Steering wheels are supposed to be perfectly centered, especially when driving in a straight line. However, there are circumstances when the steering will be off-center, forcing you to constantly adjust it to ensure that your car is indeed driving straight.
A steering wheel becomes off-center when there’s a problem with the vehicle’s suspension system. That could be something as simple as the wheels needing a realignment. However, damage from potholes and collisions can also cause the same problem. Lastly, if you’ve adjusted the height of your vehicle lately, that modification can affect the suspension system causing the steering wheel to go off-center.
This guide will walk you through the reasons why your steering wheel is off-center. You’ll also discover what you can do to fix the problem and whether it’s safe to drive under those conditions.
Why Is My Steering Wheel Off-Center?
You don’t have to worry too much when you notice that your steering wheel is off-center. That’s because there are only a few reasons why that’s the case. So, troubleshooting and fixing the issue will be quite a straightforward process.
Here are 4 reasons why your steering wheel is off-center.
#1 Misaligned Wheels
The first reason your steering wheel is off-center is that your wheels are misaligned. More specifically, the three alignment angles, known as camber, caster and toe, are incorrect and need to be adjusted.
The wheels on all cars must be aligned every 2-3 years to ensure that they’re aligned correctly. Typically, your mechanic would recommend an alignment whenever you go in and replace your wheels with new ones.
So, if your steering wheel is off-center because the wheels are misaligned, it’s likely been far too long since you’ve had anyone check your vehicle’s alignment.
Unfortunately, it’s also possible that a recent assignment was done incorrectly by your mechanic or automotive technician.
Whatever the reason, getting a wheel alignment done will fix the problem of your steering wheel being off-center.
#2 General Wear And Tear
Another reason for the off-centeredness of your steering wheel is general wear and tear.
Unfortunately, the components in your car’s suspension system will experience regular wear over an extended period, just like any other car parts.
That wear is sped up and made worse by how much you drive the vehicle, especially if you drive on challenging terrain quite often. For example, a suspension system and its parts will wear out faster if you regularly drive off-road or on unpaved surfaces.
When that happens, you’ll find that the suspension system pulls the steering wheel to one side instead of keeping it perfectly centered.
Solving this root cause will require a close inspection to identify which suspension parts are worn out. Then, those parts must be replaced with new ones to ensure that the suspension system works correctly.
#3 Damaged Suspension Components
Aside from suspension components becoming worn out through natural means, your steering wheel can also be off-center from suffering outright damage.
For example, cars often run over potholes or hit curbs while driving. While those situations might seem normal and harmless, they actually have a significant impact on your car’s suspension system.
Besides that, damage from a vehicle collision will also cause the same outcome.
Whether it’s a collision, pothole, or kerb, the impact can be strong enough to damage your car’s suspension components. Even if it were just a gentle impact, that would be enough to knock your suspension system out of alignment.
Regardless of the source, the impact and damage will cause your steering wheel to become off-center. You’ll have to resolve the issue by fixing your suspension system, replacing damaged parts, and realigning the wheels.
#4 Adjusted Vehicle Height
Some car owners will work to adjust the height of their vehicles. They might do it themselves with a lift kit, or they could get a trained mechanic to make the modifications for them.
Height modifications are typically done for practical or performance-related reasons, though some would simply invest in them just to change the car’s aesthetics.
No matter the reason, adjusting your vehicle height can have many side effects. The height adjustment involves dealing with the car’s suspension system.
When done incorrectly, it can lead to misalignments and other issues affecting your steering wheel. The result of that process will appear as an off-centre steering wheel.
How Do You Fix A Steering Wheel That’s Off-Center?
There are multiple ways to fix a steering wheel that’s off-center. The ones that’ll work for you will depend on the root cause of your problem.
Typically, fixing an off-center steering wheel involves one or more of the following:
- Inspect suspension components: First and foremost, your car’s suspension system and its components must be closely inspected by a trained professional. They can figure out the root cause and repair it correctly.
- Repair or replace parts: When your suspension components are worn-out or damaged, you’ll have to replace them with new ones. Some parts might be repairable, but it’s often best to invest in new parts that’ll work better and last much longer.
- Wheel alignment: Lastly, your mechanic must adjust the camber, caster and toe angles to realign your wheels.
When the repair tasks mentioned above are done correctly, your vehicle’s suspension will be in the best working condition possible. Your steering wheel will also be perfectly centered at all times.
Is It Safe To Drive With An Off-Center Steering Wheel?
No, driving with an off-center steering wheel is unsafe, even though the car can start and move like it usually would. The only exception would be when driving your vehicle to your preferred workshop to have the problem resolved.
An off-center steering wheel might not seem like a big deal at first. However, you should remember that some possible reasons include worn-out or damaged suspension parts.
Those parts can harm your vehicle and its occupants if they suffer a catastrophic failure while you’re driving down the road, especially at high speeds.
Besides that, an off-center steering wheel will also undermine your ability to drive accurately. That will take away your ability to avoid dangers on the road, as you’ll either understeer or oversteer due to your steering wheel not being perfectly centered.
Lastly, your off-center steering wheel will also cause you plenty of aches and fatigue when driving long-distance. You’ll constantly adjust the crooked steering wheel to ensure your car is going straight.
Fatigue and physical aches are not to be taken lightly, especially with long-haul driving. They’ll cause indirect risks by tiring you out quickly, which delays your response times when avoiding dangers on the road.
An off-center steering wheel doesn’t affect your car’s ability to start and move. Still, you should not take it lightly, as it’s a clear sign that something’s wrong with your suspension system.
The root cause could be as simple as a set of misaligned wheels. However, it can also result from worn-out or damaged suspension parts, which pose a much more significant risk to you and your vehicle. So, if your steering wheel is not perfectly centered, get it fixed as soon as possible. Sorting it out sooner will keep you out of harm’s way so you can continue driving with peace of mind.