Car Swaying Side to Side? Causes & How To Fix

If you’ve ever felt your car swaying side to side while you’re driving, you’ll know it’s far from a comforting experience. In fact, it’s downright unsettling and can pose a significant risk to your safety as well as that of other road users. 

My objective here is straightforward but crucial: to provide you with valuable information on why your car may be swaying side to side.

But we’re not stopping there. I’ll also explain how you can diagnose this issue and, more importantly, what you can do to fix it.

Consider this your go-to guide for understanding, diagnosing, and resolving your car swaying problems.

repair work being done a car swaying side to side

What Does it Mean When Your Car is Swaying Side to Side?

If you’re behind the wheel and you feel the car moving side to side, almost as if it’s floating or unsteady, that’s swaying. It’s like your car is dancing, but of course, not in a fun way.

You may notice this car swaying at high speeds on the highway, while taking a turn, or even during strong winds. It typically feels like you’re losing some level of control over your vehicle, and that’s something no one wants to experience.

I had a 2013 Kia Forte Ex which gave me quite a headache. The car would sway left and right whenever I drove on freeways with deep grooves or on rough surfaces.

Hitting a crack in the road would make the car jerk noticeably. Plus, I found that the car was much more susceptible to being pushed around by the wind than it used to be.

I initially assumed that the swaying was being caused by my brake rotors, and so, I had my rotors resurfaced. But then, this was just the beginning of a new kind of problem – the car started pulling to the left.

It was after I had conducted a series of troubleshooting steps that I realized that my car was swaying due to improper wheel alignment that was done after I changed tires.

Later on, I got to realize that it’s not all car swaying problems are caused by improper wheel alignment. There are a lot of other issues that can cause your car to sway side by side and I’ll be listing them out in the next section of this post.

I’d like to point out that car swaying problems almost never resolve themselves. Over time, it can wear other parts of your car, turning a potentially simple fix into a complex and expensive repair job.

Common Reasons Why Your Vehicle is Swaying Side to Side

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. I’ll go into detail on all the possible 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 or tire bulge 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.

I highly suggest that you pay close attention to the way your tires wear. Tire wear is natural but it has to happen in an even manner to avoid degenerating to the point of your tire wire showing.

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.

A major tell-tale sign that you have wheel alignment issues is when your steering wheel is not straight after alignment.

7. Brakes

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.

Preliminary Checks for Diagnosing Car Sways

Before you rush to the nearest auto repair shop, there are some preliminary checks you can do yourself. These are relatively simple tests and inspections that may help you identify or at least better understand your issue.

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.

Swaying is one of the major symptoms of unbalanced tires; therefore, a simple balancing can resolve this issue.

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. An alignment shouldn’t take too long. 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.

How to check your shocks and struts

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.