Steering Wheel Not Straight While Driving [Here’s What To Do]

Woman with black sleeves driving on the highwayDriving down the road with a steering wheel that’s not straight can be a terrifying experience. Whether gradually or suddenly, the steering mechanism of cars can undergo shifts that force you to turn the wheel to drive straight. While normal wear and tear can cause slight changes in the relative straightness of your steering wheel, it can also be a sign of a deeper problem that requires immediate attention.

When it comes to taking care of your car's steering system, you can't be too careful. The last thing any driver wants is to lose control of their vehicle while driving, especially due to something that's an easy repair. Have no fear; we’ve done the research and have compiled a guide on what to do when your steering wheel is not straight while driving.

If your steering wheel is not straight while driving, you should bring your car to an auto body shop to get a wheel alignment. Regular alignments will keep your steering wheel straight while driving. While some misalignment can be normal, it’s best to tackle vehicle issues before they become major, especially issues with steering. Due to the delicate nature of the steering apparatus, attempting to conduct home repairs is not advised.

Now that you know how important it is to take your car into an auto body shop if your steering wheel is not straight while driving, let’s dive deeper into steering wheel alignment and misalignment. Read on to learn all about this important mechanical system that keeps your car and you safe!

Wheel Alignment

All new vehicles will come with their wheels properly aligned to the manufacturer's specifications. These specifications are designed to maximize your ability to steer and maintain direction with as little effort as possible while you drive.

When your wheels, and subsequently your steering wheel, becomes misaligned, it can increase the amount of wear and tear you are subjecting your tires and the steering system. This increased wear and tear can greatly shorten the lifespan of both your tires and steering system. Check out our guide on car axles to learn more about the workings of your vehicle's steering system. 

Wheel alignment is something that needs to be maintained with regular check-ups to prolong the life of your car. Normal driving alone will cause minor wheel misalignment over time, as your car is subjected to torque and friction while you drive. Any sort of accident, no matter how small, can greatly increase the likelihood that your steering system will become misaligned.

The steering wheel not being straight while you’re driving is one definite sign that your wheels are misaligned. Some other signs can be your car drifting slightly to one side or the other as you drive, the steering wheel jerking or vibrating as you drive, squealing tires as you turn, or uneven wear of the tread of your tire.

Now that we know all about the most likely cause of your steering wheel not being straight while driving, let’s jump into some additional questions and investigate how to fix this problem.

How Do I Keep My Steering Wheel Straight While Driving?

Hands holding steering wheel while driving car on city road

Your steering wheel should be properly aligned with the direction that you are driving. After completing a turn, your steering wheel should return to the center. If your steering wheel does not return to the center while you are driving straight, then there is an issue with your steering system.

The most likely cause of this is misaligned wheels, and this should be dealt with by an auto service center. The difficult nature of the repair and the incredibly small degrees at which the alignment must be set make this a job best left for the professionals.

How Do You Fix A Misaligned Steering Wheel?

The best and safest way to fix a misaligned steering wheel is to bring your car into a reputable auto service center. The auto technicians there can properly diagnose your car's problem and recommend the required service to fix it.

Using specially designed instruments, auto technicians will properly measure the angles of your wheels. After comparing the alignments to the manufacturer's specifications, they will then realign them if necessary.

Along with realigning your wheels, you should expect the auto technician to center the steering wheel to match the realignment. Sometimes fixes such as these can be covered under the car’s warranty. Warranties will vary widely depending on when and where you bought your car. Many auto service centers will also offer a warranty with their wheel alignment service for an additional fee.

Check out our guide all about car warranties to learn about how they work and if your repair could be covered.

Will A Misaligned Steering Wheel Damage My Car?

A driver is drifting on his car in sharp turn

Yes, a misaligned steering wheel will damage your car. The amount of damage depends on how misaligned your wheels and steering system are. If it is just the steering wheel that is misaligned, then the damage may be minimal.

If, however, one or more of the tires are misaligned, you may be causing significant damage to your tires, steering system, and potentially other vehicle mechanisms. It is always best to take your car into a reputable auto service center at the first sign of steering wheel misalignment.

How Much Does A Front End Alignment Cost?

The cost of a front end alignment will vary based on how much correction needs to be done, as well as the type of warranty you purchase along with your alignment. Average prices for a front end alignment can range from $90.00 to $150.00.

Now that you've read our guide on what to do if your steering wheel is not straight while driving, you're sure to be well informed on the dangers of driving with a misaligned steering wheel. As always, regular check-ups, including a wheel alignment, are the best way to prevent your steering wheel from not being straight while you drive along with other common car problems.

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