Dr. Gizmo Solves Your Car Troubles: Pt. 5

January 14, 2010

Brakes Pull Hard To The Left

Question 1

I have a 1965 Ford Mustang with a 289 V-8 engine, 4-speed manual transmission and original equipment drum brakes.  Just prior to putting my baby away for the winter, the brakes were pulling to the left every time I stepped on the pedal.  The car has only about 5,000 miles on it since a frame up restoration ten years ago.  I replace both wheel cylinders on the front and gave the shoes a good cleaning, and adjustment.  After the work they still pulled, but not quite as bad.

I took the car to a front-end shop for an alignment check.  Everything was within specs.  I dont plan to take the car out of storage until the weather is decent, but when warm weather returns, I would like to start going to cruise nights and car shows without having a death grip on the steering wheel every time I step on the brakes.  What else could cause this problem?  G.R., Crystal Lake, IL.

Answer 1

A loose nut behind the steering wheel might cause the brakes to pull to the left.  All kidding aside the front-end has been given a clean bill of health so you do not have to worry about excessively worn rubber bushings, ball joints, drag-links, idler arm and tie-rod ends.  At least I hope that all these items were checked when the alignment was checked.  In addition, I hope that the tire pressure was checked, too.

If indeed everything is sound in the front-end, consider that air might be trapped in the brake system.  Bleeding the system should cure the trouble.  If not, it is possible a brake drum is cracked.  Check both front brake drums for cracks.  If one is cracked, replace both drums. 

If the drums are ok, your car likely is equipped with a proportioning valve.  This valve distributes varying hydraulic pressure to the front and rear brakes.  If it has a fault symptoms such as you describe may surface.  Replacement of the valve might be the cure. 

If the proportioning valve is not to blame, consider that the master cylinder might be faulty.  Even though you have not driven many miles since the restoration, brake fluid can wear due to moisture in the system.  All hydraulic parts can be ruined by moisture due to the hydroscopic nature of the fluid so your search for the cause of the trouble should focus on the hydraulic system.

Unintentional ABS Engagement

Question 2

My 2000 Chevrolet Blazer with 4-wheel-drive and 92,000 miles has developed an anti-lock brake problem.  While braking to a stop, just a few seconds before it stops the ABS engages, the front wheels slip and the ABS unit sings it's now well-known song.  I took the truck to my local Chevrolet dealer and requested they test it and tell me what it needed.  A service writer and mechanic came to talk to me.  The technician said he did indeed see the ABS "drop out", just before final stop, on both front wheels at the same time.  He said he could not tell which front wheel was causing the problem.  At about 60,000 miles, I replaced the left front wheel bearing assembly with a quality brand from my parts dealer because the bearing was making noise.

The technician said I had two choices.  He could pull the sensors out of the wheel bearing assemblies and clean the sensor surfaces, and the rotating part in the assembly that activated the sensor.  This would cost about $750 dollars with no guarantee that it would work.

The second alternative would be to replace both wheel bearing assemblies at a cost of approximately $1700.  The list price of GM genuine parts is three times the cost of a well-known brand from an auto parts store, but as would be expected the GM dealer would not guarantee anything about the job if I did not use genuine replacement parts.

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