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Car Pulls to the Right: 13 Reasons Why

A car pulling to the right can mean several things. It could signify issues with your tire-and-wheel assembly, suspension system, or brake components.

At best, it could be nudging you to bring your tire pressure up to spec. Worst-case scenario, however, you may have to brace yourself for a grueling night in the garage — on top of surprise repair or replacement expenses.

Your car pulling to the right is one of those handling issues you should never disregard, as it can put you, your passengers, and other people in a precarious situation. To effectively prevent it from happening, it is crucial to understand the possibilities behind this incident.

Here are 13 reasons why a car pulls to the right:

  1. Incorrect or low tire pressure
  2. Worn tires
  3. Wheel misalignment
  4. Unbalanced wheels
  5. Aftermarket suspension components
  6. Bad tie rods
  7. Problematic sway bar
  8. Misshapen or deteriorated wheel bearing
  9. Dilapidated or low-quality brake pads
  10. Warped rotors
  11. Failing calipers
  12. Faulty master cylinder
  13. Torque steer

It could be pretty nerve-racking to wonder, “What could cause my car to pull to one side while driving?” and not know how to deal with it when affronted with the situation. But don’t worry — today’s guide has got you covered.

Top Reasons Why Your Car Pulls to the Right 

Both Hands on the Steering Wheel

1. Incorrect or Low Tire Pressure

Having equal cold-tire pressure on all fours of your vehicle serves many purposes. It is crucial not only to the tires’ optimum on-road performance but also to their stability and longevity (not to mention puncture resistance).

The moment tire inflation is uneven or not up to spec, the more swollen tires will cause your car to steer to the right or in the direction of the tires that are less inflated.

2. Worn Tires

Next to low tire pressure, tire condition is the 2nd thing a car pulling to the right (or to one side) is attributed to. Tires are easy to wear out based on the frequency of driving alone, especially when paired with age and not-so-ideal riding conditions.

Like cold-tire pressure, tire wear can be spotted by merely doing a visual inspection of your knobbies. You do not even need a Milton Precision Digital Tire Pressure Gauge S-580ekit (view on Amazon) to do this step.

Plus, your owner’s manual contains information on your stock tires’ tread limit, which should tell you when it is high time to get a new set of aftermarket radials or bias tires.

3. Wheel Misalignment

Although not readily visible, wheels with bad alignment are perhaps the 2nd most prevalent reason a car pulls to the right after getting new tires. Especially when tire and wheel replacement is done at home, misalignment can be easily overlooked.

This is not to say that only DIYers experience this dilemma. Even vehicles installed with new tires and wheels at an auto shop are prone to the same. Additionally, high-mileage or overly used cars are highly likely to have tire or wheel misalignment.

4. Unbalanced Wheels

A couple of contributors to wheel imbalance are normal wear and manufacturing imperfections. As much as automobile manufacturing has progressed over the years, there is still no precise way to ensure equal weight distribution of tire and wheel components.

The above flaw adds to a tire-and-wheel assembly’s proclivity to wear out, leading to a car pulling to the right. Sometimes, your vehicle pulling to one side may also be accompanied by shuddering in the steering wheel while you are driving.

5. Aftermarket Suspension Components

Concerning wheel misalignment, non-OEM suspension components may also play a part in causing unevenness in a car’s tire-and-wheel assembly — consequently leading to the car pulling to the right without driver input.

As there is a slight variance in measurement between stock and 3rd party components, resulting issues with steering sometimes cannot be avoided.

6. Bad Tie Rods

If suspension parts affect your vehicle’s tire-and-wheel assembly, tie rods (view on Amazon) have the same impact on overall handling. As such, tie rods that are out of spec or in sub-par condition are not far from causing your car to pull to one side without being commanded.

Generally, there are two kinds of tie rods — an inner tie rod from the steering rack to the outer tie rod and an outer tie rod attaching to the knuckle via the ball joint. It is important that both types and their corresponding placements are thoroughly inspected if you would like to keep suspension and handling problems at bay.

It is worth noting, too, that checking tie rods every 15,000 miles for possible replacement is required (mostly applies to four-wheelers driven on tarmac or used as a daily commuter).

You may need to do this more frequently on vehicles intended for rough roads or harsher weather conditions. Also, tie rod replacement needs to happen before performing a wheel alignment.

7. Problematic Sway Bar

Hearing rattling noises alongside your car pulling to the right is almost guaranteed to trace back to a sway bar problem. Regardless if aftermarket or stock, a loose sway bar will lead to this outcome without you moving the steering wheel in that direction.

When a sway bar loosens, it slides to the left or right, causing the links to misalign with suspension attachment points. This one-sided pull is generally felt while driving, although some car owners say the anomaly becomes more apparent when driving at high speeds.

8. Misshapen or Deteriorated Wheel Bearing

Wheel bearings wear and tear over time, regardless of the vehicle. This incident alone is enough to cause a car to inadvertently pull to the right (if not turn one’s driving experience into a complete nightmare).

However, some factors can cause this incident to happen sooner than expected. Unforeseen road accidents, poor road quality, and other types of impact damage are some examples of these factors.

Combined with the enormous pressure the component is consistently under, these triggers lead to early deterioration or deformity of wheel bearings (view on Amazon).

9. Dilapidated or Low-Quality Brake Pads

Often, a car pulls to the right when braking due to one of two things — brake pads are still being used beyond their service limit, or their condition was sub-par to begin with. Either situation is guaranteed to cause problems not only with steering but with overall handling as well.

Understandably, many car owners opt for cheaper, ‘class A’ brake pads to save on parts replacement costs. But personally, it is not worth doing so if done at the expense of rider and passenger safety.

At the very least, inadvertent steering to one side of the vehicle is utterly annoying and not something any rider would want to deal with regularly.

10. Warped Rotors

Out of all brake system components, bent rotors are the foremost culprit behind a car pulling to the right when braking. Despite their durable composition, they have one major pet peeve resulting in premature warping — being cooled down much quicker than they should.

Driving through a puddle of water after using your brakes can cause the untimely cooling process of brake rotors. This instance is likely to happen during the rainy season or when the weather fluctuates.

Expectedly, a warped rotor is not exclusive to a car that pulls to the right, as it is also associated with stuttering and engine vibrations.

11. Failing Calipers

Although rare, a brake caliper can result in a car pulling to the right (or left) on its own. How? When calipers fail, they sometimes get stuck open or closed and are rendered non-functional.

When this happens, the wheel where the failing caliper is attached to becomes incapable of braking, causing the vehicle to pull to the side where braking is still in effect.

12. Faulty Master Cylinder

Another brake component that can result in a car pulling to one side or the other is a damaged or seized master cylinder. The master cylinder has circuits responsible for powering each side of a vehicle.

When in good working condition, a master cylinder like ACDelco Professional 18M1159 Brake Master Cylinder Assembly (view on Amazon) ensures a complete brake failure is avoided at any cost. But if one of its two circuits gets compromised, the effect on a vehicle’s handling is similar to that of stuck calipers.

13. Torque Steer

When a car pulls to the right while shifting gears, the most likely reason is torque steer. This term pertains to an aftermath stemming from having uneven drive axles on the driver and passenger sides of a vehicle.

This item was last in this list because it is only common in cars with front-wheel drive (FWD) configuration. For these automobiles, having dissimilar drive axle lengths is a given due to the placement of the car’s engine and transmission components.

Cars That Pull to the Right — Diagnosis

Driving Down a Long Road

Triggers behind a car pulling to the right (or left) are generally horseshoed into those related to bad suspension and alignment, compromised brake components, and shifting-related issues. While all three are seemingly related, there is a different approach for each of them.

There is no particular order in which component group to check first, as diagnosis should start where the telltale sign first manifested. That said, let this section provide you with a list of steps on how to properly diagnose and fix suspected vehicle components:

When Dealing with Alignment Problems

  1. Inspect the degree of tire tread and wear using a tire tread depth gauge like Longacre® 52-52000 Pro Precision 4-1/2 Tire Gauge, 0-60 psi (view on Amazon). Detection of severe uneven tire wear should be an automatic prompt for tire replacement. Otherwise, tire rotation should suffice.
  2. Following the installment of a new tire set, do an alignment on your vehicle to ensure all tires are properly inflated.
  3. Inspect the condition of your car’s tie rods (inner and outer) and determine if they warrant replacement. Do the same for the ball joints on the tie rods while at it.
  4. Using a WOLF Low Profile Economic Aluminum Service/Floor Garage Jack Lift (view on Amazon) or its equivalent, lift your vehicle in the air and examine your left and right wheel for play. If either has any, your wheel bearings likely warrant replacement.

When Pulling To One Side Occurs Under Braking

  1. Perform a detailed inspection of your brake pads, rotors, calipers, and master cylinder. Check for differences in appearance, wear, etc., between your vehicle’s left and right sides.
  2. Any brake system component appearing overly worn or deformed must be immediately replaced to correct observed handling or steering problems.
  3. It is your prerogative to machine rotors that are only slightly warped to correct their shape. However, they will thin out, and their braking performance may be adversely affected.

To steer clear of any complications, your best bet is to get a Power Stop KC138 Z23 Evolution Front and Rear Brake Caliper Kit (view on Amazon) and replace severely worn brake components.

If you are mechanically savvy, you need only use the tools mentioned in this section (plus the ones below) to diagnose your vehicle:

The outcome of your diagnosis should pinpoint the problem source of your car pulling to the right (or to one side). From there, you would know whether the needed fix would be a parts replacement, simple wheel alignment, or something more complex requiring the expertise of a professional mechanic.

Conclusion – Car Pulling to the Right

In summary, here are 13 of the most common reasons behind a car pulling to the right when shifting, braking, or after an alignment:

  1. Incorrect or low tire pressure
  2. Worn tires
  3. Wheel misalignment
  4. Unbalanced wheels
  5. Aftermarket suspension components
  6. Bad tie rods
  7. Problematic sway bar
  8. Misshapen or deteriorated wheel bearing
  9. Dilapidated or low-quality brake pads
  10. Warped rotors
  11. Failing calipers
  12. Faulty master cylinder
  13. Torque steer

Unquestionably, stringent upkeep, visual inspection of components, and conscientious driving go a long way in preventing vehicles from unceremoniously pulling to one side. However, they are not absolute deterrents to the said problem.

Over time, your four-wheeler’s suspension and brake system components are bound to deteriorate despite receiving extra care. That said, recognizing early signs of wear and tear will tremendously help keep these components in the best possible shape and determine when is the right time to replace them.