Causes Of A Steering Wheel Being Off-center And How To Resolve Them

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When a car leaves the factory it is finished to exact standards. That means the paint colour has been carefully chosen and polished, the seats are comfortable, and the logo on the steering wheel lines up in the centre. 

It’s a small thing but very noticeable when it doesn’t. Many older cars suffer from steering wheels that are off-centre. It can be frustrating as you attempt to straighten the wheel means you will no longer go in a straight line! 

The good news is that this problem has a cause and it can be resolved. It’s a good idea to let the professionals handle the issue as much as possible. 

Wheel Alignment

Steering wheel alignment issue

The most common cause of a steering wheel being off-centre is bad wheel alignment. This can happen when your wheels have just been aligned and it hasn’t been done properly. It can also be the result of hitting a pothole, the curb, or some other fault.

As well as the wheel not being straight, you are likely to feel the vehicle pulling to one side. You can check this by centring the wheel and taking your hands off the wheel for a moment. A car that is aligned will continue in a straight line. If you have a steering wheel alignment issue it will pull to one side and ultimately head off-road.

Bad alignment also causes uneven wear on your tires and can prematurely wear the suspension and steering components on your vehicle, this can lead to much bigger and more expensive issues.

You should note that steering wheel alignment issues will result in a shimmer or shake when you reach higher speeds. This can make it difficult to control the car and make it more dangerous to drive. 

Dealing With Wheel Alignment

The simplest solution is to get the professionals to handle the problem for you. They have specialist machines that can assess the balance of your wheels and correct them. This is usually done by tire centres. They balance the wheels by adding, or removing weights from the wheels. The weights are securely attached and should stay on for the life of the vehicle, or at least until you have it aligned again and the weights are changed. 

Another common cause of the alignment issue is the front tie rods. These small bars attach to the wheel and the steering column. These rods can be adjusted during the wheel alignment procedure. If they are overlooked or not adjusted correctly you will find your steering wheel log is no longer in the correct position.

In some instances, the tie rods can be damaged through a bump in the road or even catching a rock or other road debris. If the tie rod is bent it will need to be replaced before you can get the alignment back properly.

You should note that it is possible for your car to be perfectly aligned and the logo to sit off-centre. This may not even be a fault! When alignment is performed the tie rods are turned to ensure both wheels are in the right position.

IF the alignment is correct and the logo is not, then simply turn both tie rods in the same direction and for the same amount of movement. The logo will move but the alignment will remain correct. IT may take a little trial and error to get the logo in exactly the right spot. 

You’ll find it easier to get the right position if you lock the steering wheel after removing the ignition key.  

Crabbing

It is worth noting that a steering wheel sitting off-centre can also be caused if there is an issue with the front and rear wheel alignment. This is generally caused if the rear wheels are not directly in line with the front wheels. 

ON two-wheel-drive vehicles this can indicate the frame of the car is bent. However, if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle then there are a number of reasons why the wheels may have dropped out of alignment. To get them back in and centre your wheel you will need a specialist with the right equipment. 

Other Factors To Consider

You should also note that spending too much time off-road, especially on rocky surfaces, will increase the likelihood of a steering wheel alignment issue. That’s why it’s important to check your alignment regularly. 

The easiest way to check alignment is by letting go of the steering wheel on a flat straight road and seeing if the vehicle continues in a straight line. You can also verify alignment by getting someone to follow you and watch the wheels. If the car is moving to one side they should be able to spot whether the front and back wheels are aligned properly or not.   

Getting Professional Help

It is possible to adjust the tie rods yourself or to replace them. However, whether you have an alignment issue or not, a simple miscalculation can worsen the alignment issue. This can result in increased vibrations when you drive and less control of your vehicle, potentially leading to an accident. 

That’s why the best and safest approach is to get an independent garage to check your alignment and adjust accordingly. As they fix the alignment they will ensure your steering wheel is centred.

The beauty of having it centred is that you know you have an issue when it is knocked off-centre again. That means you will know to get the problem sorted as quickly as possible, helping to keep you and others safe on the road.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of professionals offering their services to fix your vehicle for you. However, it is always a good idea to use one that has earned a reputation for quality, you can learn more here to get professional assistance or help. This will ensure you get great service and value for money while staying safe on the road. 

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