Auto Repair Q&A



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Steering Pull Diagnosis

Tire Wear and Alignment

Steering pull can be an occasional pulling to one side or the other, usually during braking or accelerating, or a steady pull to one side or the other during straight-line driving. In either case, it's most often associated with wheel alignment or braking system problems.

Occasional Pull or "Wandering" Steering

When the steering pulls to one side only when brakes are applied or for a short time after a turn, this occasional pulling is usually related to steering components or brakes. When this problem occurs, it's important to diagnose it immediately and stop driving the car until it's repaired. An occasional pull or wandering steering can mean serious breakdowns are about to occur which could result in an accident.

Check the braking systems first. A dragging or misaligned brake caliper is a likely cause and should be relatively easy to spot. While checking the brakes, be sure to check ball joints and other steering/suspension issues as probable causes. If the brakes check out, test the system to be sure that brake pressure is even.

If all is well, then the steering rack may be the problem. A worn rack can cause "memory steer" in which the steering does not return to "0" (straight ahead) alignment after a turn. This is usually due to worn gears or bearings.

You should also check your upper strut mounts for signs of binding and tie rod ends for wear. Leaks in the power assist could also be a problem.

Bump Steer, Torque Steer

These are steering issues that happen when a light bump (speed bump, small pothole, etc.) are hit or on acceleration. Often they can happen together. These are usually caused by bad steering linkage, bent steering arms, loose tie rod ends/sockets, collapsed control arm bushings, or broken engine mounts.

Steady Pulling

This is most often associated with wheel alignment issues. Uneven camber or caster can cause pull to one side or the other as well as increased tire wear. If the front wheels are OK, the rear wheels may be out of alignment - they are often skipped when wheel alignments are done during maintenance.

Brake drag is another common problem, with one pad or caliper dragging against the disc when the brakes should be released. This will usually result in brake smell or other signs, but not every time.

Mismatched tires or low pressure are also common steering pull issues. Check all of your tires for a match on each axle and side. Have your tires balanced - sometimes an off-center ply can cause a tire to become imbalanced, causing steering pull.