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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
21 JULY 2022
8 min read
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Why is my car pulling to one side?

There are a variety of causes for cars pulling to the right or or left while you’re driving or breaking.

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.

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 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 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.

Uneven tyre pressure

If one of your tyres has less pressure than the others, you could find you’re veering to one side. 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 do yourself. There are tyre air machines at most petrol stations. You’ll find the recommended pressure level in the manufacturer’s handbook or on the b-pillar on your car – that’s the vertical column between the front and rear doors.

Worn tyres

rotated every now and then (where you swap tyres from one position to the other so they wear evenly), one can wear down faster than the others. If a worn tyre starts affecting your steering, it’s time to get a new one.

How to fix it: 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. And having one tyre that rolls or wears differently may cause further imbalance problems.

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 and your tyre warranty should cover a replacement, free of charge.

Tyre separation

If you notice a wheel and the steering wheel start 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.

Tyre separation could be caused by:

  • A manufacturing fault
  • Improperly inflated tyres putting more stress on certain parts of the tyre
  • Overloading your tyres with too much weight
  • Tyres overheating due to aggressive driving at high speeds or extreme temperatures
  • Improper tyre maintenance or degradation caused by age
  • Road hazards, like potholes or hitting the kerb. 

Tyre tread separation can be extremely dangerous because it could lead to a tyre blowout while you’re driving and cause you to lose control of the vehicle.

How to fix it: see a mechanic immediately if you feel any of the wheels or the steering wheel start to shake. 

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 wheels are imbalanced and the weight isn’t distributed evenly, it can cause your wheel and steering wheel to vibrate or wobble, and your car to pull 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. But if you do notice any shaking, take your car into the garage for a check-up immediately. 

Uneven brakes

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.

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.

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: it’s not an especially difficult problem for a mechanic to fix. However, you’ll need to get this issue sorted as soon as possible because your vehicle might not be safe to drive as it is.

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

If wheel alignment, tyres or brakes aren’t to blame, there's a few other culprits to look out for, including:

The road is sloping

It could be as simple as a sloping road causing the car to pull to one side. But if the pull is persistent and to the same side, this probably isn’t the issue.

A part needs replacing

If any of the car’s components are worn out – particularly those that govern the steering or suspension – it can affect how the car drives.

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

Torque steer

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

Many newer, high-performance sports cars are designed with solutions to counter torque steer. Still, the best way to avoid this effect is to go lightly on the throttle and 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.

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 just be a minor problem that’s easily fixed, but it could also be something far more serious.

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

  • Make sure your car is regularly serviced so any problems can be picked up before they get more serious. A regular service 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 tyre pressure and the condition of your tyres will ensure they’re roadworthy and safe.
  • Check the tread depth of your tyres. UK law states that tyre tread depth on cars must be a minimum of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread, around its entire circumference. You can check 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 on the road. Get a wheel alignment check before driving in bad conditions or before a long journey, especially in the winter.
  • For extra peace of mind, take out breakdown cover. It’s good to know that if you do end up stranded, professional help is on the way. 

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