Diagnose and Fix Warped Rotors
If you feel your car shakes when braking and there’s a pulsation or vibration when you press the brake pedal, you probably have worn or warped brake rotors. Brake rotors are a big part of the braking system and driving with worn rotors is unsafe. Find out the signs of bad brake rotors, what causes bad brake rotors, and how to fix them to get back to safer and better braking. To see what it’s like to drive with bad rotors and a steering wheel that vibrates when braking, watch the video below.
Signs and Symptoms of Bad Brake Rotors
1. Brake Pedal Vibration, Steering Wheel Vibration, and Car Seat Vibration
When the brake rotors are warped or worn, you will usually notice the car shakes when braking or you feel a vibration in the brake pedal. You may also feel the seat vibrating, the steering wheel shaking, or the vehicle noticeably pulling forward and backward when you press the brake pedal.
2. Squeaking Noise When Braking
If you hear a squeaking noise when braking, especially with a steering wheel that vibrates when braking or a brake pedal that pulsates when pressed, it’s probably the wear tab indicator on the brake pads. The wear tab indicator is a piece of metal designed to contact the rotors when the brake pad shim on the brake pads gets low. Though the wear tab indicator is loud it doesn’t cause damage to your brake rotors. The squeaking noise is designed to alert you that it’s time to change the brake pads before they are too low and damages your rotors. This can more than double the cost for new brakes.
3. Scored Rotors
Rotors scored with deep grooves from metal-on-metal contact, like with worn brake pads that have a wear tab indicator, can cause a shaking steering wheel or vibrating brake pedal. It is also an indicator of worn brake rotors. The rotor’s surface should be smooth and clean—not scored with deep marks from parts grinding together.
4. Decreased Braking Performance
Along with brake pedal pulsation and steering wheel vibration, you may notice your car doesn’t brake as well. It may take longer to slow down if the brake parts are worn.
How to Test the Brake Rotors While Driving
When driving, if the steering wheel or car shakes braking, the seat or vehicle pulls forward and backward, or the brake pedal pulsates when it’s depressed, the brake pads and rotors are worn and probably need to be replaced. This can definitely be confirmed if the symptoms of bad brake rotors appear and the material on the brake pad is worn or low.
How to Replace the Brake Pads and Rotors
Amateurs and novices can replace the brake pads and brake rotors themselves with the right hand tools.
The steps for replacing the brakes usually include
- Raising the Vehicle
Raise and secure the vehicle with a jack and jack stands
- Removing the Tire
Loosening the lug nuts and removing the tire
- Loosening the Brake Caliper
Loosening the screws and removing the brake caliper and brake caliper bracket from the rotor
- Removing the Brake Pads and Brake Rotor
Removing the brake pads from the caliper bracket and removing the rotor from the wheel hub
- Greasing the New Brake Parts
Applying grease to the brake pad tabs, caliper slide pins and caliper bracket
- Reversing the Steps to Reinstall
Reversing these steps to reinstall, following torque specs for your vehicle
Check out the video below for an idea of a brake repair’s basic steps.
Signs the Brakes Are Working Safely
Once you have replaced the brakes, the car should not shake when braking but should brake smoothly. Signs of working brakes include:
- Vehicle does not lurch when the brakes are applied
- Steering wheel is stable when braking
- Braking feels smoother
- Vehicle brakes in a straight forward line
- Vehicle stops within a shorter distance
This video demonstrates what safe braking should look and feel like
Fix Worn Brake Pads and Rotors on Your Own Vehicle
Shop Parts Mentioned in This Article
- Brakes Squealing? It’s Probably Time for New Brake Pads
- Causes and Fixes of Pulsating Brakes
- Why do my brakes squeak? [Expert Advice to Diagnose & Fix]
- Why are my brakes grinding? [Expert advice to diagnose & fix]
- Different Types of Disc Brakes
- How Long Do Brakes Usually Last?
- How Much Does It Cost to Replace Brake Pads?
- Do I Need to Turn Rotors When Changing Brake Pads?
- Common Problems on the 1st Gen 98-07 Ford Focus