There's three things that can cause a pull to one side. Those are a broken tire belt, an alignment problem, and a brake pull. To identify a tire pull, switch the two front tires side-to-side. If the pull goes the other way now, switch the two right-side tires, then the two left-side tires to see which one is causing the pull. Another test that only works on front-wheel-drive cars is when the car pulls one way during moderate acceleration, and the other way during braking. If it pulls the other way during braking, most likely it's a tire pull, but worn steering and suspension parts must be ruled out first.
Related to those worn parts is an alignment problem. Loose parts can allow the alignment to shift while driving the car. You'll notice other symptoms like clunks or squeaks, or the steering wheel shifts position repeatedly.
To identify a sticking brake caliper, the car will usually pull to the other side under very light braking because one caliper doesn't apply properly. It will often pull the other way when the brakes are released because of that caliper that doesn't release properly. After a long drive, you'll often find the wheel is hotter on the side with the sticking caliper. This can be a little tricky to identify because the suspension geometry has been designed to offset the effects of mismatched or uneven front braking power.
An experienced alignment mechanic will figure out the cause of the pull. Among other subtle clues, they will look at what the steering wheels does. Whether it stays straight or turns in the direction of the pull is one of those clues. If it oscillates left and right as the car goes up and down over a big bump, like a railroad track crossing, is another clue.
You should have gotten a printout of the alignment that shows the "before" and "after" numbers. If you reply back with the "after" numbers for "camber", "caster", "toe", and "steering axis inclination, (SAI)" for each wheel, I can analyze which way the car can be expected to pull.
Thursday, January 16th, 2014 AT 8:57 PM