How to correct an off-centre steering wheel

By Camelia Maftei

If you have ever experienced an off-centre steering wheel, then you'll know first-hand how frustrating it can be. When your steering wheel is not properly aligned, you typically need to make adjustments to your driving style. Not only can this prove to be irritating over time, but there are also serious safety issues to consider as well.

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Steering 101: the basics

Steering wheels are connected to a main steering column. In most modern vehicles, this has a pinion gear at the end that connects to the rack. When the pinion turns, the rack is pushed to the right or the left, depending on its direction.

The rack is connected to tie rods, which are linked to arms that extend from the wheel hubs. Tie rods have a threaded collar that turns to make the rod shorter or longer, which, in turn, angles the wheel outward or inward.

Why is my steering wheel not centred?

Steering wheels can shift from their central position for a variety of reasons, including poor design and engineering. Although this is one of the more uncommon reasons, occasionally, vehicles come off the production line with a tilted or off-centre steering wheel.

Hitting a pothole and jolting your vehicle's suspension is one of the more common reasons for steering misalignment, as it can cause damage or stress to various components, requiring replacement or adjustment. This problem can also be caused by off-road driving, especially if this is a regular occurrence.

How to align steering wheel components

Firstly, it is important to emphasise that this work must be completed by an experienced professional for safety reasons. Although re-alignment isn't always a time-intensive job, there are several different angles to think about, both individually and in relation to one another.

  • The caster: the angle of the steering components in relation to the vertical axis at the point at which they meet the wheel.

  • The toe: the horizontal angle at which the wheels are positioned relative to each other.

  • The camber: the vertical angle at which the wheels are set, which affects the wear of the tyre and its directional functionality.

There are a few different methods that professionals may use depending on the unique issues being experienced by drivers of vehicles with steering misalignment. Typically, garages will use a selection of technologies and tools to ensure that all wheels are properly aligned along with the toe, caster, and camber angles. This process generally involves adjusting the tie rods on the back wheels first before moving onto the front wheels.

The importance of the toe angle

Realignment isn't a case of making sure that everything is pointed straight forwards. Some degree of toe-in or toe-out is required to deliver optimal levels of stability and every manufacturer has its own ideal angle for every model of car it produces.

If you're experiencing steering problems or you're concerned about the wheel alignment on your vehicle, our tyre professionals are on hand to help. We can also advise on replacement tyres and stock a range of top brands, including Falken and Pirelli. Simply book your free tyre and suspension check online or contact your local Protyre experts for additional information, assistance and advice.

Book your Free Wheel Alignment Check

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About the author

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By Camelia Maftei
Camelia leads Protyre's customer service team and is skilled in customer communications.
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