Auto Repair Help
JIM’S CORNER – AUTO REPAIR HELP

DIAGNOSE – CAR PULLS WHEN I STEP ON THE BRAKES
by Jim Miller

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

USUAL CAUSE
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.

DIAGNOSIScheckengine
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.

PRECAUTIONS, TIPS, and NOTES
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.)

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12 Comments on "My Car Pulls When Braking"

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maria
1 year 10 months ago

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

Logan
1 year 9 months ago

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 🙂

mitch
1 year 4 months ago

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?

Andreea
1 year 4 months ago

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

11 months 6 days ago

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

Joshua healey
6 months 24 days ago

Sometimes a worn wheel Bearing can make car shake when brakes are applied.

Cy
6 months 15 days ago

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.

4 months 19 days ago

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.

Al
3 months 29 days ago

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
1 month 28 days ago

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?

Ron
3 months 22 days ago

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

D.V
1 month 25 days ago

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

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