Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Car pulls to one side

Car pulls to one side — most common causes

When a car pulls to one side, the cause can be tire, alignment or brake related. Before you start a diagnosis, take note of the conditions when the pull occurs.

Car pulls when driving/coasting

The point here is that the car pulls to one side when it isn’t under heavy acceleration. If you’re coasting on a fairly level road, the car will pull to one side when it’s supposed to be going straight.

Road crown can cause pull to one side

Road crown can cause a pull to the right. All roads have a slight crown to drain water off the surface. Road crown can cause a slight pull to the right when you’re in the right lane of a four-lane road. However, if you’re driving in the left lane of the same road and it still pulls to the right, the cause is not road crown.

Underinflation can cause car pull

If one front tire is underinflated, you’ll experience a car pull towards the side with the underinflated tire. The cause of the pull is increased rolling resistance from the underinflated tire. Check tire inflation and see if the problem goes away

Stuck brake caliper can cause pull to one side

If you notice the car pull right after a stop, you may have a stuck brake caliper that’s not releasing the brake pads. That causes one wheel to drag and results in a car pull to that side. Raise the vehicle, apply the brakes, then rotate the wheels. If one wheel is much harder to turn, chances are that brake caliper is stuck. To fix the problem, see this post.

Alignment problems can cause car pulls to one side condition

When camber is off, the top of the tire tilts inward or outward. That causes a car pull to the side that has the greatest positive or negative camber. A four-wheel alignment will fix the problem.

camber wear on tire

Tire conicity can cause a pull to one side

If you drive a vehicle for extended periods with positive or negative camber, you can actually wear the tire into a cone shape. Even if you then have an alignment performed, the coned tire will still cause a pull to one side.

Broken belt in tire can cause tire pull

This one is pretty self explanatory. Look a the tire and you can see why it won’t track straight.

broken belt in tire

Car pulls to one side when accelerating

Torque steer causes a car pull to one side and is caused by one axle shaft being shorter than the other. The longer axle shaft twists slightly on heavy acceleration caused a slight lag in the transfer of power to that wheel. The wheel with the shortest axle will be the dominant axle and will propel the car to that side.

Torque steer was far more common on early front-wheel drive vehicles when engineers didn’t compensate for the twisting motion. Late-model front-wheel drive vehicles rarely encounter torque steer pull. However, if you’ve recently had transmission or major engine work performed on your vehicle and now experience a car pull to one side, the shop may not have perfectly centered the engine/transmission in the engine cradle. Being off-center by as little as ¼” can induce torque steer where it wasn’t present before. In that case, take the vehicle back to the shop and have them check alignment and centering.

©, 2020 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat


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