For all vehicle owners, if you are seeing a pull right or left, look look closely at your tires. Very often tires can show uneven wear that can result in pulling. Other times tread wear can look perfectly even and the car will still pull. The question that needs to be answered is whether the pulling is related to alignment, the tires or both. Take a look at the pointers outlined below to help you make that determination.
Car Pulls - Alignment Problem Or Tires?
A car that pulls or drifts to one side may have a tire problem, an alignment problem or both. Sometimes the tires can show some uneven wear that can result in pulling. Other times the tires can look perfectly fine and the car will pull to the right or left. Yes, it is best to have the alignment checked if there is any doubt about the alignment being out of specification. But, if the tires are wearing nicely and you have a very hard pull at slow speeds, it could just be caused by a tire.
Radial Tires. Radial tires are designed to grip the road. If the tire belts are slightly off the tire can grip the road unevenly. The tire belts can be off slightly from the factory or can be altered by an impact from the road such as hitting a pothole or an object on the road. If any of the tires have any bulges in the tread area, known as separations or slipped belts, the tire must be replaced. Failure to replace a tire with a slipped belt will most likely result in a blow out and possible vehicle damage. Very slight bulges on the sidewall, small dimples are normal and can be found on any tire. The dimples are the seams where the tires have been put together at the factory.
Cross Rotating. Older consumers may remember back in the 80's when it was not recommended to rotate radial tires in any kind of cross rotation pattern. The truth is when this rumor was being spread, tire manufacturers were simply having problems with the design of radial tires and reversing the rotation was blamed as the cause of tires separating and blowing out. Reversing the direction of tires never really caused any blow-outs or tire failures. Now with that being said, if a tire pull is suspected rotate the front tires side to side and see if the pull is gone or reversed. Many times if a car pulls hard at slow speeds, it is just a tire pull. As stated before inspect the tires to make sure there are no unusual bulges, uneven wear or damage prior to just criss crossing the tires.
Alignment. Finally, if the pull is still there after cross rotating the front tires, a suspension and steering inspection is in order. Alignment may be necessary to remedy the pull. The alignment will consist of four alignment heads being attached to the wheels and all the angles checked and adjusted if necessary. Caster is the angle that most commonly causes an alignment pull. Camber and toe will also be checked and adjusted if necessary to insure even tire wear. The last step is to test drive the car after the alignment and verify the pull is gone, a slight drift to the right if only present on some roads may be normal due to the crown or slope to the road (the crown is necessary for road drainage). Make sure the steering wheel is centered, this is mainly cosmetic since the steering wheel can be off center and the car can be perfectly in alignment otherwise. A centered wheel allows the instrument panel to be seen easily and if the alignment changes in the future, especially the toe adjustment, the steering wheel will be off-center indicating that an alignment may be needed.
About the Author. Hi I'm Dennis Bandy, thanks for reading about my background. I've been an ASE Master Auto Technician for over 23 years and have also sold professional auto tools since 2005. I am in a unique position to help readers on certain automotive repair related topics since I've had personal hands on experience with many auto repairs and automotive specialty tools. Let me just say, this is not a hobby for me, this is my business. Your feedback is really appreciated, if you thought this article was helpful or informative, please rate it below (thank you in advance).
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