In this series of Q&A posts we are using google’s autocomplete function to find the most commonly asked questions about cars and giving them each a definitive answer. This week we answer the question “what causes my SUV to sway side to side while driving?”
The sensation of your SUV or truck swaying while you drive it can be very disconcerting. There are actually a number of reasons why this might happen, a couple of them require immediate maintenance, and a couple of them are just part of the nature of this type of vehicle. Let’s start with the simple reasons first:
Vehicle Height and Tires
SUVs and trucks are high profile vehicles, and for many people that is one of the main reasons to buy one. This increases safety and improves visibility over traffic, medians, and landscaping. This causes one small issue though, and that is an increased susceptibility to cross winds. With the storms we have been having here in Victoria over the past month I have no doubt that many motorists have felt swaying and pulling at both high and low speeds.
Another minor issue is one of tire width. As your vehicle gets bigger, so do the wheels and tires. Very wide tires with increased road contact tend to amplify minor misalignment. Even a very slight caster alignment problem between the four wheels can cause a domino effect as you accelerate, come out of a corner, or change direction. Caster alignment needs to be within half of a degree side to side or else you will begin to feel a pulling or swaying sensation. That is when you call in to have the alignment checked.
Potentially Bigger Issues
If I was to diagnose a swaying SUV without getting it up on the hoist, my first thought would be an issue with steering (tie rods) or suspension components (shocks and struts).
Worn shocks will cause a vehicle to sway excessively at all speeds, including at slow speeds. Shocks and struts are designed to absorb bumps and dips in the road and isolate the occupants of the car for a more comfortable ride. Shocks are also designed to reduce body roll during cornering. If these components are worn past their useful life, they will not provide a smooth ride or reduce body roll any longer. This is something we can easily diagnose at the shop when you are in for your next regularly scheduled maintenance. If it is causing you concern, send us a message today and we can book you in for a diagnosis.