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Will An Alignment Fix A Crooked Steering Wheel?

Occasionally we see a car or truck with a steering wheel off-center when driving in a straight line. It’s far more common on older cars and trucks but can even happen to a brand-new car.

Will An Alignment Fix A Crooked Steering Wheel?

An alignment can usually correct an off-center steering wheel if no suspension components are damaged or suspension mounting points haven’t been dislocated in an accident.

Also, significant suspension modifications such as lifting or lowering can affect whether your steering wheel is aligned correctly when driving straight.

Suspension components, such as tie rods and control arms, wear or suffer damage over time. There are also steering linkages that can wear, such as the pitman arm, idler arm, or center link.

Let’s take a closer look.

Suspension And Steering Linkage Illustration
Suspension And Steering Linkage Illustration – Image Credit: CarParts.com

What Causes A Steering Wheel To Be Off-Center?

There are a few common causes for a car’s steering wheel not to be straight, and it’s important to be aware of them so you can take care of your vehicle correctly.

Uneven tire wear can throw your steering wheel off center. This can happen if your wheels are out of alignment, causing one tire to bear more weight than the others. As a result, the tire can wear out faster and cause your vehicle to pull to one side. An alignment can fix this issue by ensuring that all four wheels are appropriately aligned with each other.

tire wear
Uneven Tire Wear Example

Another cause of an off-center steering wheel is suspension problems. Suspension issues can be caused by various things, such as hitting a pothole or curb or simply wear and tear over time. If your suspension is damaged or worn, it can cause your vehicle to pull to one side, which can result in an off-center steering wheel.

Also, steering components like tie rods, ball joints, and steering racks can wear out and cause an off-center steering wheel. These parts help connect the steering wheel to the wheels and tires, and if they are damaged or worn, they can cause your vehicle to pull to one side.

It’s important to address an off-center steering wheel as soon as possible, as it can cause further wear and tear on your vehicle’s tires, suspension, and steering components.

How To Fix An Off-Center Steering Wheel

An off-center steering wheel is a common issue and is usually a quick and easy fix. Here’s what you need to know:

It’s important to understand what’s causing the problem. A few different things, including a bent steering column, worn tie rods, or a misaligned suspension, can cause an off-center steering wheel. If you’re unsure what’s causing the issue, it’s best to take your car to a professional for an inspection.

Once you know what’s causing the problem, it’s time to fix it. If your steering column is bent, you’ll need to replace it. If your tie rods are worn, you’ll need to replace them. And if your suspension is misaligned, you’ll need to get a wheel alignment.

pulling to one side
Off-Center Steering Wheel

Remember that an off-center steering wheel can also be a sign of other issues with your vehicle, such as worn suspension components or a bent frame. So, if you’re having trouble fixing the problem, it’s a good idea to have your vehicle inspected by a professional to make sure everything else is in good working order.

Why Is My Steering Wheel Not Straight After An Alignment?

It’s good to keep in mind that getting an alignment is not an exact science, and it’s possible for your wheels to still be slightly out of alignment even after a visit to the shop.

Worn Steering And Suspension Components

One of the main reasons why your steering wheel might not be straight after an alignment is if your suspension is worn out. Your suspension system helps keep your wheels in proper alignment, and if worn or damaged, it can cause your wheels to go out of alignment again. This can be especially noticeable if you’ve had an accident or hit a big pothole that damaged your suspension.

Uneven Tire Wear

Another possible reason your steering wheel might not be straight after an alignment is that your tires are unevenly worn. If your tires are worn unevenly, they can cause your vehicle to pull to one side, making your steering wheel appear off-center. You’ll probably need new tires to correct the issue if this is the case.

alignment before or after new tires
Wheel Alignment Example

Wheels Aligned Incorrectly

Also, it’s possible that the alignment was simply performed incorrectly. Mistakes can still happen even if you go to a reputable alignment shop. If you’re unsure whether your alignment was performed correctly, it’s always a good idea to recheck it.

If it turns out that your alignment is just slightly off, don’t worry too much about it – a little bit of discrepancy is normal and won’t have a significant impact on your driving experience.

Is It Safe To Drive With A Crooked Steering Wheel?

It’s not recommended to continue driving for long periods with an off-center steering wheel. This problem can make it difficult to control your car or truck, especially at higher speeds, and can lead to increased wear and tear on your tires and suspension components.

Crooked Steering Wheel Can Be Dangerous
A Misaligned Steering Wheel Can Be Dangerous

If you’re dealing with a misaligned steering wheel, it’s best to get your vehicle checked out by a professional as soon as possible. They can assess the issue and determine if a wheel alignment, suspension repair, or other fix is necessary. Driving with a steering wheel that doesn’t center when driving in a straight line for an extended time can cause even more damage and be more costly in the long run.

Brand New Car Steering Wheel Off Center?

It can be pretty frustrating having just bought a new car, and the steering wheel is already off-center. But don’t worry. This issue is not unique and can usually be fixed with a simple wheel alignment.

The steering wheel being off-center on new cars and trucks is often caused by slight misalignments in the front end of your vehicle. This can happen during the manufacturing process or even during vehicle transport. A quick wheel alignment will usually fix the issue. The dealer should perform this service for you at no cost if your new vehicle wasn’t delivered in perfect condition.

If this doesn’t solve the problem, there may have been a defective part installed, and the dealership for them to resolve the issue for you free of charge.

new cars
New Cars

Steering Wheel Not Centered After Lift Kit Install

Lift kits fundamentally change the alignment angles of your suspension. Whether your steering wheel is straight or not, you’ll have misaligned wheels after lifting your truck. You’ll need to align your truck or SUV when you’re done with the installation.

It’s not uncommon for some of the steering linkage components, such as drag links, to be too short for the amount of lift you’ve increased the ride height. Depending on the make and model of your vehicle and the amount you’ve lifted it, you’ll need to troubleshoot which component in the linkage is too short for the lift.

off road tires
Lifted Truck

Steering Alignment Vs Wheel Alignment

Let’s talk about the difference between steering alignment and wheel alignment. These terms can sometimes be used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different things.

Steering Alignment

A steering alignment may be in order if you’re having trouble with your car’s steering wheel position. Steering alignment refers to the alignment of your car’s steering system components, like the tie rods, idler arm, and center link. This is usually only done when there’s a steering system problem like uneven tire wear or excessive play in the steering wheel.

Wheel Alignment

On the other hand, wheel alignment refers to the alignment of all four wheels of your vehicle with each other and the road. It involves checking and adjusting the angle of the wheels, including the camber, caster, and toe. The main goal of a wheel alignment is to ensure that your tires are pointing straight ahead, which will help your car drive straight, reduce tire wear, and improve handling.


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Final Thoughts

Having a crooked steering wheel can be frustrating and even dangerous. The good news is that getting an alignment done could fix the problem. While getting your vehicle aligned will probably solve the problem since it’s the most common culprit, it isn’t the only cause.

Worn or damaged suspension components or steering linkages can also be reasons your steering wheel is slightly crooked. Having your alignment checked is a good first step, though. And it’s also a tire maintenance task that’ll help ensure your tire wear is even, handling is optimized, and gas mileage isn’t reduced due to bad alignment.

Good luck and happy motoring.

About The Author
Will Creech
Will has been an automotive enthusiast since he was old enough to make engine sounds. Formerly a member of the contract training team at Discount Tire, he is unusually knowledgeable on all things related to tires. He is now the owner of and main contributor to TireGrades.com.
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