A used car that we had recently sold came into the shop with a complaint of a shaking steering wheel and pulling to the right while driving. The first step to diagnostics is always to confirm the complaint, so I took it for a test drive.
I felt the shake, so my first thought was something wrong with one of the tires. There was also a loud noise while driving, and my first thought for that was a wheel bearing, but it didn’t change when turning back and forth at speed. When I would apply the brakes, it the car would lurch a little bit and the pedal pulsated, which clearly pointed towards a problem with the brakes. When I got back to the shop and got the car up on a lift, I noticed that I couldn’t turn the right front wheel by hand, and it was really hot. I checked the temperatures of the front brakes, and the right front was over 300 degrees, while the left was only a little over 100.
I took apart the right front brakes to see what was wrong. The caliper piston boot had been damaged somehow, which led to the piston seizing. This meant that it wouldn’t release pressure on the pads, causing the brakes to heat up. The rotors warped from the heat, causing the shake, and the drag of the brakes on only that wheel cause the car to pull to the right.
At the very least, the car would need a new caliper, but because of the shaking and how hot things had gotten, I also replaced the pads and rotor. The pads weren’t as obviously heat damaged as some I’ve seen, but it looked like they were starting to crack.
A fully new set of brakes is always satisfying.
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