There are many good reasons to have a golf cart that has nothing to do with golf courses. One survey noted that around 85% of previously owned golf carts are used places other than golf courses. So, especially if you use your golf cart off-road, understanding what’s going on if your cart pulls in one direction and knowing how to diagnose and possibly fix it will save you time and money.
Steering, tires, suspension, and alignment all can contribute to your golf cart pulling in one direction. If your golf cart pulls in one direction, chances are that it is one of these components. There are steps you can take to diagnose the problem and fix basic issues from one of these components.
So, whether you’re using a golf cart around your neighborhood, retirement community, college campus, work setting, or for outdoor recreation, you need that golf cart to be stable and predictable in ride and steering. This article explains the basics around diagnosing and fixing the issue(s) that can cause your golf cart to pull to the left or right as you’re driving.
Why is Your Golf Cart Pulling in One Direction?
If when you release the wheel, your golf cart drifts in one direction, or your golf cart steering pulls to one side, it’s likely one or more components in the following systems is the culprit:
- Suspension system: supports the frame and weight of the cart, absorbs and lessons road vibration, and helps tires maintain contact with the road. If any of the several components of the suspension system have failed, that can contribute to cart pull.
- Steering system: if any part of the mechanism that enables you to guide and direct the cart fails, then steering may veer in one direction.
- Braking system: worn brake pads or damage to other brake system components can cause the brakes to “drag,” pulling the cart off-center.
- Tires and wheels: proper tire pressure and wheel alignment are critical to smooth and consistent vehicle direction. If either is not up to the recommended specifications, that can cause the cart to pull in one direction.
Note that a bent frame can impact any of these systems, so if you use your golf cart on rough terrain (or run into something), that can impact steering, suspension, alignment, and more.
If you use your golf cart on rough terrain, then you’ll want to pay attention to wear and tear on the suspension system. Golf cart shock absorbers, leaf springs, and struts all bear the brunt of rough terrain and extended use. Every bump causes the wheels to slam back down onto the road or trail surface, impacting the suspension. You’ll know it because your cart will drift or pull in a direction, not to mention the resulting rough ride.
So, one key to good handling and a smooth ride is the golf cart’s suspension system. Here’s a quick drill-down on some of the suspension components and how damage can affect cart directional pull:
- Leaf springs and shock absorbers: they dampen impact and provide support for the rest of the suspension system. Damage to either will impact how your golf cart handles.
- Axles: also carry golf cart weight via axle bearings. Axles are connected to the wheel by a “CV joint,” which is protected by a CV joint boot. If this covering is damaged, axle grease can leak out, contributing to issues with steering and turning.
- Ball joints: also part of the steering system, these are pivot points between the wheels and suspension, each also supporting the golf cart’s weight. Wear on these means wear on the tires, which in turn affects ride and stability.
Given the golf cart’s steering system works hand-in-hand with the suspension system, any issues with either will affect both. Here’s a quick look at a couple of steering components that can affect directional pull if worn or damaged.
- Spindle: component between the wheel and steering gear mechanism. In golf carts, the spindle pivots on a component called a king pin—resulting in the steering system turning the cart from side to side.
- Tie rods: connect the spindle to the golf cart steering mechanism.
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your golf cart’s steering mechanism. These two components (along with the ball joints mentioned earlier) come into play in the checks recommended for diagnosing your cart’s pull to the left or right.
One thing to keep in mind is that the golf cart steering mechanism is offset left of center. (This has implications for why damage here can mean a cart pulls left—but more on that in a later section.)
Most golf carts use a rear drum brake system. If the brakes wear unevenly, this can contribute to a cart pulling to one side. An inspection of the brake system will include brake pedals, cables, and linkage, brake drum, and shoes.
Brake system parts that may need replacing include brake plates and brake shoes. Having brake fluid at the proper level is also critical to your brakes working properly.
Tires and Wheels
Improper front tire pressure or worn tires should be the first things you check for if your golf cart is pulling to one side or the other. The kind of tires you have on your cart will, of course, be specific to its use; if your cart is designed for off-road, then their tread will be specific to that context. If you use your golf cart on a golf course, then the tires will be “turf approved.”
Golf cart tires come in five groups: standard street, smooth, all-terrain, knobby, and sand. Tire thickness goes from “2 to 6,” with the higher end being off-road.
You can find the proper pressure for your golf cart tires by looking at the tire sidewall. Usually, the pressure will be between 15-25 PSI (pounds per square inch), with most tires noting 20-22 PSI. Note that the tires should never be overinflated. Beyond the resulting rough ride, over-inflated tires mean less traction, which can be dangerous.
With proper care (which includes regular rotations), golf cart tires should last many years.
Proper front wheel alignment ensures that the golf cart tires turn in unison and travel in the same direction. In addition to keeping your cart from pulling in one direction or the other, correct alignment of the front end protects your cart’s suspension system. Improper alignment can damage the cart’s suspension components and lead to excessive wear on the tires.
Improper alignment of front wheels is one of the main reasons for your golf cart pulling in one direction. Given that, we’ll cover alignment in more detail later.
If you use your cart off-road, you may want to modify it to increase ground clearance and stability via offset wheels and bigger tires. Keep in mind that these changes affect alignment and steering—two things you count on for safety in the field.
If you decide to install a lift kit, keep these considerations in mind for cart safety and stability:
- Increased tire size impacts overall weight distribution causing potential sway and instability.
- Steering can be harder to control if not adjusted properly.
Diagnosing Why Your Golf Cart Pulls in One Direction
Whether your cart is pulling to the left or the right, the following visual checks can help you determine why.
Is there anything obvious as you walk around the cart?
- Any damage on the front of the cart? (Did that pothole you ran over or that brush you clipped coming out of the woods inflicted more damage than you thought?)
- Check tire pressure and wear. Adjust tire pressure and do a test drive. If there’s still an issue, then visually check the following:
- Does the steering turn equally left to right from the center?
- With wheels are in line with the cart, look to see if the wheels visibly (and unequally) turn in or out (toe) or tilt inward or outward from the frame (camber.)
- If you see an issue with these two checks, then you know the wheels need to be aligned.
Check Underneath the Front of the Cart
Jack the front end of the cart up and steady with cinder blocks or similar. There are several things that you can visually check underneath the front of your cart.
- Is there any sign of excessive wear, looseness, or binding with tie rod ends?
- What is the condition of spindles and king pins, bushings, wheel bearings, loose bolts?
- Is the axle even slightly bent? The axle should be flat and smooth.
In addition to the service manual specific to your golf cart, there are several great schematics online that you can reference.
If Your Cart is Pulling to the Right
Given the above, here are some things to check if your cart is pulling to the right.
- Tires: Lower pressure in the right front tire? Tread wear significant on the right side?
- Front bearings: Adjusted correctly? Not too tight on the right side?
- Front end alignment, if needed.
If Your Cart is Pulling to the Left
If your golf cart is pulling to the left, then, in addition to the items above, pay particular interest to the steering, given it is offset to the left of the cart.
- Tires: Lower pressure in the left front tire? Tread wear significant on the left side?
- Front bearings: Adjusted correctly? Not too tight on the left side?
- Steering: Equal turns left and right
- Check the steering box for wear.
- If your steering wheel is out of alignment, there are some great resources online to help you understand how to fix it.
How to Fix a Drifting Golf Cart
There are some great resources online to help you diagnose and fix issues involved with golf cart directional pull. This table includes a section for addressing EZGO golf cart suspension and steering issues.
It’s possible pulling to the left or right can be addressed by adjusting the tire pressure. But more likely, the fix will involve working with components in one of these systems discussed earlier: steering, suspension, brakes, tires, and wheels.
Unless there’s visible wear and tear on components (like tie rod ends), then alignment is the likely fix. This will ensure your golf cart’s wheels are in the correct position (alignment). Here’s a closer look at alignment to help you understand what’s involved, which will help determine whether you decide to do it on your own or take your cart to a mechanic.
Golf Cart Wheel Alignment
The way the wheels on your golf cart are positioned is determined by camber, caster, and toe.
- Toe measures how much the front (or rear) wheels turn in or out when your cart faces straight ahead. The adjustment goal is to be sure all wheels roll parallel to each other.
- Camber is a measurement of how much your front cart tires tilt vertically in or out (in other words, a check to see if the top of the tire is closer to the cart frame than the bottom of the tire.)
- Caster is an angle measured in degrees from a line perpendicular to the road surface. If there’s zero tilt of the steering axis, the wheels turn in and out like casters rolling underneath a piece of furniture.
- The caster can be set, so wheels tilt like they do when you’re leaning into a curve on a motorcycle. In other words, the caster angle affects steering. If it’s off on the left side, that misalignment will contribute to the golf cart pulling left.
Issues with steering and suspension components like spindles and tie rods can affect all of these measurements.
How to Align Your Golf Cart
You’ll want to follow the specifications noted in the manual for your golf cart, but in general, aligning your golf cart’s front wheels will involve the following steps on both driver and passenger sides:
- Check and adjust the camber. Positive camber is when the bottom of the wheels angle inwards. For negative camber, the bottom of the wheels angle outward. Check camber by laying a straightedge on the ground in front of the driver’s side tire – the goal is not to see a gap between the straightedge and the tire. Adjusting the camber involves adjusting the control arm. The video above shows you how to adjust.
- Test. Roll the cart forward a few feet.
- Check and adjust the toe-in and toe-out. To check, measure the inside distance between the left and right front wheels on your golf cart. Do the same measurement for the back wheels. The goal is to have a minimal (1/8” to 1/4”) difference between the two measurements to ensure golf cart stability. You can adjust the toe-in or -out by loosening the tie rod and turning it to the left or right per the adjustment needed.
- Test again. Drive the cart forward, test measurements, repeat adjustments if needed.
How to Prevent a Golf Cart from Pulling in One Direction
Especially if you use your cart off-road, being proactive about maintenance will save you time and money in the long run. The following table focuses on maintenance for steering and suspension, which are the primary systems involved if your cart pulls to the left or right:
|Daily||Tires||Check for damage, tread depth (wear), and tire pressure|
|Monthly||Service brake||Confirm brakes operate correctly|
|Quarterly||Steering Assembly||Check for too much play or too stiff|
|Front axle||Look for damage, loose, or missing fittings|
|Front shock absorbers||Check for oil leaks and loose fittings|
|Front springs||Check for loose fittings and cracks at footings|
|Front wheel alignment||Inspect tires for wear and align wheels if needed|
|Semi-Annual||King pins||Retaining nuts—too much play or tightness?|
|Steering assembly||Inspect bellows and pinion seal|
|Annual||Front wheel bearings||Adjust and grease as needed|
|Brakes||Clean and adjust, check brake shoe linings|
If your golf cart steering pulls to the right or the left, then determining the causes and fixing it will ensure your safety and minimize wear and tear on the components involved.
There are several possible reasons your golf cart may be pulling in one direction. There are some basic checks you can do to identify possible causes. The reason for pull right or left may be as simple as adjusting tire pressure in the right or left tire. But you may need to do additional checks and more complicated fixes to address the issues causing the pull.
Besides enjoying your golf cart for transportation, maintaining, modifying, and fixing issues yourself can bring additional satisfaction. Addressing why your cart pulls to the left or right is a place way to start!