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Keeping on the Straight and Narrow

Does your vehicle feel like it has a mind of its own, wandering all over the road or constantly pulls to one side?

This is a symptom that indicates something is wrong and should be dealt with as soon as possible to make driving safer and more enjoyable instead of feeling like you have just wrestled a ton of metal on your daily commute. There can be a number of causes for why your vehicle seems incapable of going in a straight line ranging from the simple to the more complex or expensive.

1. Incorrect Tire Pressure. The vehicle will tend to lean towards the tire that has the lower pressure. Correct by making sure all tires are at the correct pressure. You can find this on the sticker on the inside jam of the driver’s door or in your owner’s manual.

2. Roads are designed to be raised or crowned in the middle so rain water will run off to the outside for proper drainage. But the slight slope to the pavement can often make a vehicle drift to the outside. This can be countered by adjusting the alignment of the left front wheel slightly.

3. There are three measurements for your vehicles alignment to be within the manufacturer’s specifications – camber, caster and toe. Something may be out of whack with one or all of these measurements. You should have your vehicles alignment checked at least once a year and/or when you purchase new tires.

4. Tires of differing sizes, tread wear and tread patterns can affect handling. When purchasing tires be aware that there are even differences between brands.

5. Radial Tire Pull. This happens when the steel belts inside the tire are positioned off-center either due to wear or manufacturer default. The tire will naturally follow the direction of the radial cord. You can check this by rotating the tire in question to the opposite side. If your vehicle now pulls to the opposite side, this could be your problem and a new tire should correct it.

6. If the pull is constant to one side and gets worse with the application of the brakes it could be a caliper sticking, frozen or sticking piston in caliper, overfilled fluid reservoir in master cylinder, or the brakes might be misadjusted. Correct by repairing brakes as required.

7. Binding in the ball joints, steering gear or linkage.

8. Steering wheel is off center due to steering linkage not centered, or the steering arm or linkage could be bent

9. Loose or worn steering components such as tie rod ends, bushings, idler arms

10. The vehicle pulls or veers during acceleration which is known as torque steer and is common in front-wheel drive cars with unequal length driveshafts. Torque steer unfortunately cannot be eliminated but certain conditions can make it worse such as loose or worn control arm bushings, tie rod ends, engine/transaxle mounts.

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