When you press your brake pedal, what happens? Either your car glides to a nice, smooth stop, or you jitter, vibrate, and squeak along to a halt, accompanied by the acrid smell of burning rubber. It can feel pretty catastrophic but is actually a fairly common scenario and usually indicates warped brake rotors.
So what exactly is a brake rotor, and how does it become warped? Using the word "warped" is a bit misleading since uneven wear on the rotor is the actual culprit behind these problems. The rotor is an iron disc connected to the hub of your car's tire. When you press the brake pedal, brake pads clamp down onto the large surface area of the rotor and create friction, which resists the spin of the wheel and enables your car to slow down or stop. As you can imagine, this braking process creates a large amount of heat. This heat causes uneven wearing in two different ways.
In one situation, the brake pads overheat. The grippy material comprising the pads becomes too soft. This grippy material from the brake pads is then transferred to the rotor in random, uneven patches, glazing the rotor and creating an uneven surface. The other situation caused by excessive heat is uneven wear of the surface of the rotor itself. Brake pads are designed to wear down and be replaced, but extreme excessive heat can affect the metal surface of the rotor. If the metal becomes too hot, it will become soft and wear down in certain spots. Some spots on the rotor will be higher than others, again creating an uneven surface.
The best way to prevent warped brake rotors is to avoid excessive heat caused by constant braking. It is important to be mindful of your braking habits and not constantly apply your brakes, especially when they are already heated from use. It is also important to be on the lookout for the symptoms of a warped brake rotor like excessive vibration, jittering, squealing, and a burning rubber smell. Driving with these symptoms is dangerous as you will experience reduced braking power and eventual brake system failure.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, drive over to our auto repair shop today to get fixed right up!