Auto Repair Help

by Jim Miller

The vehicle pulls to the right or left when the brakes are applied.

The usual cause of this symptom is contamination on the braking surface or a malfunctioning caliper. It can also be caused by different tire sizes on the right and left wheels. Worn suspension components can also cause this symptom.

If contamination, such as grease or oil is present on the left side, the vehicle will pull to the right since the left side will not provide the same braking force as the right. A visual inspection is the first step in diagnosing the problem. Perform a visual inspection on both sides of the vehicle. Check the following:

1. Inspect the tires for even tread wear and overall condition. Check to ensure tire inflation is the same and to specifications.

2. Inspect the brake rotors for contamination. On front wheel drive vehicles, inspect the CV boots for tears. If torn, the CV boot can allow the grease to contact the brake rotors.

3. Check the brake pads to ensure they are worn evenly on both sides of the vehicle. If one side is worn excessively, it could be caused by a sticking brake caliper. The brake caliper can slide or the pistons can stick, causing the brake caliper to maintain braking force on the caliper. This might be accompanied by a discolored brake rotor as well. Rotation of the wheels by hand with the vehicle on jackstands should be even on each side. On front wheel drive vehicles, the transmission should be placed in neutral. Ensure the emergency brake is engaged and proper jacking procedures are used. A wheel that requires excessive force to rotate by hand should be investigated further.

4. Inspect the rubber brake hoses that connect to the calipers. A collapsed brake line can expand under pressure, allowing the brake fluid to enter the caliper then collapse trapping the brake fluid in the caliper.

5. With the vehicle jacked up and the tires on, inspect the front end components for excessive wear. With one hand on the front of the tire and one on the wheel, try to turn the wheel right and left (as if in a turn, not rotational). The wheel may be able to be turned to the right or left, but it should be tight and have no free play back and forth. Perform the same test with one hand on the top and one on the bottom of the tire. With your hand on the top, pull out while pushing in with the hand on the bottom. Then do the opposite, pull out on the bottom and in on the top. There should be no play in the wheel. If play is present in both of the above tests, it is usually an indication of a worn wheel bearing. If there is only play from right to left, it is usually an indication of a worn suspension component such as a tie rod end or rack and pinion. Perfoming the test while inspecting the front end will usually reveal the worn component.

Brake rotors become extremely hot during braking. Use caution when working on the brakes shortly after vehicle operation. Always refer to manufacturers jacking procedures to prevent damage to the vehicle or injury to yourself.

(Jim is a lifelong fan of Dodger Baseball and used to race sprint cars in the 1980s.)

23 responses to “My Car Pulls When Braking”

  1. maria says:

    very helpful and indeed truth on what was done at least on my car. thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Logan says:

    One thing worth noting, vehicle pulling to one side can be symptomatic of suspension system issues as well, the way to test this is to see if the vehicle pulls without braking, if it does, then it more than likely isn’t brake related, if it ONLY pulls to the side while brake and holds more or less straight while driving then it’s usually symptomatic of brake problems, hope this helps 🙂

  3. mitch says:

    When i brake it pulls to the left and feels like there is not enough force stopping the car than their should be, it seems it could be brake related but is their a list of things it could be?

  4. Andreea says:

    My car pulls to the left side wen i turn to the left wen i turn a left corner

  5. b says:

    96 Volvo 960 replaced Roters , breaks and caliper on drivers side but car still shakes.. (shuttering) shake
    when breaking… on the drivers side Please help

  6. Cy says:

    PLEASE HELP…My car pulls to the right during hard to medium braking. I have replaced both the front wheels with new rotors & brake pads, new caliper bracket and pin, new tie rods, new poly urethane control arm bushings.
    Car does not shimmy and drives straight. i have also interchanged the front left and right caliper to see if the left caliper is the cause, but symptom remains. Thank you in advance.

    • JS says:

      Help please. I have a similar issue car pulls to the right when braking and when taking your foot of the brake it then pulls back to the left. Replaced front and back pads and disks. Replaced back calipers. Done balacing and tracking. Replaced all four tyres. Any ideas? I plan to replace the wheels this weekend to rule out any issues with wheels.

      • Daktari says:

        Did all the same and still having that problem

      • brian says:

        cy and js, to me if you have replaced all the same parts it is most likely the number line that goes to the caliper cause its rubber and has a tendency to bacd when old. unless there is a leak one the system somewhere

    • Jimmy says:

      It sounds like not equal breaking on front left wheel, probably not enough fluid accumulating to apply equal pressure on the pads/due to possible break line obstruction around front left wheel. I’ll also check rare left break as well to make sure it working normal and is not contributing to the problem.

  7. Al says:

    Reply for JS, your front left calliper is the problem.

    Reply for Cy, you need to bleed your brakes, there is air in your system.

    • Josh says:

      Having the same issue as js car pulling to the right very bad when braking. Replaced both calipers and 1 rotor. Any thought. Brake lines?

      • Jimmy says:

        First of all, always replace rotor/break pads on both sides (even when one is not worn out that bad). It is a safety issue and best practice.

        Now, it sounds like not equal breaking is taking place on front left wheel, probably due to not enough fluid accumulating to apply equal pressure on the pads/due to possible break line obstruction around front left wheel. I’ll also check rare left break as well to make sure it working normal and is not contributing to the problem.

    • Brian says:

      Reply for Al: if he has swapped out one side for the other and the problem persists, how can you say that the problem lies within the left caliper if it has now been installed on the ride side? Just an observation.

  8. Ron says:

    car pulls left when braked applied at 30-40 mph I cheched calp pads rotors bleed front still got prob =can A frame rubber gom be prob? or what? 99 ford controur

  9. D.V says:

    When breaking at any speed (the higher the greater)
    Vehicle will pull to the left, steering wheel turns to the right.
    Please Help.
    Toyota Siena 2004

    • alan verdoorn says:

      D.V. did you find out what causes your car to pull to the left and steer to the right? my chevy classic 2004 is doing the same thing.

  10. keith says:

    its the master cylinder

  11. Henry says:

    Hi. My car pulls to the right when I am braking only when the car is rolling to a stop.

  12. Melanie says:

    When i apply the brakes hard my car slides to the left. When driving theres no pull to either side

  13. Brian says:

    So I just changed rotors and pads on my truck and when I take it out to test drive it and i have done this 100 times or more. The truck pulls to the left and then right and so on. Not sure why this is. Brakes are bleed new lines and nothing is stuck. Clean surfaces on both sides.

  14. My dad’s truck pulls to the sides and it makes it difficult for him to drive. I like how you mention that when your vehicle pulls to the sides it can be due to worn-out suspension components. Thank you for the information. I will recommend my dad to take his truck to an auto repair shop to have his truck’s brakes fixed.

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