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Are your brakes vibrating, pulsating, or warped?

The 411 on Brake Judders

Many of the people I talk to on a daily basis complained that their brakes are vibrating, pulsating, and that their rotors are warped. This little guide will help you somewhat understand why you are getting that annoying shaking every time you step on the brakes and what you can do to help prevent it.

Brake Rotors warp for several reasons: Friction materials from the brake pads transferring to the surface of the rotors causing heat spots. Heat spots are basically tiny little bumps on the surface of the rotor. When your rotors get too hot, materials from the pads will dissolve and glaze at different areas on the rotor surface. The pads will rub on these isolated glazed areas over and over until they form heat spots. The heat spots are elevated above the rotor surface and this is why you to get brake pulsation.

The calipers can also cause your rotors to warp. Some people have experience sticky calipers. This is when the calipers restrict the pads from releasing after you take your foot off the brakes. When this happen, the pads will stay in contact with the rotor, causing the rotor to overheat and will eventually lead to a warp rotor if not fix.

Another common cause of warped or pulsating rotors is the over tightening of lug nuts. Over tightened lug nuts is easily avoidable if people are aware of the stress it can put on the rotors. Even mechanics make this mistake. For example, the air wrenches they use in their shops are usually preset to the strongest settings. They use the wrench at this preset setting to tighten everything on your vehicle. This is bad because not only can it damage and strip your bolts it can also cause your rotors to warp prematurely.

Here are some things to consider that will help prevent warped rotors.

1) Upgrade to cross drilled rotors. Cross drilled rotors will provide better heat ventilation. It will bring the temperature of the rotor down to a point where heat spots are least likely to form. Cross drilled rotors will prevent the glazed effect from brake pads.

2) When you change new brake pads make sure to take the time to do the proper break in. Here is the recommended break in procedure for new pads taken from Hawk, a leading maker of performance brake pads.

1. After installing new brake pads, make 6 to 10 stops from approximately 30-35 mph applying moderate pressure
2. Make an additional 2 to 3 hard stops from approximately 40-45 mph
3. DO NOT DRAG BRAKES
4. Allow 15 minutes for brake system to cool down
5. After step 4 your new pads are ready for use

3) Use proper lug nut tightening procedures. Lug nut torque is very important when it comes to the integrity of your rotors. Varying torque from one lug nut to another can cause your rotors to warp over time. Always use a torque wrench when tightening lug nuts. It is good practice to tighten the lug nut in a criss-cross pattern. You do not need to jump on the wrench to tighten the lug nuts. Simply use your body weight on the torque wrench until it stops turning. If you do this evenly to all the lug nuts on each wheel in a criss-cross pattern you are on the path to maximum rotor life.

Not only are your rotors vital to your car’s performance it is vital for your safety. So go now and check your lug nuts!

This post was provided by Long D. One of R1 Concepts Inc. Sales Representatives.

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One Response to Are your brakes vibrating, pulsating, or warped?

  1. Joe June 17, 2009 at 8:43 am #

    i am not sure if this is addressed in this article or not…..when i apply my brakes, SOMETIMES i get the lurching feeling. The car (actually I do) gently lurches foward on the brakes grabbing, the brakes seemingly let go a bit, then they grab again…..this goes back and forth until the car stops. What could this be?

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