Have you ever experienced this problem before? Your vehicle pulls to one side (pick a side, it doesn’t make a difference) and you’re trying to figure out why.
A-ha you think! The alignments out. So, you have the alignment checked – it’s within factory specifications. How about the front end? Everything in that department turns out to be fine, especially when we factor in that the alignment is in spec. You pause for a moment & then the next light bulb goes off; a brake caliper is sticking. Yes – a definite possibility! But when the brake system gets checked out, it’s given a clean bill of health – no problems whatsoever. Wow, you think, this is getting difficult. Wait a minute – the tires! Either one or more of the tires are under inflated or we have an uneven tire wear situation. Tires also do not affect alignment. Nice job! But, in this case, the tires, inflation as well as wear, are all perfect. Holy cow – now what?
A vehicle’s ability to steer straight can also be affected if there is excessive play or looseness in the steering linkage. For example, idler and/or pitman arms, a worn steering rack, even loose rack mounts can all have an influence on whether or not a vehicle “pulls” to one side.
The alignment of the steering linkage itself is important. If the rack, center link and/or steering arms (if so equipped – steering linkage systems will vary from vehicle to vehicle) are not parallel to the ground, it may create unequal toe changes that result in a bump steer condition (or pulling) when the suspension travels – like when you go over bumps or other uneven road surfaces. Another technique your technician should look for is for any changes in the suspension geometry when it’s raised and then lowered while on a garage lift.
Another condition that may even cause a vehicle to steer crooked is a power steering problem. Internal leaks in the power steering control valve can direct pressure to where it is not needed. This pressure imbalance may make the car drift to one side or, if bad enough, the car may try to steer itself with no assistance from the driver! You can check for this kind of problem by raising the wheels off the ground (safely with proper jack stands – not the one in your trunk to change a flat tire) and starting the engine. If the steering wheel starts to turn all by itself, the power steering system needs to looked at as soon as convenient.