7 Causes of a Car That Pulls to the Right or Left (When Braking)

One of the most common braking problems that you may experience is when your steering wheel starts to pull to the right or left side as you step on the brake pedal. In rare instances, the steering wheel may pull from one side to the next.

Let’s look at the most common causes of a vehicle that pulls to only one side (right or left) when applying the brakes and how to properly diagnose the issue.

car starts then dies

See Also: Car Jerks When Braking? (Here’s Why)

Reasons Your Car Pulls to One Side When Braking

#1 – Stuck Brake Caliper

stuck brake caliper

Most often, a car that pulls to the right or left is the result of a malfunctioning caliper in your braking system. In most circumstances, you’ll have a stuck caliper that simply needs to be replaced in order to get your braking system functioning normally again.

Related: Average Brake Caliper Replacement Cost

#2 – Collapsed Brake Hose

collapsed brake hose

One more scenario for a pulling problem to one side would be due to a collapsed brake hose. When you check the hose, it may look fine on the exterior but what you won’t see is whether the liner on the inside is causing a restriction or not. The only way to diagnose this problem is by examining how the car pulls once you apply the brakes.

Usually, if there is a collapsed brake hose then the car will only pull for a few seconds after you apply the brake and then go back to normal afterward. In rare situations, the brake hose will allow fluid to go into the caliper but then it won’t go back to the master cylinder. This means the caliper won’t release fully, causing the pull to stay there.

#3 – Worn Brake Pads

worn brake pads

Normally, right and left brake pads on the same axle wear at a similar rate. But if you have uneven brake pad wear for whatever reason (ie: a stuck brake caliper), the brake pads on one side may “grab” more on one side vs the other causing your car or truck to veer towards one direction when applying the brakes.

See Also: Symptoms of Bad Brake Pads

#4 – Worn Suspension Parts

bad lower control arm bushing symptoms

Your suspension plays a role whenever braking as the weight of your vehicle is shifted when slowing down or stopping. For instance, when you have a faulty lower control arm bushing, it may allow the control arm on that corner to move which can result in your car pulling to either the left or right depending on what side the bushing is on.

#5 – Uneven Tire Pressure

tires out of balance

While this cause will mainly be apparent during accelerating or cruising, when you have a tire that’s significantly lower in air pressure than the opposite tire on the same axle, your car will naturally pull toward that side. This will be most noticeable on a front tire.

The reason is that low air pressure effectively changes the diameter and speed of that tire and by doing that, the car ends up being out of alignment. It’s similar to when you get a flat and swap it with a “donut” (space saver) tire. Your vehicle will have a tendency to slightly veer toward that side while driving and braking.

#6 – Faulty Wheel Bearing

wheel bearing sounds like

A wheel bearing that has too much play or looseness may cause the brake rotor to become misaligned with the brake caliper (and its pads). When braking, the entire brake pads might not make contact with the rotor as they do on the other side.

This means you’ll have less friction on one side and your vehicle will pull towards one side.

#7 – Mismatched Brake Pads

types of brake pads

Different types of brake pad material offer a difference coefficient of friction. So if you or the previous owner of your vehicle changed brake pads on one wheel only (don’t do that), there’s good chance the left side brake pads use a different friction material than the right side brake pads.

This will make it so one pair of pads to have more stopping power than the other and cause your car to veer right or left when the brakes are applied.

Self Diagnosis Tips

Before you go to the auto repair shop and pay hundreds of dollars to a mechanic to replace your caliper or another relative parts, you should perform a self-diagnosis on your vehicle first.

You see, the caliper is generally the cause of these pulling problems but it isn’t always the cause. You could be in a situation where you replace the caliper and still experience the pulling problem afterward. That is why you should always check your rear brakes, front brakes, steering components, and suspension components to see if they are causing the pull.

For example, if you have loose suspension components then that could also cause a pull on the steering wheel. So, double check to ensure these components are not loose. Also, check your tire pressure and make sure each tire has the recommended amount of air as suggested by the manufacturer of your vehicle.

Mark Stevens

28 Comments

  1. I own a Gmc Envoy 2005 been running wheel adapters/spacers over a year with no issues alignment was terrible but helped correct it a bit, but recently had alignment done but removed spaced before appointment. Alignment was great and breaking was great, until I reinstalled adaptes/spacers it started to sewer to the right while breaking, but if I remove adaptes/ spacers it breaks normally? What can cause it to pull. Also I was running aftermarket rims with spacers and it was pulling to the right harder before but never with original wheels after reinstalling for safety issues?

    Any answer would be helpful 🙂

  2. I have a 2012 gmc acadia slt fwd
    I changed the rotors, calipers & pads on the front back in Nov 2021. And it’s been pulling to the left when I brake and when I let up it goes back straight/right. It started doing this a few months after I changed everything.
    I’ve been told bad calipers possibly or warped rotors. But they dk for sure, it’s just me telling someone about it. Haven’t had it checked.
    Any ideas?

    1. Something wrong with the braking system is a good guess, but you might want to inspect the suspension as well. Perhaps something is changing the toe of one wheel under compression or something like that. This kind of thing could happen when suspension bushings are worn or when the alignment isn’t set up properly. How is the tire wear on all four tires? Is any part of each tire wearing faster?

  3. Hello,

    I have a 2016 Infiniti QX60. I had an accident in Dec 2022 and thereafter had to replace by Lower Control, Lateral Arm and the Spring on that driver back tire.

    In addition to the front driver side tire rod. An alignment was also done. However, on yesterday morning in route home I had to brake suddenly while traveling 65-70mph and when I did my suv started swerving from side to side for what seemed to be forever. Scared the living crap out of me.

    Any idea what it could be?

    1. That’s scary. The swerving could be caused by a lot of things, but it boils down to something not being even from left to right in either the brakes or suspension. That could be an alignment problem (something wasn’t tightened down properly, for instance), or it could be uneven braking between the calipers on the left and right sides of the vehicle.

      Since the control arms were just replaced, I would bring the vehicle back in and re-check the alignment to make sure everything is good there. Have them do a full inspection of the suspension and the brakes while you’re in there, and tell them about that incident on the highway.

  4. I have a 2005 buick lesabre pulls to the left when I apply brakes
    new tie rods had tires lined put new caliber in still pulls to left.

    1. I would go back and check the braking system again. Perhaps you have a bad brake hose, as this can exhibit similar symptoms to a bad brake caliper.

  5. 01 Chevy S10 pulls to right and is a little worse when i brake. This all started after i bought new tires. So i rotated the front tires from left to right, but no change. Then rotated back to front no change. Any thoughts?

    1. This is a wild guess, but I wonder if your rig could’ve been knocked out of alignment by something that happened during the tire installation. I would have the alignment checked. Also, make sure nothing is interfering with the wheel mounting surfaces.

  6. I have a dodge charger. when I brake or hit bumps car. Shift to the right. I kno I need breaks & rotors. So what can this be ???

    1. Check your suspension, suspension bushings, alignment, and tie rods. This is something you’ll want a shop to look at. Many tire shops can do these types of inspections.

  7. Mt 73 merceds sl 450 pulls to the right. I have replaced the pads , calipers, had to front and n alignment, and new tires. It still pulls only when I apply the brakes

    1. How is the wear on the replacement brake pads? Does the wear pattern match from left to right? If one side is wearing more than the other, it could be a bad brake hose or master cylinder.

      Do you notice that it is easier to steer one direction than the other? If you can’t find anything with the brakes, I might check the tie rods and suspension bushings next. Perhaps the wheel bearings as well.

  8. I have a 1958 Mercedes and it pulls to the left when braking. I have already checked Tyre pressure. What can possibly cause it

    1. A lot of things could cause that. The alignment could be off, one caliper could be sticking, you could have a bad tie rod, or your suspension bushings could be worn out.

  9. My 1994 Nissan D21 pulls to the right when braking heavily. I’ve replaced front pads, rotors, calipers, hoses and master cylinder and it still does it. I can steer my tractor using its independent rear brakes and am wondering whether I have a poorly adjusted rear drum causing a similar effect.

  10. Hi I have a 07 Nissan 350z. No abs comes on. With the abs module connected, the brake squeaks when pressing and de-pressing stationary. At high speed, the car swerves. With the abs module disconnected, no sound when braking (park position) but car swerves at high speed. I happened before, I replaced the module. It worked fine for a few months then this happens again. Replaced with used part. What could be the cause?

  11. My brakes pull to the left only when moving very slowly (like when coming to a stop) the ABS also sounds at the same time. Vehicle is a 3500 GMC Savana 2014.

    1. I have a 2016 chevy express van with same problem. Dealer cannot find issue. Dealer changed both front brake hoses, changed brake fluid, still have issue. At 5 miles per hour stopping brake pedal goes notably down, sounds like ABS is engaged and steering wheel pulls hard to left. Rotors calipers, pads all are in working order

  12. I just had my brakes changed on the front of my Tahoe and now all of a sudden when then when I had to swim on the bricks last night my truck pulled to the right really hard almost jumping into the next the next one what has happened I’m a single mother of 4 kids and cannot afford to be buying parts I don’t need to be buying did the brakeman do my brakes wrong?? My Tahoe has never done thos until literally right after having new breaks put on the front.

    1. Take it back to the shop and describe the problem in detail. They may have made a simple mistake. Brake jobs are very common, often done quickly, and sometimes people make honest mistakes.

    1. You’re probably going to have to look at the brakes to see what’s wrong. Just a guess, but it sounds like something is uneven between the left and right front shoes.

  13. I own a 1982 oldsmobile,,delta 88
    6 days ago it started pulling to the left when it came to a stop. The steering wheel shook a little

    1. I would start by checking the brakes on the front left side. How is the pad wear inside to outside? Left to right? If you notice any difference, that should help you narrow down the problem.

      While you’re in there, it’s not a bad idea to inspect all four corners of the braking system as well.

      The rotors may have excessive runout, causing the pulsing in the steering when you come to a stop. A brake and tire shop should be able to help you insect the braking system.

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