What Causes Brake Pulsation?
In general, feeling a pulsation or vibrating sensation when you hit the brakes isn’t a good thing. When your brakes are working as they should, you should be able to slow down and stop smoothly whenever you apply pressure to the brakes. If instead, you feel a pulsing or vibrating sensation when you tap on the brakes, it’s time to bring it in for an inspection.
The cause is probably unevenly worn rotors, which isn’t going to go away on its own. It’s better to bring your vehicle in for service at the first sign of pulsation than to wait around for the problem to get worse. Anytime brake performance is decreased your ability to stop may be compromised. Safety and performance decreases are linked.
Fortunately, brake pulsation is not a major safety concern when the pulsation is minor, and we can fix for you here at Spring Works to get you back on the road in safe and reliable transportation.
What are unevenly worn (aka warped) rotors?
“Warped rotors” is the most common diagnosis you’ll hear from both professionals and car enthusiasts in regard to your brake pulsation. However, the phrasing isn’t exactly accurate. Rotors don’t really warp from normal use. The only way they might warp is from a manufacturer’s defect, which is relatively rare and is generally not the cause of the brake pulsation we’re talking about.
Instead of getting warped, what actually happens is that the thickness in the rotor ends up becoming unevenly worn. This can cause the pulsation that you feel, even though the rotor isn’t technically “warped.”
The rotor’s thickness doesn’t need to be drastically uneven in order for you to feel it when you’re driving. In fact, it can be off by just a few thousandths of an inch. If it’s off significantly more than that, you might feel the entire vehicle shaking or even pulling to one side when you apply the brakes.
This is why it’s important to have your vehicle serviced once you notice pulsation. If you leave it alone, the problem will only get worse, leaving you with less safe and more costly vehicle to drive and repair. Safety decreases when performance decrease. In the case of pulsating brakes increased stopping distance can cause unsafe driving conditions.
What causes unevenly worn rotors?
Once the problem of your brake pulsation has been diagnosed as unevenly worn rotors, it’s time to figure out what caused unevenness in the first place. It could be that your vehicle’s calipers aren’t fully releasing the brake pad when you take your foot off the brake pedal. This can cause friction (heat) as your wheels rotate, leaving the pads to drag on the rotors and ultimately damage them by operating above the temp they were designed to operate. As rotor gets thin, from normal use or previous brake services, they do not dissipate heat efficiently. The inability to release heat cause wear problems for rotors and pads.
Another cause of unevenly worn rotors is the brake pads themselves. When brake pads exceed their intended limit, they’ll deposit material unevenly onto the brake rotor. This build-up can create uneven thickness on the brake rotor, giving you the sensation of a “warped” rotor.
How do you fix unevenly worn rotors?
In some cases, we can fix your rotor by resurfacing them on a lathe machine so they’re even once again. Sometimes this is a less costly method than replacing your rotor. However, in some cases, the rotor is beyond repair because the rotor thickness has already been used up or it's simply less costly to replace them. If this is the case, then we will recommend replacing your current rotor with a new rotor to stop your brake from vibrating and give you a safer driving, and braking, experience.
If you’re experiencing vibrations or pulsations when you hit the brake pedal, don’t waste time trying to figure out what’s causing it. Bring your vehicle into Spring Works for a brake inspection. We’ll diagnose the problem and give you our suggestions for repair or replacement. Your safety is our number one priority, which is why we offer a complimentary brake inspection. Schedule your appointment today!