New Drivers and Lane Drift – You or the Vehicle?
One of the more common things I’m seeing in my now year in driver training is that a lot of new drivers are concerned with “lane drift” or staying in the center of your lane. If you are having trouble there could be several factors making it more difficult. But lest start with the easiest thing first.
Don’t try and stay right in the middle of the lines next to you. Look far down the road and point the vehicle in the middle. Then make small corrections as you go. But here is a key, don’t be driving distracted taking your eyes off the road. As a young driver this is the most important thing you can do. I know you all want to slip right into driving and doing all the things everyone else does, listen to the radio, glance at your phone when driving but just don’t. Too many young people die doing just that. Just focus on driving this first year.
You can certainly have mechanical issues. It may not be you at all. If you’re driving an older car it may very well be the vehicle. Even if there is another driver of the vehicle and they don’t seem to have an issue. For example, you might be using the family car and mom and dad drive just fine but when you get in you notice this lane creep. That can be because they are seasoned drivers and have learned to correct it without even noticing they are doing it.
Easiest way to figure this out? Just ask someone with a new car or a rental to test drive it. If you track fine in a new car then chances are it is something mechanical on the older car.
Tires are the part of the vehicle that meets the road and takes you in the direction they are pointed. If something is off with them then you’re going to have a bad time.
INFLATION – First and easiest thing is to check for proper inflation and wear. Proper inflation is a little tricky in that you’ll need to go to a gas station with an air pump that has an air guage or you can purchase one for a few bucks to get it exact. But the easiest way is to just squat down behind the car and look and see if the tires look low on air or squished out. If one or more is then make that trip to the gas station. Your tire inflation chart is on the inside of the drivers door.
WEAR – If your tires are inflated properly then the next thing is to check the wear on the front tires. Look to see if you notice that either the inside or outside is wearing more. If so that means you need an alignment. But be aware, if you need an alignment that usually means that parts are worn and need replacing. Unless you hit a lot of curbs, your alignment isn’t going to change much. So unevenly worn tires is usually the sign of more than just tires need replacing.
TREAD DEPTH – Checking the tread depth is super easy. It will tell you if your tires need replacing. All you need is a penny. Just turn it so that Lincoln’s head is facing down and put it in the tread. If the tread does not reach his head it is time to replace your tires.
So the tires are OK what else might it be? If your tires check out OK there are other parts that may be worn that relate to the steering. These would be the tie rod ends. They are the part of the stering that connected to the wheel to make it turn. If this is worn it will put slop in the steering. The tie rods connect to the rack-n-pinion in most cars. That wears out too. If it does, you guessed it, slop in the steering. The thing is for most people you need a mechanic to diagnose these issues. If you really want to, you can grab the top of the tire and try to shake it back and forth to see if there is slop. There shouldn’t be any. It should be rock solid. It is very difficult and you have to pull back and forth very hard but if you can make the wheel flop back and forth, even a tiny bit, that means worn parts.
So it may not be you at all. Check that vehicle over or have a mechanic do it to make sure everything is working correctly.
Happy driving and thanks for checking out 2COOL!