Worn-out shocks or uneven tire wear may cause your car to sway from side to side.
In either of these situations, a change of the shocks or tires may be required to fix the issue.
Other reasons why your car would sway include worn tie rods, uneven tire pressure, and steering issues.
Let’s have a deep dive into the major causes.
1. Worn-out Shocks or Struts
Think of your car’s shocks or struts as its “legs.” They absorb the impact and bumps on the road, providing you with a smooth ride. However, they can’t do their job effectively when they wear out.
If you have your car struts leaking, for instance, this would lead to instability, which you might experience as swaying. You’ll especially notice this when driving at high speeds or going over bumps.
Replacing shocks or struts isn’t something you can procrastinate on; worn-out ones affect your car’s ability to handle, making it a top-priority fix.
2. Uneven Tire Wear
Tires are your car’s only contact point with the road, so any issues with them are instantly felt. Uneven wear can create an imbalance, causing your car to sway and feel off-balance. If your tires are unevenly worn, you may need to get them rotated or replaced entirely.
3. Worn Tie Rods and Control Arms
The tie rods and control arms are key elements in your steering system. If they’re worn out, they can cause lots of play in the wheel, making your car feel unstable and prone to swaying. Don’t underestimate this issue; it directly impacts your ability to steer your car accurately.
4. Low or Uneven Tire Pressure
When your tires are underinflated, it reduces your car’s stability and handling, leading to that swaying sensation.
Checking and maintaining your tire pressure is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to prevent swaying. Trust me, it’s worth the two minutes it takes to do.
5. Power Steering Issues
Power steering makes maneuvering your vehicle easier. An issue with the system, say, a leak or a pump failure, can create resistance when you steer.
This resistance can manifest as swaying, especially when you’re trying to maintain a straight path.
6. Wheel Alignment Issues
Wheel alignment issues can not only cause pulling but also contribute to swaying. If your wheels aren’t aligned properly, they won’t work in harmony, which can result in an unstable ride.
It might sound counterintuitive, but yes, your brakes can cause your car to sway.
If one of your brakes is dragging or not releasing properly, it can pull your car to one side, leading to an uneven and swaying motion.
8. Weight Distribution
Have you ever overloaded the trunk or had too many passengers in the back seat?
In some situations, a poor weight distribution can lead to swaying. Make sure you evenly distribute weight in your vehicle to maintain stability.
9. Environmental Factors like Wind
Strong winds can push your car around, especially if it’s a taller vehicle like an SUV or a van.
While you can’t control the weather, knowing that wind can be a factor can help you understand why your car might sway under certain conditions.
Read: Sway Warning Toyota
Preliminary Checks for Diagnosing Car Sways
1. Tire Checks
Tires are foundational to your car’s performance. To check them, you’ll want to look at a few things:
- Tire Pressure: Use a tire pressure gauge to measure the pressure in each tire and compare it to your car’s recommended levels, usually found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker inside the driver’s door.
- Tire Wear: Take a look at the tread wear patterns. Uneven wear can be a sign of alignment issues or tire imbalance, both of which can contribute to swaying.
- Visual Inspection: Check for any visible damage like punctures, cuts, or bulges. Any of these can severely compromise your car’s stability.
- Tire Age: Tires degrade over time, even if the tread doesn’t look worn. Check the manufacturing date on the tire’s sidewall if you haven’t replaced it in a while.
2. Visual Inspection
Grab a flashlight and get ready to peek under your car. Here’s what you should look for:
- Bushings: These rubber or polyurethane pieces act as cushions between various metal parts. Cracked or worn bushings can lead to extra movement and swaying.
- Tie Rods: If the ends of the tie rods look worn or if the rods have played, it might be contributing to the swaying.
- Control Arms: Examine for any signs of wear or damage. Worn control arms can make your steering loose, causing the car to sway.
- Shocks and Struts: Check for leaks or any signs of wear. Damaged or leaking struts and shocks can greatly contribute to swaying.
- Brake Components: Make sure the brake calipers are releasing properly, and check for any warped rotors.
3. On-Road Checks
For this, you’ll want to find a less crowded road where you can safely perform basic tests to understand your car’s condition better.
- Straight-Line Test: Drive at a moderate speed in a straight line and release the steering wheel briefly (while making sure it’s safe to do so). Note if the car pulls to one side or if it starts to sway.
- Braking Test: Apply the brakes at different speeds and observe if the car sways during the process.
- Turn Test: Make both left and right turns at a moderate speed to see if the car sways more during one direction of turns compared to the other.
Common Fixes for Car Swaying Side to Side
1. Replace Shocks or Struts
If your shocks or struts are worn out, replacing them is the only way to restore your car’s stability and handling fully.
You’ll need professional assistance for this task. Once replaced, you’ll likely notice an immediate improvement in ride quality and stability.
2. Adjust or Replace Tires
A simple rotation might balance things out if the tire wear is uneven. Or, in severe cases of wear or damage, you’ll need to replace one or more tires.
3. Repair or Replace Tie Rods and Control Arms
Worn or damaged tie rods and control arms directly affect your steering and stability.
A professional repair or replacement is needed if your preliminary checks indicate issues here.
4. Fix Power Steering Issues
Issues with power steering can manifest as swaying due to the resistance or lag while steering. Repairing or replacing a faulty power steering pump or fixing a leak could resolve the problem.
5. Adjust Your Brakes
If your brakes are dragging or not releasing properly, an adjustment or a replacement of brake components like pads, calipers, or rotors might be necessary. Consult a mechanic for an accurate diagnosis and repair.
6. Correct the Wheel Alignment
A professional wheel alignment is essential if your wheels aren’t aligned properly. It’s a relatively quick process but can significantly improve your car’s stability and reduce swaying.
7. Manage Weight Distribution
Remove any heavy items from the trunk if not needed. If carrying heavy loads or multiple passengers, make sure the weight is evenly distributed.
How to Prevent Car Swaying from Side to Side
Having your tires rotated and balanced according to the schedule recommended in your owner’s manual can help ensure even tire wear.
In addition to tire rotations, aligning your wheels regularly can keep your vehicle stable. If your car seems to be pulling to one side, an alignment can often correct the issue before it leads to swaying.
Make it a habit to check your shocks and struts during your routine oil changes or at least once a year. Catching wear and tear early can prevent the deterioration of your ride quality and stave off swaying issues.
Your tie rods, control arms, and bushings should be inspected regularly. If any parts are worn or damaged, replacing them before they fail can prevent steering problems and swaying.
At least once a year, have your brake system thoroughly inspected, including the pads, rotors, and calipers.
Properly functioning brakes are essential for safe driving and can prevent the kind of dragging that can lead to swaying.
Keep an eye on your power steering fluid levels and consider replacing the fluid as your car’s manufacturer advises. A smoothly operating power steering system can prevent many issues, including swaying.
Several factors could be responsible for your vehicle’s swaying, from worn-out shocks and struts to uneven tire wear and wheel alignment issues. Importantly, I’ve covered preventative measures that can keep your car stable and sway-free in the long run.
Remember, while being informed and proactive is good, there’s no substitute for professional expertise. If you notice signs of swaying and you have done your preliminary checks as you should, yet there is no solution, I’ll advise you to consult a qualified mechanic immediately for a thorough diagnosis and repair.
Timely action is not just about saving money on more significant repairs down the line; it’s about ensuring your safety and that of others on the road.
Ugo is a passionate car enthusiast with a Bachelor of Electrical and Electronics Engineering degree and hands-on experience in troubleshooting and fixing automobiles.
I combine my electrical and mechanical engineering knowledge with practical skills to address car-related issues.
My love for cars and dedication to educating others led to the creation of Fixandtroubleshoot.com!