What does it mean if you have warped rotors?
Is your brake pedal or steering wheel wobbling when you brake, especially on the highway? You might have warped rotors.
Your rotors are those round discs you might be able to see through the spaces in your rim. When you hit the brake, the brake pads the rotor to bring your vehicle to a stop. Rotors are supposed to be flat and smooth, but a number of factors can cause warpage and compromise your vehicle’s ability to brake.
What causes warped rotors?
Most of the time, warped rotors are caused by excessive heating.
What’s causing the excessive heating? A technician would need to run some tests to diagnose the cause, but it could be a few things:
Brake system issues
If your back brakes aren’t working, for example, your front brakes will work even harder, heating up your rotors. Or maybe you’ve got a sticky caliper (the mechanism that houses and operates your brake pads).
Note: If your shocks are not performing as designed, they can also be the root cause of rotor warpage as excessive weight shifts to the front design braking.
If you live in a city where you’re hard on your brakes either because of the hilly terrain or the traffic, it can take a toll on the performance of your brake system.
Any time you have a wheel installed and someone hasn’t torqued your wheel up properly, that can put stress on your rotor.
Any one of these problems can lead to the excessive heating that’s warping your rotor.
Rotors are a cast metal and the heat generated by braking can release the stress of the casting. That’s when your rotors will warp, especially if they’re thin from wear.
You might not be able to see your warped rotors, but you’ll probably be able to feel it.
How to tell if you have warped rotors
Rotors are normally flat and smooth, and as the brake pads clamp down on them, your wheels stop. When they’re warped…
Your brake pads can’t clamp your rotor as easily. That’s why you’ll feel a shudder on the brake pedal when you try to stop, especially at high speeds when your rotors are rotating faster.
You might notice a vibration on the steering wheel as well, especially if it’s your front rotors that are warped. The more warped your rotor is, the more severely you’ll feel that shake on your foot or your hands.
What can you do if you have warped rotors?
You have two choices: replace them, or machine them. Warped rotors, if they’re thick enough, can be turned in a machining process that uses a lathe to smooth the rotor. Unfortunately, since it’s a stressed metal, your rotor can return to its old, warped shape.
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