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My steering is pulling to one side. What should I do?

It’s a worry to find your car steering pulling to one side, and it could be dangerous. We explore the reasons it might be happening and how to fix it in our helpful guide.

It’s a worry to find your car steering pulling to one side, and it could be dangerous. We explore the reasons it might be happening and how to fix it in our helpful guide.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
18 JUNE 2024
10 min read
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Why is my car steering pulling to one side?

There are various reasons for your car’s steering to pull to one side when you’re driving or braking.

Whatever the reason, steering pull can be dangerous and shouldn’t be ignored. If you find your car steering pulling to one side, call a garage and get it checked out as soon as possible.

Here are a few of the main reasons your car might be veering off course and the steps you can take to fix it.

Wheel alignment is off

A car pulling to the left or right is often a result of the wheel alignment being off. In other words, your wheels aren’t pointing quite in the right direction.

When your car’s wheels are correctly aligned, your tyres will be in line with the axles, making a rectangle parallel to each other. As well as being important in terms of safety, properly aligned wheels will:

  • Reduce wear and tear on the tyres
  • 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 potholepotholes are a major problem on UK roads – and bumping into them repeatedly can cause your wheels to fall out of alignment.
  • Mounting the kerb – bumping 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, of course, get you a speeding fine.

How to fix it: if your car’s steering is pulling to one side because of mis-aligned wheels, you’ll need to take your car to a garage to get the wheels realigned. It’s a reasonably quick and inexpensive fix, and some service centres offer an initial inspection for free.

Uneven tyre pressure

If one of your tyres has less pressure than the others, you could find your car pulling to the left or right when you’re driving. In this instance, you’ll just need to add more air to the tyre that’s underinflated.

How to fix it: it’s easy to inflate your tyres yourself using the tyre air machines found at most petrol stations. You’ll find the recommended pressure level in the manufacturer’s handbook or on your car’s b-pillar – the vertical column between the front and rear doors.

Worn tyres

Since tyres can wear at uneven rates, you might rotate your car’s tyres from one position to another every now and then. This can help them wear more evenly . But if a worn tyre starts affecting your steering, it’s time to get a new one.

How to fix it: if you’re confident about changing tyres, you can do this yourself. Otherwise, take your car to a garage. You’ll normally be advised to change both tyres on the same axle at the same time. That’s because different brands and models of tyres have different tread patterns and rolling characteristics.

Having one tyre that rolls or wears differently may cause further problems. So it’s best to nip any imbalance issues in the bud and replace both.

New tyres

If you notice your car pulling to the right or left after having two new tyres fitted, it could be down to a manufacturing fault with one of the tyres.

Tyre conicity can happen when the steel belts under the tread are poorly aligned and cause the rubber to harden in a slight cone shape.

How to fix it: tyre conicity is normally apparent straight away. Your tyre warranty should cover a replacement, free of charge. You can replace the faulty tyre yourself or take your car to a garage.

Tyre separation

If you notice that either a wheel or the steering wheel starts to shake when driving at low speeds, it could be down to tyre separation. This is when one of the tyre’s structural layers separates from the others, and it can be extremely dangerous.

Tyre separation could be caused by:

  • A manufacturing fault
  • Improperly inflated tyres
  • Overloading your tyres with too much weight
  • Tyres overheating due to driving at high speeds or extreme temperatures
  • Incorrect tyre maintenance or degradation caused by age
  • Road hazards, like potholes or hitting the kerb. 

Tyre tread separation is serious. It could lead to a tyre blowout while you’re driving and cause you to lose control of the vehicle.

How to fix it: if you notice a shaking steering wheel or wheels, see a mechanic immediately. Don’t continue to drive and risk a blowout.

Wheels are imbalanced

Tyres can become imbalanced if they’re not perfectly round or one of the small balancing weights on the wheel’s rim has fallen off.

If your car wheels are imbalanced and the weight isn’t distributed evenly, it can cause your wheel and steering wheel to vibrate or wobble. You may then find your steering pulling to one side.

How to fix it: along with tyre rotation and wheel alignment, you should get your tyres balanced periodically as part of your full car service. If you notice any shaking in between services, take your car into the garage immediately.

Uneven brakes

If you notice your steering pulling to one side when braking, there could be a problem with your car’s braking system. This is often an issue with one of the calipers.

Calipers are like small clamps that apply pressure to the brake pads. If one of them sticks, you’ll usually hear a grinding noise as you brake and your steering might pull left or right.

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

How to fix it: if you notice anything odd about your brakes, no matter how minor, get them checked out by a mechanic straight away. Driving without fully functioning brakes is incredibly dangerous.

Wheel bearings

If your car is making strange grinding noises or your steering wheel wobbles or shakes when you turn, there could be a problem with your wheel bearings.

How to fix it: this is a relatively easy fix for a mechanic. But you’ll need to get it sorted as soon as possible, otherwise your vehicle might not be safe to drive.

Are there any other reasons my car steering is pulling to one side?

If you’ve checked all of the above and your car is still pulling to one side, there are a few other things to look out for, including:

The road is sloping

f your car pulls to the right or left, it could simply be a sloping road that’s to blame. But if the pull is persistent and to the same side, this probably isn’t the case.

A part needs replacing

If any of the car’s components are worn out – particularly those involved in steering or suspension – it can result in your car pulling to the left or right.

You’ll need to have a mechanic give your car the once-over to identify the issue. This should be covered as standard when you take your car in for its annual MOT.

Torque steer

If your car’s a high-performance, front-wheel drive, you might feel it pulling to one side when you accelerate. This ‘tugging’ sensation is due to the gearbox and engine layout, which sends more power to one tyre than the other.

Many newer, high-performance sports cars are designed with solutions to counter torque steer. Still, the best way to avoid it is to accelerate gradually.

Did you know?

Nearly all roads have a slight slope. They’re purposely designed to curve away from the centre on both sides to allow rainwater to drain away more quickly.

What should you do if your vehicle pulls to one side when you use the brakes?

If your vehicle pulls to one side when braking, it’s a sign that there’s an issue with your braking system. Driving a car without fully functioning brakes is a safety issue, so have a mechanic check it over immediately.

Top tips to prevent your car pulling to one side

If you experience steering pull when driving or braking, it’s best to get your car checked by a mechanic as soon as possible. It might be easily fixed, but it could also be something serious.

Here are our top tips to help keep your car on the straight and narrow:

  • Make sure your car is regularly serviced – a regular service will pick up any minor problems before they become serious. It will also reduce the risk of breaking down.
  • Take care of your tyres – don’t just wait for the annual service or MOT. Regularly checking your tyres’ pressure and condition will ensure they’re roadworthy and safe.
  • Check the tread depth of your tyres – the legal minimum limit for a car’s tyre tread depth is 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread – around its entire circumference. Check your tyre depth by inserting a 20p coin into the grooves on the tyre. If the outer rim of the coin is visible, your tyre needs replacing.
  • Drive carefully – avoid potholes if possible, and slow right down when tackling uneven roads and speed bumps. Your steering, suspension and passengers will thank you for it.
  • Take extra care in bad weather – icy conditions and wet roads can increase the risk of losing control of your car. Get a wheel alignment check before driving in bad conditions or taking on a long journey, especially in the winter.
  • For extra peace of mind, take out breakdown cover – it’s good to know that if you break down, professional help is on the way.

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