If your Ford is pulling to the right or the left just about everywhere you go, odds are good your vehicle needs a wheel alignment.
But if you’ve ruled out wheel misalignment as the cause of your vehicle’s pulling – or if the vehicle only pulls right or left now and then – there are a number of other things to consider when diagnosing your pulling problem. Here’s a list of problems that could cause your vehicle to pull one way or another (assuming the problem isn’t wheel alignment).
The Roadway Itself – There are some roadways that make it feel like your car is pulling, when in truth, it is simply the crown of the road that’s “steering” your car.
When roads are constructed, they are not perfectly flat. In fact, roads are supposed to have a very slight crown in them, which encourages water to drain away from the middle of the road to the edges. If this crown is steeper than normal (which can happen sometimes), it can make your vehicle feel like it’s pulling.
Typically, a pulling problem that’s caused by the road will only be noticed on certain roads, and will it almost always be steering your car towards the edge of the roadway.
NOTE: Some alignment technicians will take the crown of the road into consideration when they do a wheel alignment and do a slight offset to try and compensate.
Tires – Conicity – A bad tire or poorly manufactured new tire can cause your vehicle to pull to one side or another. This is caused by the steel belts inside the tire being misaligned during the tire’s construction. While this issue isn’t too common, all tires have some degree of “conicity” (tendency to roll to one side or the other like a cone).
If tire conicity is your problem, your vehicle will pull harder the faster you travel. If you suspect conicity is causing a problem, try changing the pulling tire to the opposite side of the car to see if you get the same problem in an opposite direction. Depending on how old your tire is, you may be able to get a free replacement if you can prove the tire is out of round.
Tires – Separation – If a tire separates, you have a belt that has pulled away from the tire structure. This will result in a tire failure, and it needs to be remedied immediately. A shimmy or a shake at low speeds is also an indicator of a separation.
Tires – Air Pressure – Uneven air pressure from tire to tire is a very common cause for a pull. Since an under inflated tire is given more rolling resistance, you will notice the pull from that tire. Make sure all your air pressure levels are at factory specifications.
Tires – New vs. Old – A new set of tires should always go on the rear if you are not replacing the entire set. Due to tire wear, a new tire will not have the same rolling characteristics as an older, worn tire.
Tires – Rotation – When you rotate the tires, you may notice a pull. This could be because you had a mismatched tire on the rear that is now on the front. Leave it on the rear of the vehicle.
Brakes – If the pull only occurs when braking, the problem is likely a sticking caliper, hydraulic fault or a wheel cylinder. When a brake drags, it can cause your Ford to drift towards the pull. Should your brake be dragging, you are going to notice a burning smell because this causes it to get very hot.
Suspension – A worn out lower control arm bushing can cause the arm to move upon braking, which will change the position of the wheel. That can make the vehicle pull. You might notice a quick pull when braking, but it gets better once you release the brakes. Another symptom of the suspension being the culprit would be a sharp turn from the steering wheel when your vehicle is rolling slowly and the brakes are applied.
Torque Steer – When there is pull to one side during acceleration, it is not an alignment issue. You can test for torque steer by setting your gear to neutral and coasting. If the pull is not there while you are coasting, it is not the alignment.
Memory Steer – An alignment problem will result in wheels that pull one way or the other, but not randomly or both ways. If you have a pull that is not consistent, then you may have memory steer, which is the result of a binding of parts that remember where they steered last. It can be a ball joint, strut bearing or tie rod that is sticking.
If you do need an alignment, then you can expect to get at least a couple years out of that alignment if it is done properly. A correctly aligned vehicle will save on tire wear and offer better fuel efficiency, not to mention be easier to control.