This leads us to the questions, “Is driving with unbalanced tires risky? Can unbalanced tires cause pulling?”
Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is a resounding yes.
The first time that a tire and wheel assembly get installed on a car’s axle, the entire system is usually well-balanced.
What this means is that the weight of the individual elements is evenly distributed along the axle.
But, every bump you encounter and every corner you turn causes a slight shift in this weight distribution. Gradually, these small shifts amount to a considerable imbalance in the distribution.
Read on to learn about the correlation between unbalanced tires and car pull.
What are the symptoms of unbalanced tires?
Before we dive into the symptoms, it helps to know exactly what tire balancing is.
Well, this is the process of leveling weight distribution around the tire axle. This then allows the tire to roll smoothly. Small weights are sometimes added to the exterior of the tire rim to achieve this weight distribution.
When the weight of the wheel & tire assembly isn’t properly balanced, this can lead to multiple issues ranging from pulling to uneven tire wear and overheating.
An unbalanced wheel can also cause unnecessary strain on the wheel bearings and suspension system.
If you aren’t sure whether your tires are unbalanced, here are some warning signs to watch out for:
If you have unbalanced tires, the first thing you’re likely to notice is excessive vibrations.
The vibration effects can be felt on the steering wheel, seat, and floorboard. And, they become more pronounced when you drive at faster speeds, such as when you’re cruising on a highway.
Unbalanced tires compromise the steering wheel response. As a result, you’ll find it difficult to steer your car in the right direction, especially when you want to turn.
Poor fuel economy
Have you been putting off fixing a wheel balancing problem? If you have, you should know that unbalanced tires pose a serious safety hazard.
Worse even, they cause you to spend more on fuel.
They cause the engine to work harder, increasing the car’s fuel consumption in the process.
Here’s the deal, improper tire balancing reduces the contact patch of the tire with the road in some areas.
Specifically, the lighter side of the tire ends up having less contact with the road. Meanwhile, the heavier side has more contact with the road.
This lopsided contact patch leads to an increase in rolling resistance Rolling resistance is the energy required to keep a tire rolling forwards and steadily.
Since the engine has to work harder to keep the tires moving straight and consistently, it consumes more fuel than it should.
Car pulling to one side
Have you noticed your vehicle pulling to one side? If you have, it’s likely that there’s an issue with tire balance.
The fact that the tire weight isn’t distributed evenly on the axle can easily lead to a car pulling in one direction. (More on this later in the article).
Uneven tread wear
It’s a no-brainer that treads wear out with increased tire use.
Still, it’s important to inspect the tire treads regularly. If you notice faster tread wear on one tire or certain parts of the tire, then unbalanced tires could be the culprit.
That said, uneven wear can also be caused by improper wheel alignment. This is why you should take your car to a qualified mechanic the minute you notice uneven tread wear. Since they have more experience, they can pinpoint the exact cause of the tread wear.
Can uneven tire pressure cause pulling?
Yes, it can. A difference in air pressure between the tires changes their respective heights; thus, affecting alignment. This can then cause the vehicle to lean to one side.
So when your car starts pulling to one side, start by checking the tire pressure. Perhaps all you need to do is put more air or let some out and your car will stop pulling.
What causes a tire to pull?
We’ve already established that improper tire balancing and irregular tire pressure can cause a car to pull to one side. However, they’re not the only culprits. Here are 6 other things that cause vehicle pull:
6 symptoms that may be causing your tires to pull
1. Improper wheel alignment
The number one reason why a vehicle pulls to one side is bad alignment. If this is the issue, you’ll notice your car drifting to the opposite direction as soon as you release the steering wheel.
So what leads to incorrect wheel alignment? Well, the truth is that anytime you drive over a pothole or hit a curb, this affects the alignment slightly. Thankfully, this is easy to fix. Just take your car to a mechanic and they’ll be able to restore the alignment to the manufacturer’s settings.
2. Jammed brake caliper
A brake caliper is an integral part of your car’s braking system. It’s the part that squeezes the brake pads against the rotor, bringing the car to an immediate stop. A vehicle can have either 2 or 4 calipers.
A sticking caliper can cause a car to pull when you apply the brakes. If this isn’t the underlying cause, then the steering pull is likely being caused by the wheel cylinder of the hydraulic fault.
These two are also part of the braking system. If they get damaged, they can cause excess friction on the brake which can then lead to overheating.
If you notice a burning smell in addition to the car pull, there could be a problem with one of the braking elements.
3. Worn suspension system
If your braking mechanism is in pristine condition, then the reason for the car pull is probably worn suspension parts.
These can cause the steering wheel to pull in one direction, especially when you apply the brakes. Then as you gradually release the brakes, you’ll notice the pull subsides.
4. Different tread pattern
Have you noticed your car pulling more to one side shortly after installing new tyres? If you answered yes, then this could be what’s causing car pulls. More specifically, it could be the fact that the new tire was poorly manufactured or has a dissimilar tread pattern.
5. Tyre conicity
In an ideal situation, the steel belts – found beneath the tire tread – ought to be perfectly aligned. The role of these steel belts is to reinforce the tread area and; hence, provide maximum traction.
If they’re not aligned properly, the rubber can take on a cone shape instead of the usual cylindrical structure. The end result is that your car will start to pull in one direction.
6. Tread separation
Tread separation is a situation in which the steel belts and treads detach from the tire casing.
A separating tire is very risky as it can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. However, it’s not one that can be fixed. The only solution is to replace the damaged tire.
Why does my car pull randomly while driving?
If your vehicle suddenly starts to pull to one side while you’re driving, it could be because of torque steer.
Torque steer describes the inadvertent influence of a car’s engine torque on the steering, and is more common in front-wheel drive cars.
When you accelerate too fast, the drive wheels, which also serve as steering wheels, can swerve to one side; hence, causing the car to pull.
If you’ve been wondering whether unbalanced tires cause pulling, the answer is yes, they can. If the tire & wheel assembly aren’t well-balanced on the axle, the car can easily veer to one side.
However, there are other issues that cause car pulls, such as worn suspension components, tyre conicity, poor alignment, and tread separation.