Car Pulling = Dangerous?

Hello Everyone,

I have a 2000 Chevy Prizm that just passed 250K miles (woo-hoo!). It doesn’t have good AC, but the heat still works, so I use it as my daily driver in the winter to not run up so many miles on my newer vehicle.

Anyway, in recent months, it’s been pulling, almost always to the left, although occasionally after turns (in either direction) it’s slightly to the right.

I took it to a Mavis for an alignment, but I think there’s a chance they don’t know what they’re doing at my local store. They pulled it back for an oil change, brake check, and alignment and had it “done” at most 30 minutes later. Whether the cause is a slapdash job with the alignment machine OR a worn out part OR something with the steering wheel, my question boils down to…

Is there any danger to driving it? I’ve heard the main thing is you wear out tires quicker, but can’t I just make sure I rotate (and flip each inside out) on a regular schedule to counteract that? I’ll only be driving it at most 10K more before scrapping it, and the back tires have only about 10K on them as it is. But is there some hidden danger I’m not thinking about?

Thank You in Advance. I love the Car Talk Community.

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We can’t tell you because we can’t see your car. Take it to a shop that you know can do the job. If you don’t know of one, ask you friends, neighbors and family who they use. Eventually you will get a couple names a lot. As long as the recommendations are good, try them. That shop will check for bent and worn parts in the suspension. Low cost chain shops like Mavis use less skilled mechanics and they may not be up to the task. If you tell us what they say, then maybe we can help you understand it.


As for whether it’s dangerous, even if it’s not (which depends on why it’s pulling) it’s certainly going to prematurely wear out your tires and cost you money, so it’s worth getting the alignment done properly regardless.

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Additionally, a few years ago Consumer Reports asked their readers to rate US tire shops, and Mavis came out of that process with the lowest approval/satisfaction rating of any US tire chain. The OP needs an independently-run front end shop.

More than likely they will find badly worn or bent parts, or possibly even a malfunctioning power steering system, but from afar nobody can accurately pinpoint the source of this potentially dangerous problem.


Have you asked Mavis why it still pulls ?

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They would probably try to convince him that he needs new tires–whether he really does, or not.

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Are tires worn evenly? And have good tread?

I might not let Mavis touch my vehicle again but it would be interesting to hear what they had to say .


Thanks for all the replies. My plan was to let the Mavis manager know the situation and see if we could get it back on the alignment machine without extra cost (he said before I left last time that he owed me a free oil change for how long I’d had to wait.) Anyway, if he does it and still pulls or if he refuses to give it another go, I have a Goodyear in my town, and they do a free full alignment inspection. But it sounds like you’d advise me to steer clear of any chain place.

Most front wheel drive steering pulls are caused by the tires, you won’t see this on the alignment rack.

Rather than getting multiple wheel alignments, have the “pull” diagnosed, rotating the tires usually corrects the problem.

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I think it’s a worn part, not an alignment issue.


I can’t imagine any worn part on a strut suspension that would cause the caster to be off by 2 degrees. The pull is likely caused by the rolling resistance in one of the tires.

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Can the OP tell us whether he has matching tires on the front wheels?

I don’t see that. Where did he say that?

The fact that it pulls both ways is why I mentioned worn parts.

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Memory Steer | Binding Strut Ball Joint Diagnosis (

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Not matching. My back tires are matching and only 10K old. My front tires were purchased used. I see the signs in shops to keep newer tires on the back, but I guess this is the down side if you go cheap on tires. Hopefully that’s the easy fix.

Yes, you were right to put the newer/better tires on the back wheels.

Then, there could well be merit in Nevada’s theory of uneven rolling resistance contributing to the “pull”.

With so many promotions of buy 3 get one free or gift card rebates why would you not purchase 4 matching tires . Also for someone who does not drive much there are decent low priced tires on the market you can find with just a little web searching.

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All of the above is correct but have you considered going to an independent tire shop which doesn’t offer mechanical work and/or an independent mechanic for an independent/corect opinion?

Quick test:

Swap the front tires left to right.

If the pull completely changes direction, it is 100% in the tires. (Best guess based on non-matching front tires!)

If the pull doesn’t change at all, it is 100% in the vehicle - usually alignment.

If the pull disappears or changes but doesn’t reverse, it is both the tires and the vehicle.