Learn More About Correcting Steering Pulls

Ever take a long trip in a vehicle with a steering pull problem? Having to maintain constant pressure on the steering wheel can very tiring, not to mention hard on the tires. A vehicle with a pull problem is a vehicle that is fighting the forces of nature. Something is amiss and is causing the vehicle to follow a path other than a straight one.

There are actually several different types of steering pull: a steady pull, a pull that only occurs after turning (memory steer), or a pull that only occurs under certain driving conditions such as bump steer or torque steer.

 An off-center steering wheel may or may not accompany a pull (which we’ll cover shortly). Other times the pull may be more of a “drift” or steering wander to one side or the other. So let’s look at some of the common pull-related conditions along with their causes and what you have to do to eliminate them.


This is a condition where the vehicle continually pulls or drifts to one side while traveling straight. The driver typically has to maintain steady pressure on the steering wheel to keep the vehicle on the road. Possible causes include:

Uneven camber side-to-side. Too much cross-camber can make a vehicle pull or lead towards the side that has the most (positive) camber or away from the side that has the least (negative) camber. The underlying cause may be a bent strut or mislocated strut tower, a bent spindle, collapsed control arm bushing, weak or broken spring, or a shifted crossmember or engine cradle. Check SAI and the included angle to see if these are in or out of specs to diagnose the problem. Also check ride height. Correct by replacing worn or damaged parts, correcting location of strut tower, repositioning engine cradle, and/or reducing cross-camber to half a degree or less by readjusting camber to specifications.

Uneven caster side-to-side. Too much cross-caster can make a vehicle pull or lead towards the side that has the least (negative) caster. The underlying cause may be a bent strut, spindle or mislocated strut tower. Correct by replacing damaged part, correcting location of strut tower, and/or reducing cross-caster to half a degree or less by resetting caster to specifications.

Rear axle steer. The front wheels are with alignment specifications but the vehicle pulls to one side. The underlying cause may be rear toe out of specifications, a bent rear axle, chassis misalignment or a stackup of assembly tolerances in the chassis causing rear axle misalignment. Measure and compare the wheelbase on both sides, check for the presence of a thrust angle, and/or measure individual rear toe. Correct by realigning the rear axle or rear toe, or by performing a thrust angle alignment.

Brake drag. The pull is constant to one side and may get worse with the application of the brakes. Raise the vehicle and spin each wheel by hand to check for excessive drag. Possible causes include caliper sticking, frozen or sticking piston in caliper, overfilled fluid reservoir in master cylinder (does not allow caliper pistons to retract when brakes are released), weak drum brake return springs, misadjusted drum brakes, misadjusted parking brake, misadjusted parking brake pedal switch (creates residual pressure in the master cylinder to cause drag). Readjust or repair brakes as required.

NOTE: If the pull only occurs when the brakes are applied, the problem may be unequal braking not a dragging caliper or misalignment. The vehicle will pull towards the side with the stronger front brake and away from the side with the weaker or inoperative front brake. Uneven braking can be caused by a sticking floating caliper, a frozen caliper piston, the use of different grades or brands of brake linings side-to-side, fluid leaks, or contaminated linings on one side (by brake fluid or grease). Correct by repairing brakes as required. Other causes may include worn or loose control arm bushings or strut rod bushings that allow alignment changes when braking, so be sure to inspect these components before blaming the brakes.

Low tire pressure. The vehicle will lead towards the side with low pressure in the front tire. Correct by inflating tires to recommended pressure.

Mismatched tires side-to-side. The vehicle will pull or lead towards the side that offers the greatest rolling resistance. Compare tire sizes, tread wear, tread styles and patterns, also brands.

Uneven tire wear. If one side of the tread is worn more than the other, the tire develops conicity. The effect is much the same as camber, causing the tire to roll towards the side which is worn most. The uneven wear may be the result of incorrect camber, toe and/or failure to rotate the tires periodically to even out wear. If rotating the tires side-to-side reverses the direction of the pull, the tires need to be replaced.

Ply steer. A manufacturing defect in the way the belts are positioned inside the tire causes the tire to generate a lateral (sideways) force as the tire rolls. To test for this condition, drive the vehicle forward, then in reverse. If the direction of the drift or pull changes, one or more tires at at fault. Rotating the tires front-to-rear or crosswise may help cancel out the ply steer, otherwise tire replacement is necessary to correct the condition.

Unbalanced power assist. Seal leaks in the control valve or off-center steering may route hydraulic pressure into one side or the other of the boost cylinder piston causing the steering to want to turn itself to one side. This can be checked by raising the wheels with the engine running to see if the wheels turn to one side by themselves. No change would indicate another cause, but if the pull suddenly vanishes an imbalance in the power steering system is to blame. The control valve assembly or steering gear needs to be replaced.

Excessive road crown. Roads are raised or crowned in the middle so rain water will run off to the outside for proper drainage. But the slight slope to the pavement can often make a vehicle drift to the outside. This can be countered by adding a little positive camber and/or negative caster to the left front wheel , but this should only be done if the vehicle spends most of its time on crowned roads and you have a noticeable pull.


The steering wheel and wheels want to return to some position other than center. This may cause a steering pull or drift to one side after turning. Possible causes include:

Misalignment or improper installation of Ford rubber bonded socket (RBS) tie rod ends. RBS tie rod ends do not swivel freely like conventional tie rod ends. When installed, the steering linkage must be centered and straight ahead before the tie rod studs are tightened. Inspect and readjust as needed.

Binding in upper strut mounts. Raise wheels and turn the steering from side to side. If effort is high, disconnect tie rod ends from steering arms and turn each wheel by hand to check for resistance. If upper strut mount is binding or loose, the strut will have to removed or rebuilt to replace the upper bearing plate assembly.

Binding in steering gear or linkage. Inspect tie rod ends and sockets. Check idler arm bushing. Check rack yoke adjustment or steering play in steering box. Replace or adjust as needed.

Binding in ball joints. Unload the ball joints by raising the suspension. Let the suspension hang free with MacPherson struts. Support the lower control arm on an SLA, modified strut or wishbone suspension if the spring is on the lower arm, or the upper arm if the spring is over the upper arm). Turn the wheels from side to side to check steering effort. If high, disconnect the tie rod ends and try again. If a ball joint is binding, replacement is required.

Unbalanced power assist. Seal leaks in the control valve or off-center steering may route hydraulic pressure into one side or the other of the boost cylinder piston causing the steering to want to turn itself to one side. This can be checked by raising the wheels with the engine running. If the steering goes to one side all by itself, the control valve assembly or steering gear needs to be replaced.


This condition may accompany a steady pull or memory steer. But if the steering wheel is off-center (crooked) but there is no pull to either side, possible causes include:

Steering linkage not centered when toe was adjusted. Correct by recentering steering wheel and equalizing lengths of both tie rods, then readjusting toe to specifications.

Bent steering arm or linkage. Check turning angle both ways. If arm is bent, knuckle (or strut if arm is attached to strut) will have to be replaced.


The vehicle lacks directional stability and wanders or drifts from side to side. Possible causes include:

Loose or worn steering components. Inspect the tie rod ends, inner tie rod sockets on rack & pinion steering units, and the idler arm and center link on parallelogram steering. Check the steering column couplings. Also check for loose or broken rack mounts. Check the amount of play in the steering rack or steering gear. Lateral play at the edge of the steering wheel should usually be less than 1/4 inch (always refer to manufacturer specifications). Replace worn parts and/or adjust rack yoke or adjustment screw on steering box to reduce play.

Loose or improperly adjusted wheel bearings. Check and adjust wheel bearings to specifications.

Insufficient caster. This may be due to increased ride height at the rear of the vehicle (raising the rear end with air shocks or air springs) or lowered ride height at the front of the vehicle (weak springs or shorter than stock springs). Increase caster and/or reset to specifications.

Extremely low tire pressure. Inflate to recommended pressure.

Extreme toe misalignment. Check the steering linkage and adjust or repair as needed.


The steering suddenly jerks or veers to one side or the other when the vehicle passes over a bump. The condition is caused by unequal toe changes that occur as the suspension travels through jounce and rebound. The condition can be confirmed by checking individual front toe with the suspension loaded (compressed), then checking toe again with the suspension raised slightly. If the amount of toe change is not equal on both front wheels, it can cause a momentary pull to one side. The direction of the pull will depend on which end is high or low, and whether the steering linkage is ahead or behind the knuckle.

Possible causes include:

Parallelogram steering linkage not level. Check the idler arm height, and adjust as required.

Steering rack not level. Check rack height and rack mounts. Repair, adjust or replace as needed.

Bent steering arms. Check to see that both are the same height. Replace knuckle (or strut if arms are mounted on strut) if bent to correct.

Structural damage such as frame twist, mislocated or twisted crossmember or engine cradle.

Not centering the steering linkage before adjusting toe. This can result in unequal toe changes when the suspension moves up and down.


The steering veers or pulls to one side during hard acceleration. This is a common condition in front-wheel drive cars with unequal length driveshafts, and is caused by unequal toe changes as the suspension is loaded. Compliance allows the wheel with the longer driveshaft to experience less toe-in change than the wheel with the shorter driveshaft. This causes the vehicle to veer towards the side with the longer driveshaft. FWD cars with equal length driveshafts usually do not experience this condition.

Torque steer cannot be eliminated, but certain conditions may make it worse:

Loose or collapsed control arm bushings.

Loose or worn tie rod ends.

Loose or worn inner tie rod sockets.

Loose or broken engine/transaxle mounts.

Vehicle manufacturers have offered various repairs to reduce the severity of torque steer in some FWD cars. The corrective measures include using stiffer control arm bushings, shimming motor mounts, realigning the engine cradle, replacing the motor mounts with stiffer mounts, or increasing cross-camber.

Know More About Wheel Alignment Problems

How do you align an “unalignable” vehicle? It depends on what makes it unalignable. The vehicle above is unalignable because it has lost a wheel due to a major suspension failure. Fortunately, most vehicles allow front toe adjustments, but many have no adjustments for front camber, caster, rear camber or toe. If the wheels are out of the factory specified range and need to be corrected, it may seem like mission impossible, especially if you are not aware of any aftermarket alignment aids such as shims, eccentrics, offset bushings, strut plates or other modifications for the particular vehicle you are trying to align.

The secret to aligning these kinds of “unalignable” vehicles, therefore, is taking your vehicle to a shop that has an up-to-date alignment machine.


Chrysler Cirrus, Dodge Stratus and Plymouth Breeze have no factory front camber adjustments. Chrysler says no adjustment is needed because these cars are built to such exacting tolerances. Yeah, right. We have heard that one before. Either somebody goofed or Chryslers bean counters axed the camber adjustment to save a few bucks on every car they build. In any event, we all know that some of these cars will likely require a camber adjustment at some point in their lives. So one aftermarket supplier has come up with set of eccentric cams and bushings to replace the stock bushings in the upper control arms. The eccentrics provide up to 0.75 degrees of camber correction.

Other new Chrysler vehicles that also lack factory provisions for front camber adjustment include the 1995 and up Dodge Avenger, Chrysler Sebring and Eagle Talon (also Mitsubishi Eclipse and Galant). The fix here is another set of aftermarket eccentric cams and bushings for the upper control arm.

Going back a couple of years, the rear suspensions under 1993 and newer Chrysler “LH” cars (Chrysler Concorde, New Yorker, LHS, Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision), have two lateral links on each side and MacPherson struts. The rear link on both sides is adjustable to change toe (the preferred setting is 0.1 degrees toe in, with an acceptable range of 0.2 degrees out to 0.4 degrees in). But there is no way to adjust camber. Chrysler allows anywhere from negative 0.6 to positive 0.4 degrees of rear camber, with a preferred setting of negative 0.1 degrees. But if there is more than half a degree of camber difference between the rear wheels, the wheels should be realigned. The way to do it is to replace the original equipment bushings in the rear links on each side with aftermarket eccentric cams and bushings.

1994 and newer Dodge 1500 4WD trucks as well as 1984 to 1996 Jeeps have no factory camber adjustment and no means of changing individual caster on the front wheels. But there is a way to change both if your customer is willing to pay for new ball joints. Replacing the upper ball joints with adjustable aftermarket ball joints can provide up to 2.0 degrees of camber/caster correction in 0.5 degree increments.


Ford provides front camber adjustment on the 1995 Windstar, but the amount of adjustment is limited. An aftermarket upper strut mount can be installed to provide up to 1.25 degrees of positive camber change.

On 1995 Ford Explorer (2WD & 4WD), the front suspension has limited caster adjustment but no camber adjustment. The solution? A set of aftermarket cam bolts that replace the original equipment upper control arm bolts.

Some people think all late model Ford trucks are “unalignable.” But since 1987, all Ford trucks except the fullsize 4x4s have a pinch bolt suspension that allows the ball joint bushings to be easily replaced for camber/caster corrections. Do not assume the original equipment bushing has a zero degree offset, though. It usually does not. Many have 1 to 1-1/2 degrees, usually positioned to correct camber. If you have checked camber/caster alignment, replaced the OE bushing with an offset aftermarket bushing to make your corrections, and then find your camber/caster readings are not what they should be, it means the OE bushing did not have zero offset. The solution here is to install an aftermarket zero offset bushing to make a

reference check. Then replace this bushing with one that is offset the desired amount to make your camber/caster correction.

On 1986 and up Ford Taurus, front camber and caster can be adjusted by drilling out the spot welds on the upper strut bearing plate to adjust camber and caster. But sometimes the strut cannot be moved enough to correct the problem, which may mean the engine cradle is shifted to one side possibly as a result of collision damage or misassembly if the transaxle has been replaced. If you see too much camber on one side and not enough on the other, it usually means the cradle is shifted toward the side with the least amount of camber. When this happens, it also changes the SAI angle because the cradle moves the lower pivots of the control arms. If the SAI goes down on one side, camber goes up an equal and opposite amount. So the first thing you should do is measure SAI and the included angle on both sides. Then use a jack to raise the subframe, loosen the cradle bolts and shift it toward the side with the most camber until SAI is equal on both sides. This will usually correct the camber problem. If not, there are aftermarket upper strut mounts that can provide up to 1.25 degrees of positive camber adjustment.

Rear camber adjustments of up to 2-1/2 degrees can be made on Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable station wagons by removing the factory pivot bolts on the rear control arms and installing cam bolts with eccentrics. There are also combination camber/toe offset bushings that allows 2 degrees of camber and/or 1 degree of toe change for both rear wheels. If you need more toe correction, an eccentric bushing that allows up to 2.25 degrees of toe change can be installed where the OE toe adjuster bolt attaches the rear spindle to the lower control arm.

Going back further, 1991 and up Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer models have just one rear toe adjuster on the right side. Installing an aftermarket offset bushing on the left side allows you to set individual toe on both sides, not just total toe. Also, the nonadjustable OE toe bushing on the outer left rear parallel arm can be replaced with an aftermarket adjustable offset bushing to provide up to 2 degrees of toe correction. Camber corrections on these models can be made by installing camber wedges between the strut and spindle.


On GMs “W” body cars (Buick Regal, Chevy Lumina, Olds Cutlass Supreme and Pontiac Grand Prix), the 1988-89 models had a factory cam for rear toe adjustment. In 1990, GM did away with the cam but left the slotted hole. Rear toe is still adjustable, but it is much easier if you install an aftermarket cam kit.

Front camber adjustments can also be made on these cars by repositioning the upper strut mount after elongating the three bolt holes. One aftermarket supplier makes a template that can be used as a guide to cut the holes into slots.


On Honda Accord, Civic, CRX, Del Sol, Prelude and Odyssey models, as well as Acura Integra, Legend and Vigor, there are no provisions for camber adjustment on the front suspension. But camber corrections can be made by replacing the stock upper control arm bushings with aftermarket eccentric cams and/or offset anchor bolts. This can provide from one half degrees negative to 1-1/2 degrees positive camber correction.

Rear camber on 1986-89 Honda Accords, which has no factory adjustment, can be corrected by replacing the OE mounting bracket and bushings that attach the rear upper control arm to the inner fender with aftermarket offset bushings.

You also won ‘t find any factory adjustments for rear camber on 1984-89 Nissan 300ZX and 1984-88 Nissan 200SX models. Drilling out the support brackets for the rear trailing arms and installing an aftermarket offset camber plates can give 1 or 1-1/2 degrees of positive camber correction.

Trying to align a rear-wheel drive Nissan or Datsun vehicle that has no caster adjustment? It should not be a problem if you install an aftermarket caster adjuster kit over the strut rod. Such a kit can give you up to 1-1/2 degrees of positive or negative caster adjustment.

Many Toyota 4WD trucks with 40, 60 or 70 series monobeam axles have no factory camber/caster adjustments. The same goes for Suzuki Samurai 4WD trucks. The fix here is to replace the original equipment bearings with eccentric bearings that provide up to 2.2 degrees of camber/caster adjustment.


Another vehicle you might classify as “unalignable” is any that has adjustments but the adjustments are difficult to make for various reasons. Toe sleeves may be inaccessible, rusted solid or require special tools to adjust. Such vehicle can be a real pain in the slip plates to adjust. Even so, there are usually aftermarket products or tools that can help.

Adjusting toe on a front-wheel drive Chrysler “LH” car, for example, can be tricky because (1) the sleeves and jamnuts are hard to reach, and (2) the outer tie rod ends tend to twist against the steering arm when the outer jamnut is tightened up against the adjusting sleeve. This can upset your carefully made toe adjustment as well as bind the outer tie rod end. One aftermarket company has introduced a new tool set that allows you to reach and break loose or tighten the jamnuts while holding the outer tie rod in a centered position. The kit includes a cup that fits over the outer tie rod to hold it steady, a special tie rod socket to loosen (and tighten) the jamnuts, and a special wrench to turn the adjusting sleeve.

On General Motors “J” and “N” body cars that have a center takeoff rack & pinion steering gear mounted on the firewall, rust can make toe adjustments anything but fun. Rust builds up in the tie rod linkage, preventing the sleeve from turning far enough to make the adjustment. One cure is to take it apart, clean out the rust, then reassemble and make toe adjustment. Or, you can replace the sleeve with a new one.

If you have ever tried to make a camber/caster adjustment on a 1994 or newer Camaro or Firebird, it helps to have a tool that can push or pull the strut while the weight of the car is on the suspension. Position the tool with the ends in either the caster or camber slots (do caster first, then camber if both need to be corrected). The tool must be in place before loosening the lower control arm nuts so the suspension does not shift. After loosening the control arm nuts, turn the tool to pull or push the strut in the desired direction, then tighten the nuts once the desired correction has been made.


A third category of “unalignable” vehicles includes “problem” vehicles that keep wearing out tires or do not steer straight no matter what has been done to the alignment. Sometimes the problem is undiagnosed collision damage such as a bent strut, steering arm, control arm, mislocated strut tower, subframe or engine cradle that is affecting alignment. Rear axle steer is another often overlooked problem that can cause front toe wear as well as a steering pull.

A problem vehicle may turn out to have misaligned structural members that position the front or rear suspension. Assembly line build tolerances have tightened considerably in recent years, but no vehicle manufacturer is perfect. Mistakes happen, and the so-called plus or minus 1 mm build tolerance is more myth than reality in many instances.

Some vehicles (especially trucks) just seem to wear tires because of built-in Ackerman problems (or the lack thereof) that prevent the front wheels from toeing out properly when turning. Others may rub the shoulders off the front tires because of high built-in caster angles in the front suspension. There is not you can do about these kinds of problems short of reengineering the suspension.

Tips To Replace Brake Pads

Replacing a set of brake pads is a common brake repair procedure. But if not done correctly, it can cause problems. Brake systems are very sensitive to rust and corrosion and should receive a thorough cleaning when new pads are installed. Residual rust or corrosion left in critical areas can cause brake issues almost immediately.

Brake Safety Precautions on Late Model Cars

A growing number of late model cars are equipped with antilock brake systems that can precharge the brakes in anticipation of braking (to reduce braking reaction time), or actually apply the brakes automatically as a function of the collision prevention system (automatic braking).

Milyarder ini membocorkan rahasia cara menghasilkan 38 juta/hari
Laporan khusus kisah sukses seorang buruh yang menjadi milyarder. CAUTION: If you are replacing the brake pads on these vehicles, the braking system must be deactivated before you work on the brakes, otherwise the system may energize the brakes unexpectedly causing the caliper pistons to push outward with considerable force. This could pinch your fingers if they are between the pads and rotors. If the pads have been removed, the pistons can blow out of their calipers. This can happen even when the ignition and engine are off!

The antilock brake system can be deactivated by locating and removing the main power fuse for the ABS system, or by using a scan tool to temporarily deactivate the system. Disconnecting the battery also works, but this may cause loss of certain memory settings in various vehicle modules. See Battery Disconnect Cautions & Problems for more information on this subject.

Replacing the Brake Pads

The basic procedure for replacing the front brake pads goes as follows:

1.Park your vehicle on a level surface, set the parking brake and place the transmission in Park (in gear if manual shift). Then loosen the lug nuts while the weight of the vehicle is still on the wheels. Do NOT remove the lugs nuts yet!

2.Raise the vehicle with a floor jack until the front wheels are off the ground. Support the vehicle with TWO safety stands. Do NOT rely on the jack alone to support the vehicle.

3. Remove the lug nuts and remove the wheel from the hub.

4. Determine how the brake calipers are mounted, and remove the pins or bolts that hold the calipers in place. On some applications, you can remove one pin or bolt and rotate the caliper up away from the rotor to replace the pads. On others, both bolts must be removed so the caliper can be lifted up and away from the rotor to change the pads.

CAUTION: Do NOT allow the calipers to hand by their hoses as this may damage the hoses. Rest the calipers on a suspension component (if possible) or support them with a piece of heavy wire.

5. Remove the inner and outer pads from the caliper. They may be held in place with wires or clips. Be careful not to damage these clips. Save them for reuse when the new pads are installed.

6. Once the pads have been removed from the calipers, inspect the calipers carefully to make sure they are not leaking any fluid, and that the piston dust seals are not cracked or damaged. If a caliper is leaking, it will have to be replaced or rebuilt with new piston seals. Cracked dust seals should also be replaced to help protect the pistons.

7. Use a large C-clamp to carefully push the caliper pistons back into the calipers. This is necessary so there will be enough clearance for the new (thicker) brake pads. It may be necessary to remove some fluid from the master brake reservoir so it does not overflow when the pistons are pushed back into the calipers as this will displace brake fluid back to the master cylinder.

8.Install the new inner and outer brake pads into the calipers. Replace any shims, springs or clips that were used with the original pads to hold them in place (unless new hardware or shims came with the new pads, in which case discard the old shims or hardware and replace with new). Apply a light coating of moly based brake lubricant (never ordinary grease) to the BACKS of the pads and to the points where they contact or rest against the calipers. Do NOT get any grease on the front (friction side) of the pads as this will ruin the pads and cause uneven braking.

9.Lubricate the caliper mounts and pins, and reinstall the pins or bolts, slide the caliper back into place over the rotor and tighten the mounting bolts to specifications with a torque wrench. If the original pins, bushings or bolts are badly corroded or damaged, replace them with new. Do NOT reuse badly corroded or damaged mounting hardware.

9. Remount the wheels on the hubs, tighten the lug nuts, then lower the vehicle until the tires are on the ground and final tighten the lug nuts to specifications with a torque wrench using an alternating star pattern (necessary for even loading and to prevent rotor distortion).

10. Start the engine and pump the brake pedal several times until the pedal feels firm. Do NOT drive the vehicle without first pumping the brakes to make sure your vehicle will stop when you apply the brakes! Then do a short test drive and do a series of gradual stops from about 30 mph with gradual braking. Do NOT slam on the brakes and avoid hard braking for the first couple hundred miles of driving.

Brake Pad Installation Tips

The following brake pad installation tips are provided courtesy of Bendix:

Calipers. Areas that are subject to movement or retain components or hardware should be cleaned, along with the pin bores. Therefore, calipers need to be disassembled during pad replacement. Use a round wire brush and cleaner to remove old lubricant and corrosion. Use a fine polishing disc in a die grinder at a lower speed to clean the area. Avoid being too aggressive, especially with aluminum components, to ensure you only remove corrosion and not any metal. Be sure any areas on anti-rattle clips or hardware are free of debris as this can affect their performance over the life of the brake job.

Calipers on Ford 3/4 and 1-ton trucks have seen slides freeze shortly after brake service if they are not properly cleaned.

Pad Abutments. Whether they are part of the caliper bracket or steering knuckle, pad abutments need to be clean and smooth. If there are any notches or grooves caused by pad movement, these parts should be replaced. Damage like this can cause excessive pad movement that leads to noise and vibration.

Hub assemblies. Use a polishing pad to clean rust from the hub face. Then use an over-the-stud hub cleaner to get in next to the studs. Leaving corrosion in these areas is one of the top causes for pulsations after a brake job is completed.

Mounting Pads. One area that is often overlooked is the mounting pad on the hub that mates with the wheel. If there is rust or debris on this surface, it can lead to rotor distortion and pulsations just as easily as if it were left on the hub.

Rotors. New or machined rotors should be washed with soap, warm water and a stiff brush to remove metal particles from the surface. If this final step is not taken, brake noise may likely result. It can also prevent proper filming of the rotor which will keep the new parts from getting their expected mileage.

Bendix also recommends you clean the rear calipers and drum and parking brake systems. All these components should receive a good cleaning, inspection, lubrication and adjustment before the vehicle hits the road.

Tips To Fix Common Brake Problems

Brake problems usually indicate the need for certain repairs or replacement parts, so here is a quick review of some common fixes:

LOW BRAKE FLUID This may be the result of worn disc brake pads, or it may indicate a leak in the brake system. If the BRAKE WARNING LIGHT is also on, most likely the problem is a leak (though the Brake Warning light may also come on if the master cylinder reservoir has a fluid level sensor). Leaks are dangerous because they can cause brake failure. The brake calipers, wheel cylinders, brake hoses and lines, and master cylinder all need to be inspected. If a leak is found, the defective component must be replaced. Your vehicle should NOT be driven until the leak can be repaired.

LOW BRAKE PEDAL The brake pedal may be low if the shoe adjusters on rear drum brakes are rusted or sticking and not compensating for normal lining wear. Adjusting the rear drum brakes may restore a full pedal. But unless the adjusters are cleaned or replaced the problem will return as the linings continue to wear. Other causes include worn brake linings or a fluid leak.

SPONGY OR SOFT BRAKE PEDAL This is usually caused by air in the brake system, either as a result of improper bleeding, fluid loss or a very low fluid level. The cure is to bleed all of the brake lines using the sequence recommended for your vehicle. Another possible cause is a rubber brake hose that is “ballooning” when the brakes are applied.

EXCESSIVE BRAKE PEDAL TRAVEL Possible causes include worn brake linings front or rear (or both), misadjusted drum brakes, or air in the brake lines. This can be dangerous because the brake pedal may run out of travel before the brakes are fully applied. Pumping the pedal when you apply the brakes usually helps, but you need to diagnose and fix the problem.

PEDAL SINKS TO FLOOR This may occur while holding your foot on the brake pedal at a stop light. If the pedal goes slowly down, it means the master cylinder is not holding pressure. This is also a potentially dangerous condition because a worn master cylinder or a leak in the hydraulic system may cause the brakes to fail.

BRAKE PEDAL PULSATION Indicates a warped brake rotor (one that is worn unevenly). The rotor needs to be resurfaced or replaced. The faces of a rotor must be parallel (within .0005 inch on most cars) and flat (no more than .003 inches of runout as a general rule on most cars and trucks, but some cars cannot tolerate any more than .0015 inches of runout). Excessive runout can be corrected by resurfacing the rotors in place with an on-car brake lathe, or by installed special tapered shims between the rotors and hub to correct the runout.

SCRAPING NOISE FROM BRAKES Usually indicates metal-to-metal contact due to worn out disc brake pads (or shoes on rear drum brakes). Your vehicle needs a brake job now! In fact, it is overdue for a brake job. Your vehicle is also dangerous to drive in this condition because it may take longer to stop. The rotors and/or drums will likely have to be resurface or replaced because you waited too long to replace the pads and shoes.

BRAKE SQUEAL Can be caused by vibrations between the disc brake pads and caliper, or the pads and rotor. Harder semi-metallic brake pads tend to be noisier than nonasbestos (NOA) or ceramic brake pads. The noise can usually be eliminated by replacing the old pads with new ones (ceramic pads are usually the quietest, but may not be available for some applications because the vehicle requires semi-metallic pads), and resurfacing or replacing the rotors. Installing noise dampening shims behind the pads, spraying the rotors with some type of aerosol brake noise control compound and/or applying a small amount of high temperature brake grease (never ordinary grease) to the backs of the pads can also help suppress noise. Also, if any pad mounting hardware such as shims or anti-rattle clips are missing, these should be replaced.

BRAKE CHATTER Can be caused by warped rotors or rotors that have been improperly finished.

GRABBY BRAKES Oil, grease or brake fluid on the brake pads will cause them to slip and grab. This may create a jerky sensation when braking. The cure is to inspect the pads for contamination, replace them if they have oil, grease or brake fluid on them, and eliminate the cause of the contamination (such as replacing a leaky brake caliper or curing a nearby oil/grease leak). Badly scored drums or rotors can also cause uneven or grabby braking. Resurfacing may be needed.

DRAGGING BRAKES This can cause a steering pull and/or increased fuel consumption. The constant drag will also accelerate brake wear and cause the brakes to run hot (which can increase pedal effort and the risk of brake fade if the brakes get too hot). Dragging brakes can be caused by weak or broken retracting springs on drum brakes, a jammed or corroded disc brake caliper piston, a floating caliper with badly corroded mounting pins or bushings (uneven pad wear between the inner and outer pads is a clue here), overextended drum brake self-adjusters or a sticky or frozen emergency brake cable.

BRAKES PULL TO ONE SIDE If your vehicle suddenly swerved to one side when you apply the brakes, there is uneven braking side-to-side. This usually means one front brake is not working properly. The pull will be toward the side with the good brake (because it is doing all the work). Brake pull can be caused by brake fluid, oil or grease on the brake pads, a stuck caliper, a blockage in the brake line to one of the front calipers, or sometimes loose wheel bearings. A brake pull can also be caused by different types/brands of brake pads side-to-side on the front brakes. Different friction materials have different friction characteristics, so the brakes will pull toward the side that generates the most friction.

HARD BRAKE PEDAL Lack of power assist may be due to low engine vacuum, a leaky vacuum hose to the brake booster, or a defective brake booster. The booster is located between the master brake cylinder and firewall in the engine compartment. Sometimes a faulty check valve will allow vacuum to bleed out of the booster causing a hard pedal when the brakes are applied. This condition can be diagnosed by starting the engine (to build vacuum), shutting it off, waiting four or five minutes, then trying the brakes to see if there is power assist. No assist means a new check valve is needed.

A quick way to check the vacuum booster is to pump the brake pedal several times with the engine off to bleed off any vacuum that may still be in the unit. Then hold your foot on the pedal and start the engine. If the booster is working, the amount of effort required to hold the pedal should drop and the pedal itself may depress slightly. If nothing happens and the vacuum connections to the booster unit are okay, a new booster is needed (the vacuum hose should be replaced, too).

On vehicles equipped with “Hydroboost” power brakes, a hard pedal can be caused by a loose power steering pump belt, a low fluid level, leaks in the power hoses, or leaks or faulty valves in the hydroboost unit itself (the latter call for rebuilding or replacing the booster).

On vehicles that use the ABS pump to generate brake boost, a problem with the ABS pump or high pressure accumulator can cause a loss of power assist. This will usually cause the ABS WARNING LIGHT to come on. The ABS system will also set a fault code that corresponds to the problem, which requires a scan tool to read.

More Information About Silencing Disc Brake Squeal

Like fingernails scraping across a blackboard, disc brake squeal is enough to make anybody’s hair stand on end. For some neurological reason that is not fully understood, human beings react negatively to high-pitched squeals like crying babies, sirens and screeching breaks. So if your brakes are squealing, you want the noise to go away.

Brake squealing is produced by high-frequency vibration in the brakes. With disc brakes, vibrations can occur between the pads and rotors; the pads and calipers; the calipers and mounts; and/or within the rotors themselves. With drum brakes, the vibrations can originate between the shoes and the backing plates, and/or within the drums.

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The noise is not dangerous as long as there is no metal-to-metal contact, the brakes are working properly and there is adequate lining thickness. But, it sure can be annoying. So, to get rid of it, you first have to figure out what is causing the brake noise.


Complaints about brake squeal became a problem when front-wheel drive and semi-metallic brakes arrived on the scene in the 1980s. Semi-metallic pads are harder than their asbestos counterparts, and thus are more apt to chatter and squeal if there are any irregularities or roughness on the rotor surface, or if you notice looseness between the pads and calipers.

Some types of caliper designs are more apt to be noisy than others. The pads in these calipers may not be held as tightly and/or the caliper itself may move around a lot when the brakes are applied. And, as we said earlier, the greater the play in the system, the greater the tendency to make noise. That’s why some new car dealers try to dismiss the problem by telling their customers some noise is “normal”, leaving the customer no alternative but to live with the problem or to get it fixed by somebody else.

Trying to fix a squeal problem the wrong way can often make the problem worse. If somebody does a quick brake job and replaces the brake pads but doe snot resurface the rotors, the result can be an even louder squeal. The same can happen if the rotors are resurfaced incorrectly, too quickly or with dull tools. Excessive rotor runout can also cause problems.


One of the leading causes of brake squeal in drum brakes is poor contact between the shoes and drum. Heel and toe contact between the shoe and drum is often the culprit, and the cure is to either replace the shoes with new ones or to resurface the drum slightly to increase its inside diameter. New shoes are ground with a slight eccentric to compensate for drum wear.

This moves the point of contact away from the ends of the shoes toward the middle. In the old days, mechanics used to arc shoes to match their shape to the drum. But, with the concerns about asbestos, shoe grinding is pretty much a thing of the past (although some say it will make a comeback as more and more new cars switch to non-asbestos linings on their drum brakes).



    • Open the hood, and check the brake fluid level and its appearance. A low level may indicate a leak or worn linings. Discoloration indicates moisture contamination and the need for a fluid change. An electronic tester or chemical test strips can be used to check the level of moisture contamination in the fluid.
    • Apply the brakes, and start the engine. Does the pedal drop slightly? It should because it indicates a good vacuum booster. No boost may indicate a leaky booster diaphragm or vacuum connection. How does the brake pedal feel? Is it firm? A soft or mushy-feeling pedal usually indicates air in the lines or leaks. A pedal that slowly sinks is a classic symptom of a worn master cylinder. Is the amount of pedal travel normal? A low pedal may indicate worn linings, the need for adjustment, defective/frozen drum brake adjusters or a low fluid level. Do the brake lights come on when you step on the pedal? No lights may indicate a defective or misadjusted brake light pedal switch or burned out bulbs in the tail lights.
    • On ABS-equipped vehicles, turn the ignition on to verify that the ABS warning light circuit works. The ABS light should come on for a few seconds, then go out if everything is fine. No light? Then you have found a bulb that needs replacing or a wiring problem. If the light comes on and remains on (does not go out), then further diagnosis will be required to find out what’s wrong with the ABS system. On some ABS systems, faults may have occurred that may not be serious enough to cause a continuous ABS warning light. These may be stored in the ABS module memory as “non-latching” or “soft” fault codes. Don’t ignore ABS codes because they may be a clue that more serious problems will be forthcoming.
    • Apply the parking brake. Does the pedal or handle work smoothly? Is it adjusted properly? Does the brake light come on? No brake warning light may indicate a bad bulb or defective or misadjusted parking brake switch. Does the parking brake hold the vehicle? Put the transmission into gear with the parking brake applied. If it fails to hold the vehicle, it needs adjusting. Now release the parking brake. Failure to release fully means the linkage, cables or locking mechanisms need attention.
    • Take a short test drive. DO NOT drive the vehicle if the brakes have failed, if there is insufficient pedal travel or firmness to stop the vehicle safely, or there is a serious fluid leak. While driving, apply the brakes several times to check for noise, pull to either side or grabbing. Also check for drag when the brakes are released. Note pedal feel, especially any pulsation that would indicate warped rotors. If possible, do a panic stop to check for ABS operation.


    • Remove a front wheel and measure the thickness of the brake pads. If worn down to minimum specifications or if wear indicators are making contact with the rotor, new linings are needed. If the pads are still above specs, they should probably be replaced anyway if they are near the end of their service life or if they are noisy. Also, note the condition of the rotors. Deep scratches or grooves indicate a need for resurfacing. Measure runout and parallelism, too. If out of specs, resurfacing or replacement is needed. Are there discolored spots, heat cracks or warpage? These symptoms may also indicate a need for rotor resurfacing or replacement.
    • Note the condition of the calipers and caliper mounts. Also note whether or not the pads are worn evenly. Uneven pad wear can be caused by corrosion on the caliper mounting guides or keyway.
    • Pull a drum, and inspect the drum surface, brake shoes, hardware and wheel cylinder. If the shoe linings are at or below minimum specifications, new shoes are needed. If the linings are still above minimum specs but are getting thin, new shoes are recommended to extend the life of the brakes.

Find & Fix Coolant Leaks

Coolant leaks can occur anywhere in the cooling system. Nine out of ten times, coolant leaks are easy to find because the coolant can be seen dripping, spraying, seeping or bubbling from the leaky component. The first symptom of trouble is usually engine overheating. But your car may also have a Low Coolant indicator lamp. If you suspect your vehicle has a coolant leak, open the hood and visually inspect the engine and cooling system for any sign of liquid leaking from the engine, radiator or hoses. The color of the coolant may be green, orange or yellow depending on the type of antifreeze in the system. You may also notice a sweet smell, which is a characteristic odor of ethylene glycol antifreeze.

The most common places where coolant may be leaking are:

Water pump — A bad shaft seal will allow coolant to dribble out of the vent hole just under the water pump pulley shaft. If the water pump is a two-piece unit with a backing plate, the gasket between the housing and back cover may be leaking. The gasket or o-ring that seals the pump to the engine front cover on cover-mounted water pumps can also leak coolant. Look for stains, discoloration or liquid coolant on the outside of the water pump or engine.

Radiator — Radiators can develop leaks around upper or loser hose connections as a result of vibration. The seams where the core is mated to the end tanks is another place where leaks frequently develop, especially on aluminum radiators with plastic end tanks. On copper/brass radiators, leaks typically occur where the cooling tubes in the core are connected or soldered to the core headers. The core itself is also vulnerable to stone damage. Internal corrosion caused by old coolant that has never been changed can also eat through the metal in the radiator, causing it to leak.

Most cooling systems today are designed to operate at 8 to 14 psi. If the radiator can’t hold pressure, your engine will overheat and lose coolant.

Hoses — Cracks, pinholes or splits in a radiator hose or heater hose will leak coolant. A hose leak will usually send a stream of hot coolant spraying out of the hose. A corroded hose connection or a loose or damaged hose clamp may also allow coolant to leak from the end of a hose. Sometimes the leak may only occur once the hose gets hot and the pinhole or crack opens up.

Freeze plugs — These are the casting plugs or expansion plugs in the sides of the engine block and/or cylinder head. The flat steel plugs corroded from the inside out, and may develop leaks that are hard to see because of the plug’s location behind the exhaust manifold, engine mount or other engine accessories. On V6 and V8 blocks, the plugs are most easily inspected from underneath the vehicle.

Heater Core — The heater core is located inside the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit under the dash. It is out of sight so you cannot see a leak directly. But if the heater core is leaking (or a hose connection to the heater core is leaking), coolant will be seeping out of the bottom of the HVAC unit and dripping on the floor inside the passenger compartment. Look for stains or wet spots on the bottom of the plastic HVAC case, or on the passenger side floor. Some Chrysler vehicles have a reputation for developing coolant leaks in the heater core, and repeat heater core failures. Some have found that an aftermarket copper/brass replacement heater core lasts longer in these applications than the original equipment aluminum heater core.

Intake Manifold gasket — The gasket that seals the intake manifold to the cylinder heads may leak and allow coolant to enter the intake port, crankcase or dribble down the outside of the engine. Some engines such as General Motors 3.1L and 3.4L V6 engines as well as 4.3L, 5.0L and 5.7L V8s are notorious for leaky intake manifold gaskets. The intake manifold gaskets on these engines are plastic and often fail at 50,000 to 80,000 miles. Other troublesome applications include the intake manifold gaskets on Buick 3800 V6 and Ford 4.0L V6 engines.


There are the worst kind of coolant leaks for two reasons. One is that they are impossible to see because they are hidden inside the engine. The other is that internal coolant leaks can be very expensive to repair.

Bad head gasket –Internal coolant leaks are most often due to a bad head gasket. The head gasket may leak coolant into a cylinder, or into the crankcase. Coolant leaks into the crankcase dilute the oil and can damage the bearings in your engine. A head gasket leaking coolant into a cylinder can foul the spark plug, and create a lot of white smoke in the exhaust. Adding sealer to the cooling system may plug the leak if it is not too bad, but eventually the head gasket will have to be replaced.

If you suspect a head gasket leak, have the cooling system pressure tested. If it fails to hold pressure, there is an internal leak. A “block tester” can also be used to diagnose a leaky head gasket. This device draws air from the cooling system into a chamber that contains a special blue colored leak detection liquid. Combustion gases will react with the liquid and cause it to change color from blue to green if the head gasket is leaking.

Head gasket failures are often the result of engine overheating (which may have occurred because of a coolant leak elsewhere in the cooling system, a bad thermostat, or an electric cooling fan not working). When the engine overheats, thermal expansion can crush and damage portions of the head gasket. This damaged areas may then start to leak combustion pressure and/or coolant.

Cracked Head or Block — Internal coolant leaks can also occur if the cylinder head or engine block has a crack in a cooling jacket. A combustion chamber leak in the cylinder head or block will leak coolant into the cylinder. This dilutes the oil on the cylinder walls and can damage the piston and rings. If the coolant contains silicates (conventional green antifreeze), it can also foul the oxygen sensor and catalytic converter. If enough coolant leaks into the cylinder (as when the engine is sitting overnight), it may even hydro-lock the engine and prevent it from cranking when you try to start it. Internal leaks such as these can be diagnosed by pressure testing the cooling system or using a block checker.

A coolant leak into the crankcase is also bad news because it can damage the bearings. Coolant leaking into the crankcase will make the oil level on the dipstick appear to be higher than normal. The oil may also appear frothy, muddy or discolored because of the coolant contamination.

Leaky ATF oil cooler — Internal coolant leakage can also occur in the automatic transmission fluid oil cooler inside the radiator. On most vehicles with automatic transmissions, ATF is routed through an oil cooler inside the radiator. If the tubing leaks, coolant can enter the transmission lines, contaminate the fluid and ruin the transmission. Red or brown drops of oil in the coolant would be a symptom of such a leak. Because the oil cooler is inside the radiator, the radiator must be replaced to eliminate the problem. The transmission fluid should also be changed.


There are several ways to find out whether or not your cooling system is holding pressure. One is to top off your cooling system, tighten the radiator cap and start the engine. When the engine reaches normal operating temperature, turn on the air conditioner (to increase the cooling load on the system) and/or take it for a short drive. Then check the radiator, hoses and water pump for seepage or leaks.

WARNING: DO NOT open the radiator cap while the engine is hot! Even if the cooling system is leaking, the coolant will be under considerable pressure — especially if it is low and coolant is boiling inside the engine. Shut the engine off and let it sit about an hour so it can cool down. Then place a rag over the radiator cap and slowly turn the cap until it starts to release pressure. Wait until all the pressure has vented before turning the cap the rest of the way off.

A special tool called a pressure tester can also be used to check your cooling system. The tool is nothing more than a little hand pump with a combination vacuum-pressure gauge and a fitting that is attached to the radiator filler neck. To check for leaks, attach the tool to the radiator and pressurize the radiator to the pressure rating on the radiator cap. For example, if you have a radiator cap that says 12 pounds, you pressurize the radiator to 12 lbs. and wait to see what happens. If there are no leaks, the system should hold pressure for 10 to 15 minutes. If it does not hold pressure, the system is leaking. If you cannot see any visible leaks on the outside, it means the leak is inside (bad head gasket or cracked head or block). See How to Fix a Leaky Head Gasket.

A block Checker is another tool that can be used to detect a leaky head gasket. The gas-sensitive blue liquid changes color if there are any combustion gases in the coolant.

Leak detection dye can also be added to the coolant itself to make a slow leak easier to find. Some of these dyes glow bright green or yellow when exposed to ultraviolet light.


The radiator cap should also be pressure tested, especially if the system has been overheating or losing coolant with no obvious external leaks. A weak cap that cannot hold pressure will allow the system to boil over. If the cap cannot hold its rated pressure, replace it.


If your radiator is leaking, you have several repair options:

You can try the cheap fix and add a bottle of cooling system sealer to the radiator. These products are designed to seal small leaks. They can also seal internal engine leaks. Some work better than others, but most provide only a temporary solution to your problem.

You can attempt to repair the radiator yourself. Copper/brass radiators on older vehicles can often be soldered to repair leaks. Cracks or pinholes in aluminum radiators in newer vehicles can often be repaired with epoxy glue. But if the core is severely corroded or damaged, the radiator may have to be professionally repaired at a radiator shop, or replaced with a new radiator.


As with a leaky radiator, you might try the cheapest fix and add a bottle of cooling system sealer to see if that will stop the leak. If the leak is small, the sealer will probably stop the leak – at least temporarily. But if the sealer does not stop the leak, you will have to disassemble the HVAC case to replace the heater core. This is a very time-consuming and difficult job that involves a LOT of labor on most vehicles. The labor to replace a heater core can often run 8 to 10 hours or more!

Some vehicles have had problems with repeat heater core failures (some Chrysler cars, for example). The problem in some cases is the design of the heater core itself, or the metal alloys from which it was made. But a common cause of heater core leaks is Electrolysis Corrosion. One fix is to attach a grounding strap on the heater core. Another is to replace an original equipment aluminum heater core with an aftermarket copper/brass heater core.


Another cooling system component that sometimes needs attention is the coolant overflow reservoir. The coolant overflow reservoir does more than catch the overflow from the radiator. It serves as a storage tank for excess coolant. When the system is hot, coolant will be forced out through the radiator pressure cap and into the reservoir. Then as the system cools down, decreasing pressure will draw coolant back into the radiator.

On many newer vehicles, the coolant reservoir is pressurized and is an integral part of the cooling system. The filler cap for the cooling system is located on the reservoir tank, and the tank is connected to the radiator and engine with hoses. The reservoir is transparent plastic and you can see the coolant level inside.

If the coolant reservoir is cracked or leaking, the system may lose coolant every time the engine heats up. Eventually, this can cause the engine to overheat.

Small punctures or cracks in the overflow reservoir can usually be repaired with silicone sealer. If the reservoir needs to be replaced, make sure the hoses are routed correctly between the radiator and the reservoir, and that it is free from kinks that could block the flow of coolant back and forth.


Freeze plus (also called expansion plugs) are round metal plugs that are pressed into cylinder head and engine block castings. The plug is supposed to push out and save the casting if the coolant does not contain enough antifreeze to prevent it from freezing during cold weather. Over time, the plugs can corrode from the inside and leak, causing the engine to lose coolant and overheat.

One way to temporarily patch a leaky freeze plug is to clean the surface of the plug, sand it lightly with sandpaper, and pack it solid with a high temperature two-part epoxy such as gas tank sealer or JB Weld epoxy. Let it cure overnight. This trick usually seals leaky expansion plugs that would otherwise be very difficult to replace.

To replace a leaky freeze plug, use a hammer and drift to knock out the old plug. Pounding in on one side of the plug will usually cause it to twist. The plug can then be pried out with a large screwdriver. Clean the hole, then apply a liberal coating of sealer to the hole and carefully drive in a new replacement plug. The plug must go in straight or it may not seal.

Another repair option is to replace a solid metal freeze plug with an expandable freeze plug. The expandable plugs have a rubber grommet that expands and seals against the opening when the center bolt in the plug is tightened. It’s easier to install and less apt to leak than a solid plug.


Do not waste your time trying to patch or wrap a leaky radiator or heater hose. Sealers and Stop Leak products also do not work well with hoses. Replace the bad hose with a new one, and inspect all the other hoses because if one has failed the others are probably reaching the end of the road, too.

Old hoses are often hard and stick to their fittings, making them difficult to remove. Use a razor blade or box cutter to slit the old hose so it can be easily pulled off its end fittings.

It is also a good idea to replace the original hose clamps, especially if they are the ring type. Ring clamps can lose tension with age and may not hold the hose tightly. Worm drive stainless steel clamps are best. But quality brand stainless steel worn drive clamps, not the cheap plain steel ones that are made in China. They will rust and fail.

You should also inspect the inside of your old radiator and heater hoses after they have been removed to check for deep fissures or cracks caused by Electrolysis Corrosion. This type of corrosion can be caused by old antifreeze that no longer provides adequate corrosion protection, or by stray electrical currents that use the coolant as a ground path.


No Stop Leak or cooling system sealer product will seal a water pump that is leaking coolant past the shaft seal. Replacement is your only option. But you can save some money on the job by using a remanufactured water pump rather than a new water pump.

Replacing a water pump is not too hard a job on most engines, but on some it can be tricky. On some engines (2.8L GM V6 engines, for example), the bolts that hold the water pump also hold the timing cover in place. If you are not careful, the timing cover seal can be broken allowing coolant to leak into the crankcase. GM recommends using a special tool (J-29176 or equivalent) to hold the timing cover tight while the pump is being changed.

If your engine has a belt-driven fan with a fan clutch, it is also a good idea to check the fan clutch when replacing the water pump. The lifespan of both is about the same, so the fan clutch may also need be replaced. If the clutch is leaking silicone fluid, or has any wobble in the bearing, it must be replaced.


When refilling the cooling system after making a repair, always use a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. Never use straight water because it has no freezing protection, no corrosion protection and it boils at a lower temperature (212 degrees F.) than a mixture of antifreeze and water (which protects to 240 degrees F.).

Use the type of antifreeze specified by the vehicle manufacturer, or a Universal Coolant that is compatible with all makes/models. Most late model vehicles require some type of OAT or HOAT long life coolant. GM vehicles use Dex-Cool.

On some late model front-wheel drive cars, refilling the cooling system can be tricky unless you “burp” the system by opening a bleeder vent or cracking a hose at a high point in the system to allow trapped air to escape. If you do not get all of the air out, the engine may overheat the first time you drive it.

Tips To Saving Money on Gas

Whether driving cross-town or cross-country, everybody wants to save money at the pump. Regardless of the make and model, your car’s estimated gas mileage is just that — an estimate. An important variable is how you fuel, drive, and maintain your car. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, offers these bumper-to-bumper tips to help you get the most mileage out of your gas purchases:

At the Pump

Check your owner’s manual for the most effective octane level for your car. For most cars, the recommended gasoline is regular octane. In most cases, using a higher octane gas than the manufacturer recommends offers no benefit — and costs you at the pump. Some cars do require premium fuel, so before you fill up, check your owner’s manual to find out if the higher-priced gas is required or just recommended.

Shop around. Specialized phone apps and websites can help you find the cheapest gas prices in your area. Also, many gas stations advertise regular weekly specials at their locations.

Charge it. Consider a credit card that offers cash back for gas purchases. Some offer two to five percent rebates, but it’s wise to read the fine print. Fees, charges, interest rates, and benefits can vary among credit card issuers.

On the Road

Start driving as soon as the engine is started. Modern engines don’t need much time to warm up. The engine actually warms up more quickly once the car is operating, and will stay warm after stopping.

Don’t speed. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour. According to Fueleconomy.gov, each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas.

Avoid unnecessary idling. It wastes fuel, costs you money, and pollutes the air. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a wait.

Use overdrive gears and cruise control when appropriate. They improve fuel economy when you’re driving on the highway.

Minimize the need to brake by anticipating traffic conditions. Be alert for slow-downs and red lights. Anticipate bends and turns on familiar roads. Letting up on the gas often eliminates the need for braking.

Avoid jackrabbit starts and stops. Avoiding these can increase your mpg and prolong the life of your brakes.

Use the air conditioner only when you absolutely need it. Air conditioning dramatically reduces fuel economy. Most air conditioners have an “economy” setting that allows the circulation of unchilled air. Many also have a “maximum” or “recirculation” setting that reduces the amount of hot outside air that must be chilled. Both settings can reduce the air conditioning load — and save gas.

Combine errands. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.

Remove excess weight from the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce a typical car’s fuel economy by up to two percent.

Avoid packing items on top of your car. A loaded roof rack or carrier creates wind resistance and can decrease fuel economy by five percent.

At the Garage

Keep your engine tuned. Tuning your engine according to your owner’s manual can increase gas mileage by an average of four percent.

Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned. It can increase gas mileage up to three percent, improve handling, and prolong the life of your tires. Check your owner’s manual or the door jamb for the proper level of inflation (not the tire itself, which shows the maximum tire inflation pressure); check the tire pressure when the tires are cold, because internal pressure increases when the car has been on the road for a while and the tires heat up.

Change your oil. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can improve your gas mileage by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. Motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the performance symbol of the American Petroleum Institute contains friction-reducing additives that can improve fuel economy.

Learn More About Auto Warranties & Routine Maintenance

If you own a car, you know how important it is to keep up with routine maintenance and repairs. But can a dealer refuse to honor the warranty that came with your new car if someone else does the routine maintenance or repairs?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says no. In fact, it’s illegal for a dealer to deny your warranty coverage simply because you had routine maintenance or repairs performed by someone else. Routine maintenance often includes oil changes, tire rotations, belt replacement, fluid checks and flushes, new brake pads, and inspections. Maintenance schedules vary by vehicle make, model and year; the best source of information about routine scheduled maintenance is your owner’s manual.

  • What is a warranty?
  • Do I have to use the dealer for repairs and maintenance to keep my warranty in effect?
  • Will using ‘aftermarket’ or recycled parts void my warranty?
  • Tips To Avoid Warranty Issues

What is a warranty?

A warranty is a promise, often made by a manufacturer, to stand behind its product or to fix certain defects or malfunctions over a period of time. The warranty pays for any covered repairs or part replacements during the warranty period.

Do I have to use the dealer for repairs and maintenance to keep my warranty in effect?

No. An independent mechanic, a retail chain shop, or even you yourself can do routine maintenance and repairs on your vehicle. In fact, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by the FTC, makes it illegal for manufacturers or dealers to claim that your warranty is void or to deny coverage under your warranty simply because someone other than the dealer did the work. The manufacturer or dealer can, however, require consumers to use select repair facilities if the repair services are provided to consumers free of charge under the warranty.

That said, there may be certain situations where a repair may not be covered. For example, if you or your mechanic replaced a belt improperly and your engine is damaged as a result, your manufacturer or dealer may deny responsibility for fixing the engine under the warranty. However, according to the FTC, the manufacturer or dealer must be able to demonstrate that it was the improper belt replacement — rather than some other defect — that caused the damage to your engine. The warranty would still be in effect for other parts of your car.

Will using ‘aftermarket’ or recycled parts void my warranty?

No. An ‘aftermarket’ part is a part made by a company other than the vehicle manufacturer or the original equipment manufacturer. A ‘recycled’ part is a part that was made for and installed in a new vehicle by the manufacturer or the original equipment manufacturer, and later removed from the vehicle and made available for resale or reuse. Simply using an aftermarket or recycled part does not void your warranty. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes it illegal for companies to void your warranty or deny coverage under the warranty simply because you used an aftermarket or recycled part. The manufacturer or dealer can, however, require consumers to use select parts if those parts are provided to consumers free of charge under the warranty.

Still, if it turns out that the aftermarket or recycled part was itself defective or wasn’t installed correctly, and it causes damage to another part that is covered under the warranty, the manufacturer or dealer has the right to deny coverage for that part and charge you for any repairs. The FTC says the manufacturer or dealer must show that the aftermarket or recycled part caused the need for repairs before denying warranty coverage.

Tips To Avoid Warranty Issues

Here’s how to get the most out of your vehicle’s warranty:

  • Read your warranty. Often bundled with your owner’s manual, the warranty gives a general description and specific details about your coverage. If you have misplaced your owner’s manual, look for it online. Check the “Owners” section of your manufacturer’s website.
  • Be aware of your warranty period. If problems arise that are covered under the warranty, get them checked out before the warranty expires.
  • Service your car at regular intervals. This is a good idea in any case. But for the sake of keeping your warranty intact, follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedule. Details are in your owner’s manual.
  • Keep all service records and receipts, regardless of who performs the service. This includes oil changes, tire rotations, belt replacement, new brake pads, and inspections. Create a file to keep track of repairs; it will come in handy if you have to use your warranty. If you ever have a warranty claim and it appears that you did not maintain your vehicle, your claim could be denied.
  • Complain. If you think a dealer’s service advisor denied your warranty claim unfairly, ask to speak with a supervisor. If you still aren’t satisfied, contact the manufacturer or go to another dealer. You also may wish to file a complaint with your state Attorney General, local consumer protection office, or the FTC.

Tips to Fix Wheel Alignment Problems

Has this ever happened to you? You have the alignment checked on a car or truck and found that it was within the acceptable range of specs for the application, but it does not steer straight. It is a common enough problem, so keep reading any maybe we can straighten things out for you.

As anybody who has spent much time under an alignment rack knows, the range of factory tolerances that are included in the data banks of most electronic alignment equipment today (as well as alignment reference books) may not be tight enough for every vehicle you are apt to encounter. The alignment specs that everyone uses are compiled from information supplied by the vehicle manufacturers, and are based on the vehicle’s suspension geometry, drivetrain configuration, handling characteristics, weight distribution, average loading, etc. As long as a vehicle is within the range of specs listed, wheel alignment should be acceptable under most circumstances. But sometimes it is not. Some vehicles are more sensitive to slight variations in alignment than others, just as some drivers are more sensitive about how their car or truck steers and handles. So just because a vehicle’s wheels are aligned somewhere between the minimum and maximum allowable specs does not mean it will always steer straight.

For starters, most experts say wheels should be aligned to the “preferred” alignment settings rather than accepting anything that is between the minimum and maximum values. Why? Because preferred settings are closer to the mark than the minimum or maximum values.

Another suggestion is to keep the difference and camber and caster readings side-to-side to half a degree or less. Why? Because more than half a degree difference in camber or caster between sides may cause the vehicle to lead to one side.


Three simple conditions must be met for a four-wheeled vehicle to travel in a straight line:

1. All four wheels must be pointing in the same direction.

That is, all four wheels must be square to each other and square to the road surface (in other words, parallel to one another, perpendicular to a common centerline, and straight up and down).

2. All four wheels must offer the same amount of rolling resistance. This includes the “caster effect” between the front wheels that steer.

3. There must be no play in the steering or suspension linkage that positions the wheels.

If all three conditions are not met, the vehicle will drift to one side depending on which forces are at work. This creates a steering pull which the driver will counteract by steering the other way. Having to constantly apply pressure to the steering wheel to keep the car traveling in a straight line can be tiring on a long trip. It can also be hard on the tires, too.


Only 1/8 inch of toe misalignment front or rear produces the equivalent wear of scrubbing the tires sideways 28 feet for every mile traveled. Yet many toe specs allows for this much variation!

Toe wear typically causes rapid shoulder wear on the tires on the INSIDE edge of both front tires.

The need to have all four wheels pointing in the same direction and square to each other and the road sounds obvious enough, but it is surprising how many alignment jobs fail to achieve it when the wheels are aligned anywhere between the maximum and minimum specs rather than to the preferred specs.
Checking toe will tell you if the front and rear wheels are parallel to one another and how close they are to the preferred specifications. If they are within the acceptable range of specs, but the tires show obvious signs of toe wear or the vehicle has an off-center steering or a pull to one side, then it should be obvious that close enough is not good enough. The wheels need to be realigned to the preferred settings.

It is important to remember that rear toe is just as important as front toe, especially on cars and minivans with front-wheel drive or vehicles with independent rear suspensions. If rear toe is off the mark, it can create a rear axle steer condition that a simple front wheel alignment check will never detect or cure.

Rear toe is also different from front toe in that front toe misalignment tends to be self centering. When the front wheels are toed-in or toed-out with respect to one another, the two wheels share the toe angle equally while rolling down the road with tread wear being about the same for both tires. With rear toe that is not necessarily true because the rear wheels are not free to steer nor are they tied together with a steering linkage.

On a rear-wheel drive car or truck with a solid rear axle, a cocked axle will toe-in one wheel and toe-out the other by an equal amount. This kind of misalignment will make the vehicle dog track and create a thrust angle that induces a steering pull as well as toe wear in the front wheels (turning the wheels, even slightly, causes them to toe-out which can increase tread wear). If the rear axle misalignment cannot be corrected by repositioning the spring mounts, installing aftermarket offset control arm bushings, etc., you can at least minimize the problem by having the front wheels aligned to the rear thrust angle.

On applications that have an independent rear suspension, or front-wheel drive cars or minivans that have a one-piece rear axle, one wheel that is toed-in or toed-out will also induce a steering pull. If toed in, the wheel will push to the inside. If toed-out, it will pull to the outside. This can also create dog tracking problem with both tires suffering toe wear (though the wheel that is off may show more wear).


When camber is set to factory specs, the wheels should be more or less perpendicular to the road at normal ride height (a good reason for always checking ride height prior to aligning the wheels!). Camber will vary as the suspension travels through jounce and rebound, but as long as the camber changes are the same side-to-side, there should be no “bump steer” or twitch to either side.

But factory specs allow for a lot of camber variation. A typical spec may have an acceptable range of up to a full degree of camber either way. If one wheel is at the maximum acceptable limit and the other is at the minimum acceptable limit, you could end up with a difference of almost two full degrees side-to-side! That is way too much camber difference. Consequently, the vehicle will pull towards the front wheel that has the most positive camber or away from the wheel that has the most negative camber. Keeping camber differences to half a degree of less should minimize this kind of problem.

Rear camber is just as important, too. If there is a difference between rear camber alignment, the rear axle can drift to one side or the other, creating a condition similar to rear axle steer that makes the vehicle steer crooked.

So what do you do if a vehicle has no factory camber adjustments, or the limited range of adjustment is not enough to equalize readings or to achieve the preferred settings? Before any shims, wedges, offset bushings or other alignment aids are installed, the suspension should be checked to make sure something is not bent, broken or worn. A weak or broken spring, a collapsed control arm bushing, a mislocated strut tower or engine cradle, or a bent strut or control arm can all throw camber off the mark.

Checking and comparing SAI readings side-to-side is a good way to identify “hidden” problems such as those just described. Even though we tend to think of it as a nonadjustable angle that is built into the suspension itself, it is still a useful angle to look at (even if specs are not available) because it can reveal conditions or damage that affect a vehicle’s ability to steer straight. On front-wheel drive cars where the lower control arms are attached to the engine cradle, a shift in the cradle’s position to either side will upset SAI as well as camber. The result will be a steering lead towards the side with the least SAI. Ideally, right and left SAI readings should be within half a degree of one another.


Like camber, caster readings should also be set to the preferred specs and be within half a degree side-to-side. A greater difference side-to-side can make the vehicle lead towards the side with the least caster. Increasing caster increases steering stability because it forces the suspension to lift when the wheels are steered, while decreasing caster eases steering. Sometimes steering wander can be a problem if the front wheels have insufficient caster. Steering pull that is caused by road crown can sometimes be compensated by adding positive caster to the left front wheel.

If caster is out of range, check for worn strut or control arm bushings, a mislocated MacPherson strut tower or a bent lower control arm.


In addition to wheel alignment, anything that creates unequal rolling resistance or friction side-to-side on a vehicle’s suspension or brakes can make it steer crooked. This includes such things as underinflated tires, mismatched tires or dragging brakes.

Before wheel alignment is checked, the tires should be inspected. Check and equalize tire inflation pressures. Note tire sizes and brands. A vehicle will pull towards the side that offers the greatest rolling resistance. So if the tires on both sides of an axle are not the same construction (bias ply or radial), diameter, tread width, tread pattern and even brand in some instances, there may be enough difference in rolling resistance to induce a slight pull to one side.

A dragging or frozen caliper, or weak or broken return springs in a drum brake can create enough friction to also cause a noticeable steering pull. If you suspect brake drag, the easiest way to find the offending brake is to raise the wheels off the ground and spin each one by hand.

A vehicle’s ability to steer straight can also be undermined if there is excessive play or looseness in the steering linkage or wheel bearings. Loose tie rod ends, idler arms, a worn steering rack, even loose rack mounts can all have an influence on directional stability. So be sure to perform a thorough inspection of the steering and suspension before aligning the wheels.

The alignment of the steering linkage itself is also important. If the rack, center link and/or steering arms are not parallel to the ground, it may create unequal toe changes that result in a bump steer condition when the suspension travels through jounce and rebound. Measuring and comparing the height of the inner and out tie rods ends on each side can help you identify this kind of problem. Another technique is to check for equal toe changes on each side when the suspension is raised and then lowered.

Another condition that may even cause a vehicle to steer crooked is a power steering problem. Internal leaks in the power steering control valve can route pressure to where it is not needed. The pressure imbalance may make the car drift to one side or, if bad enough, the car may try to steer itself with no assistance from the driver! You can check for this kind of problem by raising the wheels off the ground and starting the engine. If the steering wheel starts to turn all by itself, power steering work is what is needed here, not an alignment.

Know More About Vehicle Repossession

Chances are you rely on your vehicle to get you where you need to go — and when you need to go — whether it’s to work, school, the grocery store, or the soccer field. But if you’re late with your car payments, or in some states, if you don’t have adequate auto insurance, your vehicle could be taken away from you.

When you finance or lease a vehicle, your creditor or lessor has important rights that end once you’ve paid off your loan or lease obligation. These rights are established by the contract you signed and the law of your state. For example, if you don’t make timely payments on the vehicle, your creditor may have the right to “repossess” — ­or take back your car without going to court or warning you in advance. Your creditor also may be able to sell your contract to a third party, called an assignee, who may have the same right to seize the car as the original creditor.

The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to know that your creditor’s rights may be limited. Some states impose rules about how your creditor may repossess the vehicle and resell it to reduce or eliminate your debt. Creditors that violate any rules may lose other rights against you, or have to pay you damages.

Seizing the Vehicle

In many states, your creditor can seize your vehicle as soon as you default on your loan or lease. Your contract should state what constitutes a default, but failure to make a payment on time is a typical example.

However, if your creditor agrees to change your payment date, the terms of your original contract may not apply any longer. If your creditor agrees to such a change, make sure you have it in writing. Oral agreements are difficult to prove.

Once you are in default, the laws of most states permit the creditor to repossess your car at any time, without notice, and to come onto your property to do so. But when seizing the vehicle, your creditor may not commit a “breach of the peace.” In some states, that means using physical force, threats of force, or even removing your car from a closed garage without your permission.

Should there be a breach of the peace in seizing your car, your creditor may be required to pay a penalty or to compensate you if any harm is done to you or your property. A breach of peace also may give you a legal defense if your creditor sues you to collect a “deficiency judgment” — that is, the difference between what you owe on the contract (plus repossession and sale expenses) and what your creditor gets from the resale of your vehicle.

Selling the Vehicle

Once your vehicle has been repossessed, your creditor may decide to either keep it as compensation for your debt or resell it in a public or private sale. In some states, your creditor must let you know what will happen to the car. For example, if the car will be sold at public auction, state law may require that the creditor tell you the time and place of the sale so that you can attend and participate in the bidding. If the vehicle will be sold privately, you may have a right to know the date of the sale.

In any of these circumstances, you may be entitled to “redeem” — or buy back — the vehicle by paying the full amount you owe (usually, that includes your past due payments and the entire remaining debt), in addition to the expenses connected with the repossession, like storage, preparation for sale, and attorney fees. Or you could try to buy back the vehicle by bidding on it at the repossession sale.

Some states have consumer protection laws that allow you to “reinstate” your loan. This means you can reclaim your car by paying the amount you are behind on your loan, together with your creditor’s repossession expenses. Of course, if you reclaim your car, your future payments must be made on time, and you must meet the terms of your reinstated contract to avoid another repossession.

Any resale of a repossessed vehicle must be conducted in a “commercially reasonable manner.” Your creditor doesn’t have to get the highest possible price for the vehicle — or even a good price. But a resale price that is below fair market value may indicate that the sale was not commercially reasonable. “Commercially reasonable” may depend on the standard sales practices in your area. A creditor’s failure to resell your car in a commercially reasonable manner may give you a claim against that creditor for damages or a defense against a deficiency judgment.

Personal Property in the Vehicle

Regardless of the method used to dispose of a repossessed car, a creditor may not keep or sell any personal property found inside. In some states, your creditor must tell you what personal items were found in your car and how you can retrieve them. Your creditor also may be required to use reasonable care to prevent anyone else from removing your property from the car. If your creditor can’t account for articles left in your vehicle, you may want to speak to an attorney about your right to compensation.

Paying the Deficiency

Any difference between what you owe on your contract (plus certain expenses) and what your creditor gets for reselling the vehicle is called a “deficiency.” For example, if you owe $10,000 on the car and your creditor sells it for $7,500, the deficiency is $2,500 plus any other fees you owe under the contract. Those might include fees related to the repossession and early termination of your lease or early payoff of your financing. In most states, your creditor is allowed to sue you for a deficiency judgment to collect the remaining amount owed as long as it followed the proper procedures for repossession and sale. Similarly, your creditor must pay you if there are surplus funds after the sale proceeds are applied to the outstanding contract obligation and related expenses, but this situation is less common.

You may have a legal defense against a deficiency judgment if, for example, your creditor breached the peace when seizing the vehicle, failed to sell the car in a commercially reasonable manner, or waited too long before suing you. An attorney will be able to tell you whether you have grounds to contest a deficiency judgment.

Electronic Disabling Devices

Some creditors might not provide you with financing unless you agree to the installation of an electronic device that prevents your car from starting if you do not make your payments on time. Depending on your contract with the lender and your state’s laws, using that sort of device may be considered the same as a repossession or a breach of the peace. How your state treats the use of these devices could affect your rights. Contact your state consumer protection agency or an attorney if you have questions about the use of these devices in your state.

Talking with Your Creditor or Lessor

It’s easier to try to prevent a vehicle repossession from taking place than to dispute it after the fact. Contact your creditor as soon as you realize you will be late with a payment. Many creditors work with consumers they believe will be able to pay soon, even if slightly late. You may be able to negotiate a delay in your payment or a revised schedule of payments. If you can reach an agreement to change your original contract, get it in writing to avoid questions later.

However, your creditor or lessor may refuse to accept late payments or make other changes in your contract — and may demand that you return the car. If you agree to a “voluntary repossession,” you may reduce your creditor’s expenses, which you would be responsible for paying. But even if you return the car voluntarily, you still are responsible for paying any deficiency on your contract, and your creditor still may enter the late payments or repossession on your credit report.

Finally, if you are facing, or already in, bankruptcy, ask an attorney for information about your rights to the vehicle during that process.