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.
See Also: Car Jerks When Braking? (Here’s Why)
Reasons Your Car Pulls to One Side When Braking
#1 – 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.
#2 – 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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