My car pulls to one side. What should I do?

It’s a worry to find your car pulling to one side, but there’s a few reasons why it might be happening. Find out more in our guide.

It’s a worry to find your car pulling to one side, but there’s a few reasons why it might be happening. Find out more in our guide.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
23 AUGUST 2022
5 min read
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Why is my car pulling to one side?

Have you ever noticed your car pulling to the left or right when you’re driving or braking? It can be pretty nerve-racking and you might not feel in full control of the steering wheel.

Constantly tugging on your steering to keep a straight line can be frustrating – and also dangerous. 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’s a few reasons why your car might be pulling to one side.

Wheel alignment is off

One of the most common reasons that your car may be pulling to one side 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 – you may be in a hurry, but racing over a speed bump can affect your wheel alignment, damage your suspension and even get you a speeding fine. An extra 4mph over a speed bump isn’t going to get you to your destination much faster, so it’s probably best you slow down and take them at an appropriate speed. 

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. It’s easy to do yourself and 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

Your tyre treads will inevitably wear down over time. However, if you don’t get your 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. When this happens, you may find it affects your steering, so it’s time for a new tyre.

You may be advised to change both tyres on the same axle at the same time. This is because a new tyre will have a deeper tread than the others and may cause further imbalance problems.

Uneven brakes

If you notice your car pulling when you brake, 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.

If you notice anything odd about your brakes, no matter how slight, get them checked out 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. It’s not an especially difficult problem for a mechanic to fix, but it’s an issue you should get sorted as soon as possible because your vehicle might not be safe to drive as it is.

Are there any other reasons my car could be 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. If the pull is persistent and to the same side, however, 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. Although many newer, high-performance sports cars are designed with solutions to counter this effect, the best way to avoid torque steer 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 steering pull

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. Checking the tread depth is easily done with a 20p coin. If the outer band is covered by rubber, your tyre has enough tread. If not, your tread depth may be too low. UK law states tyre tread depth on cars must be a minimum of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the tread, around its entire circumference.
  • 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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