheel cylinder. Brake hydraulics are another component failure that can cause the brake pads to stick. When the brake pad continue to drag against the rotor on one side of the vehicle, you will DEFINITELY experience a change in steering and vehicle drift. A burning smell, from the heat, along with the car pulling are indicators of a brake problem.
When suspension components become worn they will shift when the brakes are applied. In the instance of a fatigued lower control arm bushing, the arm will shift upon braking, thus making the car quickly pull in one direction. This pulling stops once braking stops. A sharply turning steering wheel while slowing down and applying brakes is another indicator of worn suspension components.
Affecting mostly front wheel drive vehicles, torque steer is experienced when the automobile veers to one side during hard acceleration. This phenomenon has nothing to do with wheel alignment and can be a scary experience, especially for novice drivers.
Torque steer may be caused by a difference in air pressure between two tires which can prevent the two sides from gripping equally. It may also be caused by a difference in available traction underneath the two drive wheels. A more common reason for torque steer is due to the transversely mounted engines of front-wheel drive vehicles, which have drive-shafts that are not equal in length. When the vehicle accelerates hard, the shorter shaft wheel experiences torque gains, which results in the wheel pulling harder than the wheel with the longer shaft. This is what causes the vehicle to veer in one direction when acceleration is increased.
You can test your car for torque steer by placing it in neutral and letting it coast. Should the vehicle coast without pulling then torque steer is more than likely the issue.
Does your car pull to the right one moment and then pull to the left at other times? This is not due to poor wheel alignment because alignment can only be off in a single direction, whether that be right or left. This change in the direction of you car pulling may be attributed to memory steer. This is the name given to the phenomenon where a vehicle pulls in the same direction as the last “hard” turn.
Memory steer is typically the result of fatigued and binding strut mount bearings located in the strut tower. A front end component that is not installed properly is another reason why you may experience memory steer. Ball joints that bind can cause memory steer as well as other worn out front end components such as tie rods or an unbalanced power steering rack.
If your car pulls to the right or left then you should bring it in to your trusted repair shop and have them check the alignment. J&T Automotive has state of the art diagnostic equipment to pinpoint the exact reason for your vehicle’s pulling issue. Whether it be poor alignment, a bad tire, faulty brakes, worn suspension components or simply road conditions, we are the #1 independent repair shop for you.