How do I know if leaf springs are bad, 97 Tahoe 4 dr 4x4?

Discussion in 'Street Suspension' started by Tahoe97, Oct 3, 2019.

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  1. Tahoe97

    Tahoe97 TYF Newbie

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    My 97 Tahoe with 221,000 miles on it recently had the front calipers replaced, new shocks up front, upper and lower ball joints replaced, new rear brake shoes installed, differential rebuilt, and a front end alignment, all but the shocks done at a GMC dealership. Upon very firm breaking the vehicle pulls to the right, kind of nose first. GMC dealer says brakes are fine all around but the problem is the drivers side leaf spring is shot and if I replace one I should replace both.

    Is this a logical diagnosis, that a weak drivers side leaf spring could be the cause for the truck puling right upon firm braking?

    Thanks for your opinions.

    I am also getting close to my limit of how much $$$ I am continuing to put into my Tahoe, while maintaining some reasonable amount of sleep. I am the original owner. I have 100% of the repair records on the vehicle, over 23 years worth. I may soon hit my limit and offer it up for adoption to another Tahoe fanatic. All systems are running well, including A/C. If you want to be on that short list let me know.

    97 Tahoe 8-28-19 a.jpg 97 Tahoe 8-28-19 b.jpg
     
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  2. east302

    east302 Full Access Member

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    Did the pull start after all of those things were replaced?

    Usually, a brake pull is going to be a sticking caliper, collapsing of a brake hose or maybe a worn tie rod. If they aligned it, I’d assume that the steering components checked out.

    Are the front brake hoses original?

    Try swapping the front tires, see if the pull follows.

    Assuming that there isn’t a cracked or broken leaf spring, I’d think that weak springs would manifest in uneven rear height, sagging or unruly bouncing in the back. Others can probably enlighten.


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  3. Tahoe97

    Tahoe97 TYF Newbie

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    Thanks for those thoughts. I noticed the pull after my rear differential was rebuilt several months ago. I don't believe the timing of that rebuild is related. The dealer suspected the brake hoses (original) were a possible cause but evidently ruled those out concluding it was due to a weak leaf spring. My question as to how they test that was responded to by advising me they can see it when the truck is on a lift with the left side sagging below the right side. I do not see this when the truck in on the road. Looks perfectly level to me and it seems to ride just fine. Tie rods were new when the front shocks went in, about 5 months ago. I assumed one of the front calipers were either sticking or not working properly and since they have 5000 miles on them I took it back to the dealer who put the calipers on. Again, they are pointing to a weak leaf spring which to me doesn't seem so obvious.

    Tires are new all around. Yokohama Geolander A/T G015
     
  4. PNW VietVet

    PNW VietVet Full Access Member

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    With the front brakes doing about 65% of the stopping when brakes are applied and the rear brakes doing the rest I am just not gonna buy that the rear leaf springs are causing this. I can understand if spring mounts are damaged or very loose or spring eye bushings being so bad that when brakes are applied all of that is shifting badly. This can allow the rear axle to dog track and that is easily found by following the vehicle and noting an offset on the rear axle when driving. A sagging spring, IMO, would have to be severe to even have a chance of this problem. I would want to make sure that the rear brakes are adjusted correctly and that the front calipers are not sticking and that all hoses and lines are passing fluid easily. Plus, you said "hard/firm breaking" causes this. I truly believe that it needs to be looked at deeper and even if the tires are newer they still should be swapped at the front and road test.
     
  5. east302

    east302 Full Access Member

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    Is one front wheel notably hotter than the other after driving?

    Jack each front wheel up, pump up the brakes and see if one wheel is harder to spin than the other.

    If one is harder to spin, crack the caliper bleeder screw to let a little fluid out and see if that wheel then breaks loose. If it does, that wheel’s brake hose is suspect. If there’s no change, the caliper is the issue.

    I’d switch the tires over just to rule it out, checking air pressure as well.




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  6. Tahoe97

    Tahoe97 TYF Newbie

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    Thanks for these thoughts!. The rear brakes were all readjusted when the differential was rebuilt as we pulled the axles and replaced all bearings. New brake shoes were installed but the drums were not replaced or turned. It was after this that I started to notice the pull. I will ask the dealer to check those again. I am also not buying the leaf spring theory as I could find myself $1500 into a new set and hit the brakes and still pull right. I don't like chasing a ghost. Thanks everyone.
     
  7. wjburken

    wjburken Full Access Member

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    What condition were the rear drums? Why did they not turn or replace the drums with new pads?
     
  8. PNW VietVet

    PNW VietVet Full Access Member

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    Even if the drums did not get replaced or machined as long as they still had enough thickness to remain safe, the rear brakes do not do that much of the braking. They could be contributing to the problem but I just don't feel they are the root cause of the nose dive and pull when braking. Unless, like I said, there is a severe problem with the rear springs and what you said makes me feel there is not, I would concentrate on the front brakes and because you did not say originally, maybe you have a front rotor problem. You said nothing about machining them or replacing them. A very thorough inspection by a reputable qualified tech is in order and if any tech that is going to check for the problem, walk away if they do not road test first. A true diagnostic tech will always want to duplicate the problem first. Also, you should provide a chronological order very detailed list of all maintenance and repairs before the problem started and what was done after, if anything. I would really be curious about the detailed conversation about what the GM dealer tech said to you about the rear leaf springs and exactly what is causing the problem.
     
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  9. Tahoe97

    Tahoe97 TYF Newbie

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    Per GMC dealership, brakes check out ok all around, drums, rotors, pads, lines, calipers, cylinders, etc. Still sticking to the weak leaf springs diagnosis as shown on the attached statement at pickup. I will continue driving it and consult a 4x4/suspension shop to explore leaf spring replacement options. Thanks everyone for your input.
     

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    Last edited: Oct 4, 2019
  10. east302

    east302 Full Access Member

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    $2400 replacement cost...I can understand your frustration there. If you do find that they need to be replaced (and don’t want to do the work yourself) I’d shop that around. At a glance, leaf spring sets are around $300 each on RockAuto (so $600-ish total).

    The dealer parts markup and labor rate really adds up.
     

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