Car pulls left after alignment

I have an 05 Saturn Ion. I recently got 4 new tires and an alignment. My car pulled left prior to that. Afterwards, it still pulls left. I took it back to the shop where I got the alignment and tires 3 times and they re-align it and say that everything is fine. I took it to another shop and they said that the steering while was slightly off. They adjusted it but it still pulls left when driving.

One thing I have noticed is that it feels like the steering wheel wants to settle to the left. If I hold the wheel straight the car goes straight. When I let go of the wheel, it turns slightly left and the car goes left. Any ideas what could cause this?

All 3 alignments might be good!

Disclaimer: Has this car ever been in a crash? When did the pull left start? It was tracking straight at some point without experiencing damage, correct? If something is bent, my experience won’t help.

My Experience:

All I can do to help is to share an experience I had. I wouldn’t have believed this and neither did the tire store people until we saw it with our own eyes. They test drove before and after.

My car was tracking straight ahead. I went for new tires on the front (maybe all 4, I don’t remember, shouldn’t matter, but definitely front). When I drove out with my new tires, my car pulled to one side. This will make your steering crooked because you are steering to compensate for the pull so that your car goes straight. The tire store figured I had a pull before I got there or I was nuts. I don’t remember if we swapped rear tires to front or right front with left front, but it demonstrated the problem. They put new tires on and it fixed it.

Go on a test ride with the tire store people. Then have them just swap one side tires/rims to the other side and see if it pulls right. You can try doing just the fronts first, right to left swap. If it pulls right, then it is defective tire(s). Good luck!

It may be a case of tire bias and this can occur with new tires also. Try swapping the 2 front wheels from side to side and see if this cures it.

Multiple alignment and multiple tires and the problem is still there? Then it’s probably something else.

  1. look for brakes dragging.

  2. It is possible that the roads you are driving on are highly crowned? That should mean it doesn’t pull all the time, just when you drive on certain roads.

  3. I’d also suggest you use a different alignment shop. That one could have an alignment machine out of calibration or incompetent alignment techs, etc.

Again, what is this car’s history? Are you the original owner? Did you recently purchase it? When did it start pulling? More information would be helpful.

Did you check for dragging brakes as suggested by CapriRacer? Do that first. Any technician can do that.

  1. Alignments could be “off” beacause of faulty shop equipment or poor technician performance.

  2. Alignments could be O.K. Your car could have damage from an accident or hitting a curb, etc.

  3. Alignments could be O.K. One or more new tires could be faulty.

Still, the easiest, cheapest test is to swap front tires, right to left. I would say that if it still pulls left then its probably not #3 (tires).

Next you can either pay for another shop to re-re-re-realign it, and or, depending on the car’s history have a good collision shop lift the car up and inspect for evidence of damage, bent parts, or improper previous repair work.

I second OK4550’s suggestion. I had the same problem on a 93 Caprice with nearly new tires (~4k). Two alignments and a front to back tire rotation made no difference in a severe pull to the left. I switched the front tires side to side and it’s tracked straight ever since (6 years).

Ed B.

i had a simmilar i took it back to the shop.mechanic told me that they forgot to recalibrate the wheel balance machine.the tires were not balanced correctly.

Hello, jcravenc1:

Are you there? Talk to us.

You had a pull but no vibration from a incorrect balance? Tires out of balance cause vibration.The mechanic guessed that the proper data was not entered into the balancer,he doesn’t know,unless there were no balances prefrormed from the time you left and came back.They probably switched your tires from side to side.

hey there. Sorry I didn’t expect so many quick responses. I am the original owner. The car was pulling left before the tires and alignment. My previous tires were badly worn so I thought it pulled because of the tires.

i took the car back to the original alignment shop 3 times. they re-aligned it each time. Each time it still pulled. I was frustrated with them so I went somewhere else.

The second place said the steering wheel was off and “re-adjusted” it. Still pulls left.

Coulda ball joint, shock, or strut make this happen?

Yes, or a tie-rod end, front-end bushings, etc. These components should have been checked prior to and during the alignments, especially with your persistent "pull."
You can ask to be sure. However, if they haven’t checked already, then this shop is probably not where you are going to find the solution.

They offered no theory or found nothing askew?

What about a possible dragging brake?

Does the front tire swap sound feasible?

These guys owe you this help.

I’ve already mentioned swapping the 2 front tires to see if there’s a tire bias involved.

You might consider posting the alignment specs and also check the print-outs which I assume you received to make sure the specs are all similar.

It’s possible that a pothole or curb strike could have altered the caster and this can cause a pull if it’s out of spec and/or vastly different from side to side.
I’d also point out that sometimes alignment techs may simply ignore the caster and concentrate solely on toe while at times even ignoring the camber specs.

The track being off or a possible bent rear trailing arm could also cause a pull.

I would first jack the front of the car up and support it with jackstands. Then start the engine and let go of the steering wheel. If it doesn’t move, then the problem is somewhere in the steering linkage or alignment.

If the steering wheel starts turning left and stops, the steering wheel may not be mounted correctly. Turn the wheel all the way to one stop, then turn it all the way to the other stop, counting the number of turns it takes to go from stop to stop. The from one of the stops, go back half that number of turns to see if the steering wheel is centered. If its not, but this is where the steering wheel stops naturally with the engine running, then the steering wheel needs to be pulled and remounted.

If the steering wheel turns to the left and keeps going left all the way to the stop, or at least close to the stop, then you need a new rack or a very good mechanic that knows how to align those internal valves that keep the steering wheel centered.

If it is alignment, have the rear wheel alignment checked first. You could have someone follow you to see if your car “crabs” going down the road. Thats where the rear wheels are either to the left or the right of the front wheels.