1982 GMC Van, jerks to the right when braking. Why?

I had a 1982 GMC vandura. It would jerk to the right violently when braking. I took it to a mechanic, they replaced discs, rotor, everything except the spindle. It still would jerk to the right. Any reason that we know?
I don’t have it now, but I sold it to a friend, and we’re curious.



Sounds like the brakes on the left are not working. My guess would be the caliper.

Sounds to me like one of the left side brakes wasn’t working for some reason. I know you had work done, but maybe it wasn’t done right? Or (less likely) maybe a broken/loose suspension component on the right side that could allow the right front wheel to jump out of alignment when stressed?

Quite possibly a restricted brake hose on the left front. Also possible there’s a problem with the rear brakes.

When the work was done, did you have calipers replaced too? I’ve had older cars that did that, and a stuck caliper on one side was the culprit. Excessive wear on the brake pads on one side when compared to the other side is a dead giveaway of this, in my experience anyway.

First determine if both sides of the front brakes are working at all. Obviously it sounds like the right side is but maybe not the left side. If the front has disc brakes you may be able to tell by looking at the rotors. If the rotor on the right is shiny but the left is not, then that is an indication that the left side brakes are not engaging.

As already mentioned, several times the calipers aren’t always changed. The pads and rotors are changed but not the calipers. Caliper pistons get stuck and when old calipers are re-used the pistons have to be compressed back into the caliper farther than normal. The caliper pistons may have had a smooth area to travel back and forth in and then they get compressed back into areas that are rusty or pitted and either don’t move or leak.

If you have drum brakes and you can safely raise the front of the car, you can have someone apply the brakes while another person tries to rotate the front wheels. This can tell you if the brakes are working without having to pull the hubs to see the drums.

If both sides seem to be functioning as they should, then you should look for a suspension componant, like a sloppy tie rod end or ball joint.

It is a process of elimination.

Be glad they’re only on the right. They’re all over the place where I live.

  • snort *

Shame on you, HANDSOMEHARRY! Don’t you know that it’s always spelled “breaking” here on the Straight Dope?

Check the tie rod ends. That’s what it was on my truck. But then, it was pulling to the left, so that’s altogether different.

Oddball thought – The tires are inflated to the same pressure on each side, right? Someone checked?

My dad was sold a set of new tires once and had problems with the car pulling (although not necessarily related to braking, it could be easier to be aware of it when braking). He took it back and the service center took the tires off, rebalanced them, checked alignment, checked brakes, and then held a conference of several mechanics trying to guess what the issue was.

They finally announced that it was a German car (VW Rabbit) and could only be properly aligned in Germany and there was nothing they could do.

My Dad was furious, but he took out his pocket tire pressure gauge right there in front of the mechanics and measured each front tire.

There was 29 pounds difference in tire pressure between left and right, on the brand-new tires they’d just installed.

So now one of the first things I always check whenever there’s a “pulling” problem is the tire pressure.

If you have verified that it’s good, please disregard. :slight_smile:

Pulling when braking:
[li]check tire pressures[/li][li]check to make sure the brake on the side of the pull is not grabbing[/li][li]check to see if the brake on the other side is applying fully ( could be a bad flex hose with a collapsed inner liner)[/li][li]Check the wheel bearings on both front wheels[/li][li]If front wheel drive, check the CV joints on the axles (long shot, but hey)[/li][li]has any front end work been done to the car recently? I had a car once that had a terrible and strange pull under braking. Turned out the front suspension had been replaced on one side. the aftermarket bushing on one side was way softer than the OE bushing on the other side, causing a toe out pull under braking.[/li][li]Are there the same brand of tires on both sides of the car?[/li][li]Is the alignment correct on all four wheels?[/li][/ol]