If you have experienced your car shake or perhaps your steering wheel wobbles whenever you hit the brakes, it must be because of your car’s warped rotors.
Brake rotors are essential parts of a car. They spin with the wheels and depending on your hubcaps, you might see them through the spaces in your rims. Rotors are round pieces of steel, the ones that your brake pad holds onto when you press the brake pedal.
Warped rotors refer to a rotor with an uneven surface. It is a problem since brake rotors are supposed to be smooth and flat. There are a number of reasons why rotors become warped and we’ll go through each of them, one by one.
Warped Rotors: What causes a warped rotor?
Under normal circumstances, brake rotors are smooth, flat, and round. It spins with the wheels and stops with it when the brakes are hit. Over time, these smooth and flat rotors lose their smoothness and become uneven. Warped rotors can cause a lot of problems and inconvenience to you and your car and you can feel it every time you hit your brakes. So what causes it? Here are ten of the most common causes of a warped rotor.
- Excessive braking at high speeds.
Excessive use of brakes at high speeds can cause warped rotors. When you keep on using your brakes at high speeds, it could cause heat to build up. When heat builds up, the rotors become too hot, and they will become soft and will start to warp.
- Issues with the brake system.
Issues with your brake system can result in warped rotors. This happens when one of your brakes is not working properly. Like if your rear brakes are not doing what it’s supposed to, your front brakes will have to work double-time and this can heat up your rotors, causing them to warp.
Faulty shocks can also lead to warped rotors since the extra weights will have to be shifted to the front design braking.
- Brake rotors glazed with materials from the brake pad.
Brake rotors can get coated with materials from the brake pad when the brake pad gets too hot from high-speeding and braking. Riding on the brakes for a prolonged time can cause it too. When this happens, the grippy materials from the brake pad get too soft and will tend to rub off on the brake rotor which causes it to become uneven.
You have to be careful when this happens since it can decrease the efficiency of the brakes. It means that when you hit the brakes, chances are, the brake pad won’t grip onto the metal again.
- Rotor’s surface wearing down.
The brake rotors are made of metals and are built much harder than the brake pads applying friction to them. Because of this, the brake pad wears down while the rotors remain unchanged. But with the presence of excessive heat, this metal gets soft enough for the brake pads to wear down the surface of the rotor. The warping happens when the thinner spots of the metal wear down faster and the harder parts stick out.
- Bad driving habits.
Bad driving habits can also cause warped rotors. It is because the common cause of warped rotors is heat and it usually happens when one is hard driving. To prolong the life of your brake rotors and brake pads, you should learn proper braking habits or procedures and use the right brake pad for your driving styles.
Learning the proper braking techniques can help you understand how braking works and what it does to your car. It can also become a useful skill that can help you protect yourself, your car, and everyone around you.
- Over-torquing of the lug nuts.
If you have recently had your tires or wheels removed, over-torquing of your lug nuts can cause stress on your brake rotor. Proper torquing of the lug nuts can be done by using a torque wrench since a pneumatic air tool tends to apply too much torque when used on the lugs.
- Rapid temperature changes.
Another thing that can cause warped rotors is a sudden change in temperature. An example is when you are using your brakes excessively and it heats up. While it’s hot, you drive and hit a cool puddle of water. While it may seem fun to drive on puddles of water, you need to keep in mind the temperature difference between your braking system and the puddle of water. Rapid temperature changes can cause the metal disc or your rotors to become warped.
- Wear and tear from being used for a long time.
Like any other parts of your car, wear and tear from being used for a long time can happen to your brake rotors, too. Your brake rotor is always being ground into by the brake pads every time the speed needs to be reduced and that happening every day for a long time can take a toll on the rotor.
- Faulty brake calipers.
Your car’s brake calipers fit over the rotors similar to a clamp and it squeezes the rotors together. A faulty brake caliper can cause it to apply too much force and puts too much stress on the overheated brake rotors. When this happens, it could lead to uneven or warped rotors.
- Bad wheel bearing.
Damaged wheel bearing can cause your wheels to wobble even if there is no bent. Bad wheel bearing can cause excessive play that can lead to the brake pad’s uneven wear, warped rotors, and other serious problems. If you suspect that you have a defective wheel bearing, have it checked immediately and have it repaired to avoid serious issues in the future.
Warped Rotors: What are the signs of bad rotors?
Knowing the causes of warped rotors can help you be cautious of your driving habit and help you address the issue before it gets worse. If you think that you already have a bad rotor but are not quite sure yet, here are some of the common signs of faulty or warped rotors.
- Excessive noise every time you hit the brakes.
Warped rotors can cause excessive noise every time you brake. You might hear it as a loud squeaking, grinding, or scraping sound. But keep in mind that worn-out brake pads can cause excessive noise. It is recommended that the minute you hear strange noises coming from your vehicle, you should visit your service shop immediately to diagnose and correct the problem that causes it.
- Car vibrates when you hit the brakes.
When you press the brakes and you feel your vehicle vibrate, it could be because of warped rotors. You may also feel your brake pedal and steering wheel vibrate. This should not happen. Pressing the brake pedal should be smooth even when you hit sudden brakes. A vibrating brake pedal every time it is being used means that there is a problem with your brake rotors.
A vibrating steering wheel is not a common symptom of a warped rotor but it can happen. This is because the brake rotors and the brake calipers are connected to the same spindle to where the wheels are attached to. So if ever you have a warped rotor, the vibrations from the rotors will be transmitted to the brake calipers then to the wheels and then the steering wheel.
For your safety, when these symptoms show up, you need to schedule your car for a service and rectify the problem. You don’t want to wait until the problem becomes too expensive and difficult to fix.
- Visible cuts or deep marks on the rotor.
You can visually check your rotor for any visible cuts, deep marks or grooves on it. Brake rotors should be flat and smooth. If you see any visible marks, it could be an indication that you have warped rotors. You can remove your tires so you can thoroughly inspect your brake rotors.
When you visually inspect your brake rotor, look for cuts, marks, visible cracks, heat spots, and rust.
Warped Rotors: How do you fix a warped rotor?
When you encounter problems with your brake rotors and you suspect that you have warped rotors, you might ask how do you fix it? You have two choices. You can fix it by either resurfacing your brake rotor or by replacing it.
- Resurfacing brake rotors.
When your brake rotors have worn unevenly or warped, you can opt to resurface them. Resurfacing rotors mean that some of its metal will be removed to make the surface smooth and even again. But it is not always the perfect solution. A brake rotor has a minimum thickness that is made standard by the manufacturers. If the warped rotor won’t be able to maintain its standard thickness when resurfaced, then a rotor replacement will be the only way to fix it.
Brake rotors are usually being resurfaced when the brake pads are replaced. This is done because putting a new brake pad on an uneven or warped rotor shortens the life of the newly-installed brake pad.
- Replacing brake rotors.
Replacing your brake rotors with a new one is the best way to fix warped rotors. Brake rotors that are resurfaced will get thinner each time it is done and will reduce their lifespan.
Replacing your brake rotor will also be the best option because of these reasons – the cost and the thickness. The cost of a brake rotor replacement is rather less expensive now compared to before. You might be able to get a new one at the same price as resurfacing your old one. Of course, as mentioned above, resurfacing your warped rotors depends on their thickness. A replacement will only be the option if the mechanic sees that your rotor is thinner than the minimum standard thickness.
Fixing warped rotors by either resurfacing or replacing them is very important. This is because if you fail to do so, you might encounter the following:
- Your braking ability will be reduced. If you don’t take heed of your car’s early signs of a warped rotor and still choose to use your vehicle, know that you will be compromising your safety. Faulty brake rotors can reduce your braking ability. It can lead to your brakes failing that can cause a serious accident.
Warped rotors can also cause your brakes to experience an increased stopping time. It will take longer to stop your vehicle. In case of emergency and you need to stop quickly, your brakes might fail you.
- Increased braking system wear. Not acting immediately when your brake rotors start to act up can lead to increased wear on your car’s braking system. A faulty brake rotor can cause the brake pads to wear out faster and can also damage the brake calipers. If the problem continues to increase, it will become too costly to repair.
- Your brakes might temporarily fail. Your brake pads tend to wiggle back and forth when you have a warped rotor. This can cause your brake fluid to foam up and the appropriate amount of hydraulic pressure will not be delivered to your car’s braking system. When this happens, your brakes can temporarily fail.
- Your liability is increased. Warped rotors that are not repaired or replaced immediately not only compromise your safety but it can also compromise the safety of other drivers and pedestrians. When you still drive knowing that you have a faulty component, it makes you responsible or accountable for any accidents or damages your faulty component might cause.
Warped Rotors: Is it dangerous to drive with warped rotors?
It has been said again and again that it is not safe to drive with warped rotors. It is a problem that requires fast action. It needs to be addressed immediately. If you suspect that you have a bad rotor, and you experience the early signs and symptoms listed above, avoid driving it and visit your local repair shop right away. Do not gamble. Have it checked and repaired before you get your car back on the road again.