Should a Steering Wheel Be Straight After an Alignment (Possible Issue)

Getting in your car after it has been repaired, only to discover a new problem is one of the most frustrating things to deal with. You’re probably pretty confused if you recently had a tire alignment and you notice that your steering wheel isn’t straight. Would you be better off just trusting your mechanic if you were skeptical?

Your steering wheel should always be straight after getting a recent alignment. The alignment process by nature dictates that the steering wheel is put in a position that is straight, ensuring other components of your steering system and tires are parallel. If you notice your steering wheel is not straight like it should be after an alignment, take the car back to the mechanic immediately and insist they fix it.

The purpose of this short guide is to help you determine whether your steering wheel should be straight after a steering wheel alignment or not. I am committed to getting you what you deserve and helping you fix your car as soon as possible.

How Alignment Works On A Car

To begin, it is important that we understand exactly how alignment works on a car and the purpose that it serves. If you are like me, you may not have previously been too interested in this process, but knowing how it works can help you detect issues and avoid problems in the future.

It is recommended that you take care of your alignment about once a year. Having to do it early can be justified if you have some extra circumstances, such as being involved in an accident or lowering your car, that would force you to do it earlier.

A tire alignment is also required after the installation of new tires, such as winter tires, in order to ensure proper alignment.

How Alignment Works

Your car will be placed in front of a camera fitted with computers by the mechanic in order to begin the process of checking it. By using the camera, you can get an image of the current configuration of your tires and determine if there are any corrections that need to be made.

In most cases, there will be very little impact on the alignment of your vehicle unless you notice something terribly wrong while you are driving.

A general rule of thumb is that corrections will be made in any combination of the following five categories:


Taking a birds-eye view of your car, you will be able to see how a toe correction looks when viewed from above. The toe is a measure of how much angle your tires have when compared to a perfectly straight tire.

When the tire is rotated three degrees, then there is a three-degree toe on the tire, for example. As long as your tires are misaligned here by any amount, it will cause them to wear quickly and affect the grip and performance of your vehicle.

The problem here is that your tires will be fighting against each other if they are pointing in different directions at the same time. It will pull your car in that direction if only one of them is pointing in a different direction.


Camber is a term that is more commonly known to people. In order to improve a car’s stance and make it look cooler, some people will purposefully increase its camber in order to make it look better, but it is actually damaging the tires and grip of a vehicle.

As a first step, I would like you to imagine looking at a tire from a head-on angle to get a better grasp of this angle. In this case, we are referring to the vertical angle of the tire when it is facing you from the front.

The ideal condition would be for the tire to be straight up and down, or to be perfectly vertical. In other words, if the tire is showing a positive or negative camber, it is kicking in or out slightly as a result of the camber.

There is a problem with this because tires are designed to ride perpendicular to the ground under them, not parallel. As a matter of fact, that’s how the grip was designed in the first place.

It is impossible to tell how your tires are going to react if your car has a camber. During certain turns, you will experience a loss of grip at random as they will wear out unevenly.


The concept of thrust is a little more difficult to grasp. This is a measure of how to square the rear axle is in comparison to the front axle as a whole.

Firstly, it determines the direction of the rear axle and then it determines which way your car’s centerline should be pointed. In the event that these axles are not square, then you are likely to notice vibrations and strange behaviors as you accelerate or decelerate quickly when you drive your car.


You should also take the steering axis into account. This axis is connected to both of your wheels and ensures that each of your wheels is square with the other.

You should be able to see the caster of your car straight up when you look at the side of the vehicle. It is important to note that any deviation from this will result in a wonky steering wheel.

When you go through a turn, a true caster is very important because it ensures that your steering wheel stays straight after you go through the turn.

Positioning The Steering Wheel

It is also possible that the mechanic will reposition the steering wheel on your car as well. It is going to involve a bit of messing with the tie rods and the suspension on either side of the car to accomplish this. As a result, the natural position of the steering wheel will be determined.

There are a few different reasons why your steering wheel may not be straight after an alignment, but this is probably the most common one.

There are a few specifications that will need to be followed when it comes to the correct steering wheel position. Despite the fact that your car may be within spec, a steering wheel that is misaligned may still be affecting its performance.

More information on what makes the steering wheel straight will be covered in the next section. This is important for us to cover because it can help you understand your alignment issues.

What Makes A Steering Wheel Straight?

In order for your steering wheel to be straight as you drive along, you need to consider all five categories mentioned earlier as they contribute to it. There is a possibility that your car will want to pull if the tires are cocked out of alignment, and this will cause your steering wheel not to be straight as a result.

It will not matter how straight your wheels are if the tie rods are not positioned correctly. As you drive your car, the steering wheel always tells you to go slightly left or right, and the rest of the steering system is happy to follow, as well.

In the simplest terms, the steering wheel of your vehicle can be described as the result of the alignment of the steering wheel itself, as well as the positional squareness of each of the four wheels. Now that we have covered what makes a steering wheel straight, we can talk about some of the issues that can cause your steering wheel to be out of line after alignment.

Reasons Why Your Steering Wheel Isn’t Straight After Alignment

After an alignment, it is possible for your steering wheel to not be straight for a number of reasons. A simple possibility that your car may not be as perfect as you would like is that it was not built perfectly out of the factory. There is a possibility that this could happen, but it is not too common.

In addition, there is a possibility that your alignment equipment is malfunctioning. It is possible that your steering wheel will be off after an alignment if the equipment was not set up correctly or if it was damaged in some way.

There is also a possibility that there is something wrong with the suspension system of your car. A damaged suspension could cause your steering wheel to be misaligned if it does not function properly or is damaged in any other way.

If you are not sure what is causing your steering wheel to be off after an alignment, the best thing that you can do is to take it back to the shop and have them take a look at what is going on. If they are capable of diagnosing the problem and fixing it for you, they should be able to help you out.

Next, we will cover how often you should have your car aligned. This is an important factor to consider than can increase the overall lifespan of your vehicle.

How Often Should I Have My Car Aligned?

Every 12,000 miles or so, it is recommended that you have your car aligned by a professional. In reality, this is dependent on your driving style and the condition of your suspension as well as the type of driving you do.

Knowing the signs that you need an alignment can help you avoid issues in the future. These key signs will be covered in the sections below.

How Do You Know When It Is Time For Alignment?

These signs are a good indication that you probably need to get your car’s wheel alignment done at some point in the near future. Other factors could also be contributing to the problem, such as suspension components, but these are the most obvious signs that the problem exists.

Car Pulls To One Side

There is a possibility that if you hold your steering wheel straight and your car begins to veer in one direction, then your steering system is malfunctioning. For you to be able to drive straight in a straight line, you will have to hold your wheel at an odd angle to keep it from turning.

It would be best to go to a big, empty parking lot as a way of testing this theory. You should make sure that there are no obstacles in front of you before you start driving in a straight line. Try straightening the steering wheel in your vehicle and then see what your car will feel like when the wheel is straightened.

Uneven Or Premature Tire Wear

If your tires begin to show signs of wear on them, then you should inspect which side of the car and which area of the tire specifically shows signs of tire wear.

In the event that your vehicle’s tires are wearing unevenly between the front and rear tires, or only the outer edges of the tires are wearing out, you might first want to check the tire to see if it’s still good as low tire pressure could be the cause as well. If not then get an alignment to fix the problem.

Wheel Is Not Centered

There is also a dead giveaway that occurs after you finish a turn or when you first begin driving. In the event that you find yourself at a stop sign and you look down and you take notice that the steering wheel is not centered, then there is something wrong with your vehicle.

There are a number of examples of this, but it is most obvious when the wheel has a spoke at the center.

The vertical spokes of a straight steering wheel will be exactly vertical, ensuring the wheel will be perfectly centered. As soon as anything deviates from this, then there is a high possibility that something is not right.

The Steering Is Unresponsive

The steering wheel might also not respond very well to your movements. Normally, a small correction changes your car’s direction, but now it doesn’t. The car will keep going straight if you slightly wobble the wheel. Tie rods, most likely, are loose within the steering assembly in this case.

Let A Professional Take A Look

When you leave your mechanic’s parking lot, you should notice a crooked steering wheel. Getting a quick correction will be easier if you do this.

A few days later or after you get home, you’ll realize it’s much harder. It is possible that the auto shop had forgotten about your car altogether by that point, or that they had blamed you for it.

You should be able to get this mistake fixed for free if you have an honest mechanic. The problem could be as simple as tweaking the tie rods. Look for a new shop if the problem is related to a bigger issue, such as a mechanic who didn’t align your car correctly.

Now that we have covered most of the basics of steering wheel alignment, we can focus on some of the most common questions people have regarding alignment issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Most Common Cause Of Alignment Problems

A curb or pothole is the most common cause of alignment problems. In addition to damaging the suspension, this can lead to misalignment of the car. Over time, wear and tear can also cause alignment problems.

Can Alignment Problems Be Fixed?

Yes, it is possible to fix alignment problems. You can adjust the alignment or replace the broken parts to fix them.

Can Potholes Effect Tire Alignment Or Be Responsible For Other Tire Problems?

Yes, potholes can seriously affect your tire alignment. Everyone hates potholes. They’re the leading cause of crooked steering wheels.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen when you apply that much force to your steering. Several components can be knocked out of position by a pothole, a tire can be damaged, and steering parts may be rattled.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why your car’s steering wheel may not be straight after a recent alignment. Low power steering fluid levels or a problem with the power steering pump are the most common causes.

An alignment that wasn’t done properly is another possibility. A mechanic should be consulted if you notice that your steering wheel isn’t responding properly.