Car pulling to one side when braking: 6 possible causes

Updated Mar 17, 2021 | Same topic: Automotive FYIs

This is commonly caused by brake assembly problems.

While the engine is arguably the most important part of the car, brakes are needed to stop the car once it gets going. As with most parts of a car though, the brakes will sometimes go bad. Apart from manifesting as a total loss of braking power, this can happen when your car pulls to the right or left whenever you press the brake pedal.

A picture of a driver pancking

If you experience this while driving, don't panic, travel at slow speeds, and apply brakes slowly and smoothly

So what causes this? According to our experience, this is often connected to a fault in the front brakes. To be more specific and to guide you further in your diagnosis, we listed six reasons as to why this problem occurs.

How to Fix Brakes that Pull to One Side

Why my car pulls left or right when braking: Possible Causes

1. Brake fluid leaks

Besides broken brake hoses which we’ll get to later, brake fluid can also leak out from main brake system parts. This might occur on the caliper pistons, or in the case of drum brakes, the wheel cylinder. 

Oftentimes, this can be caused by corrosion. It is also possible that the seals in these parts have worn down too.

A picture of a car with a leak

Also, check underneath your car for wet spots [Photo: Reddit user scr011089]

>>> Related: Never ignore these 3 common symptoms of low brake fluid

2. Uneven brake wear

Ideally, brake pads, rotors, and brake shoes should wear down at the same rate. This is because brakes should apply equal force at the same time.

In some instances however, brake parts will wear unevenly thus causing your car to veer left or right during braking. This is caused by the brake pad having variations in its thickness. This is common on cheap, poorly made discs and/or brake pads. Usually, this can be fixed by flattening them out in a machine shop, but we advise replacing them outright. 

Apart from manufacturing issues, uneven wear can also be caused by dirt and dust stuck between the pad and the rotor. Some of these are hard enough to cause uneven wear, so it is advisable to use brake cleaners once in a while.

>>> Related Safety tips: How to drive when your car brakes are malfunctioned

3. Worn suspension parts

In lieu of brake system problems, another thing that can cause your car to go left or right when braking is problems with suspension parts. These, like most car parts, wear out over time and if they do, will mess with the weight balance of a car. 

A picture of a car's suspension system

Coil-type suspension can leak if the seals get broken. This can cause sag and an unbalanced ride

To be specific, worn suspension parts to watch out for in relation to unbalanced braking are the bushings, ball joints, springs, among others.

>>> Related: 6 common symptoms of a car's suspension system problems

4. Stuck calipers

If a car was left parked outside for a long period of time, a brake caliper can become stuck. This is caused by a number of factors including dirt, varying temperatures, and corrosion. 

Note that a caliper is a moving part. As such, several of its parts including its rubber protective boots, pistons, bolts, and slides need lubrication to work properly. Sometimes, these dry out and will no longer move as they should. 

The solution for this is to take these parts out and recondition them if they aren’t that corroded. Otherwise, it’s best to look for replacement parts.

5. Broken brake hoses

A broken brake hose can also cause uneven braking. It might be that only one side of the front brakes is not getting the right amount of brake fluid for its parts to actuate. In other cases, brake fluid does make it to the brake assembly, but the fluid doesn’t flow back out.

When this happens, the caliper gets stuck thus causing the car to pull to one side regardless of applying the brake or not. 

A picture of a leaky brake hose

A leaky brake hose [Photo: Camryforum]

For this, inspect each brake line leading to each wheel’s brake assembly. Watch out for wet spots when looking for the leaky spot.

>>> Related: 7 steps to deal with the car brake noise

6. Uneven tire pressure

Uneven tire pressure can also cause your car to pull right or left when braking. This is because the side with the lower pressure is lower than the rest of the car. This affects the alignment of the tires and the relative speed of the tire.

For more helpful tips on car maintenance and guides on safe driving practices, keep it here on Philktose.com.

Why my car pulls left or right when braking: FAQs

1. Can I use WD40 to clean out my brakes?

Answer: We do not recommend using WD40 for cleaning your car’s brake pads. Instead, use proper brake cleaning fluid. This is available locally in the Philippines for somewhere around Php 200 to Php 600 depending on the brand.

2. Why do brake hoses fail?

Answer: Brake hoses fail due to wear and tear, exposure to heat from the exhaust manifold, among others.

3. How do I know if my brake master cylinder is broken?

Answer: You’ll know that your brake master cylinder is broken when you have inconsistent brakes, low braking power, or no brakes at all.

4. Can tire pressure affect braking?

Answer: Yes, tire pressure can affect braking. Properly inflated tires have optimized contact with the road whereas improperly inflated ones will stretch out your car’s stopping distance.

5. How much is a bottle of brake fluid in the Philippines?

Answer: The price of brake fluid will depend on the brand and the size of the bottle. A 900 ml bottle of Prestone Brake fluid can cost somewhere around Php 300. A 500 ml bottle of Motul DOT 5.1 on the other hand is more expensive at around Php 1,200.

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar G.B. Miguel

Author

Cesar is a graduate of AB English with previous experience working as a freelance writer for varied internet publications in-between his former stints in the Pharmaceutical Industry, and later as a First Aid Provider and Training Staff at the Iligan City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

Since childhood, Cesar has been keenly interested in cars. He has learned the ins and outs of these marvelous vehicles and is a competent amateur mechanic who is keen on sharing his knowledge.

Cesar is perceptive of car culture in general – not only in the Philippines but in global regard, as well. His knowledge ranges from the prevalent stories and trends among car enthusiasts around the world, to closely following the latest local and international developments in the automotive industry.

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