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Old 08-14-2019, 10:43 PM   #1
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Is it brake failure or suspension failure?

5,000 miles into my Alaska trip without an issue, when suddenly, the van pulls hard to the right when on the brakes. Everything was normal when all at once it started happening. A quick visual inspection didn't turn up anything. All calipers, rotors, pads and hoses were new a couple months ago. Steering box is less than a year old. Springs and u-bolts are nearly new. Ball joints are an unknown age, and showed some slop when last checked several months ago. Tie rod ends are old but were tight when last checked. So, is it a brake problem, or a suspension issue? Tomorrow, I'll jack up the front end and do a better inspection but I'm leaning towards a suspension issue since the brakes are new. No doubt, a caliper could have seized and I can check that by doing a few hard stops and then measuring the rotor temps with my infrared, but on the last really rough road I heard something making a new noise, sort of like a soup can rolling around in a cabinet, which is what I hope it is. It could be a broken leaf spring, a loose u-bolt, a busted ball joint, or a bad tire. Any other ideas? It could be worse though, I'm held up at the Copper River, a really scenic place and I have lots of beer and food.
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:15 PM   #2
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Broken leaf spring center pin bolt?
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Old 08-15-2019, 05:47 AM   #3
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I'd suspect suspension too, since it started suddenly. Can you have somebody move the steering wheel back and forth, while you inspect it from below. Anything broken should be visible doing that.
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Old 08-15-2019, 07:07 AM   #4
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Sounds like you are on the right track.



I've had a caliper hang up, drag and pull slight right while driving foot off pedal. Then when I'd step on the brake, it pulled hard left. Reason being, the right side was overheating while dragging, and less effective than the left when I braked and both had hydraulic pressure applied. It's amazing how when front braking pressure is just a little out of balance, how hard these vans pull to one side.



Like you said, your IR heat gun will tell that tale



Since it pulls right, I'd also look at the left brake line to make sure it's not pinched for some reason. If the brake lines are rubber,one could be internally collapsed, and hold residual pressure against the caliper. If you suspect that, crack the bleeder on the side you suspect is stuck, it will spirt fluid if there's residual pressure, when compared to cracking the other side bleeder.


Check the wheel bearings, as the rotor will get cocked in the caliper and be more, or maybe less effective on that side if a bearing went bad.



Good luck!
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb View Post
Can you have somebody move the steering wheel back and forth, while you inspect it from below. Anything broken should be visible doing that.
I'm alone in the middle of nowhere, so no one is available to turn the wheel, but I'm thinking I can rig up a snatch block and some rope so I can turn it while I'm underneath. Fortunately, I can still drive it, but until I find the problem, the fear of a catastrophic failure will severely limit my speed. I'm still having a good time though, little problems like this keep life interesting.
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Old 08-15-2019, 01:23 PM   #6
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BTW - I should have mentioned... Last summer mine started pulling to the right while braking, shortly after a loud "pop" while turning hard at low speeds. I don't think it was pulling as hard as you describe, and it wasn't super concerning. Just had to be ready to counter-steer when braking hard. In my case it was one of the ball joints. I went too long without greasing, and could hear it groaning before it popped. Anyways, I had them do the ball joints the next time I had my tires swapped, and that fixed it.
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Old 08-15-2019, 01:39 PM   #7
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My vote is an internally collapsed brake line; even though they are fairly new it could happen. Its not uncommon on E-vans. If its drivable, make your way back up the Edgerton to Glennallen or down to Valdez where youll be able to find some repair places. If you go to Glennallen, I have friends there and can ask them for a mechanic recommendation if you want.

Are you down near Chitina?
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Old 08-15-2019, 01:41 PM   #8
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Stuff I would check if I found myself in that situation:

Before jacking anything:
  1. That all four shocks are all attached at both ends.
  2. All ball joints and tie rod ends for play or just visually being to one side.
  3. Similar amounts of dirt/brake dust around all calipers / wheels
  4. If you have an IR thermometer similar brake temps after a couple of stops.

It doesn't match your symptoms, but I'd probably also check all tires both for pressure and a full visual of all sidewalls and tread surfaces.

If that doesn't find a culprit, I'd jack up the front axle and check:
  1. For play or anything that moves in a non-obvious way. Especially right at the point
    when the weight comes off the wheel.
  2. Brake drag and that the brakes engage at a similar point with the same amount of
    weight leaning on the brake pedal.

Finally I'd also check the rear brakes for uneven operation in the same way.

I don't think I'd risk jacking the body with a high lift at this point, since if something in the springs came undone, the weight of the van might be the only thing keeping it in place and allowing you to slowly make your way back to civilization.

Good luck!!

Edit:
I would suspect brakes over suspension at this point, but not enough to look at one
more closely than the other.
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Old 08-15-2019, 01:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arctictraveller View Post
no one is available to turn the wheel...

You could tie paracord to the spokes of the steering wheel, start it up, climb under, push pull the cord like a marionette from underneath
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Old 08-15-2019, 03:35 PM   #10
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I sincerely appreciate all the suggestions so far. I just finished a close visual inspection of all the suspension componants, and saw nothing out of the ordinary. A guy in an Alaska DOT truck stopped and I got him to turn the wheel while I watched everything and didn't see anything obvious. I then jacked up each wheel individually and using a piece of 3/4 conduit I carry as a cheater bar, I lifted the wheels up and down looking for play. I found play in each ball joint, but not much more than I had the last time I checked. The rear wheels also had some up and down play in the wheel bearings, but nothing clearly excessive and equal on both sides. After all that, I'm less afraid of a sudden suspension failure and will check the individual rotor temps after driving a few miles. It would sure be strange to have a new brake line fail after I just replaced them all for the same reason, but stuff happens. Thanks again for the suggestions.
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