Warped Rotors: What are Common Causes and Their Fixes?

Warped rotors are a worrisome issue for many car owners, especially if the vehicle makes strange sounds. The warping could be due to driving on rough roads and excess heat.

Fixing Warped Rotors

This article covers the signs, causes, and fixes for this problem.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Warped Rotors?

The common symptoms of warped rotors are steering system vibrations, brake noises, and brake pad throbbing. Other signs of warping of rotors include uneven rotor layout and vehicle pulling to one side. The occurrence of any of these symptoms in your vehicle means that your rotors have become warped.

 

Steering Wheel Vibrations

The rotors and calipers are attached to the same spindle as the wheels in every vehicle. So, if the rotors are vibrating because they are warped, the vibrations will be transferred from the calipers down to the wheels and then the steering system. Once you feel vibrations in the steering, it means that there is an issue with the front rotors.

A visit to the auto repair shop should be your priority.

Brake Noises

Another symptom of rotors that have become warped is noises from the brake system. You hear these noises when you apply the brakes to halt or slow down the car. The noises could also be created because the rotors touch the brake pads at irregular intervals.

This malfunction can be traced to the uneven rotor layout. Thus, you will hear a low-pitched groaning or rhythmic thumping sound when riding in the vehicle.

Brake Pad Throbbing

One of the most common signs of a faulty rotor is the pulsation of the brake’s pedal. While driving the car, you will notice a throbbing or pulsating from the brake pedals whenever you apply pressure to the component. Sometimes, just a light press from your foot can cause pulsation. Once you discover this symptom, don’t hesitate to visit your local mechanic to have the rotors inspected and fixed.

Uneven Brake Rotor Surface

If you decide to inspect the brake rotor’s layout and notice that it is uneven, it means the rotor has become warped. It doesn’t matter if the unevenness is a little.

Uneven Brake Rotor Surface

This is a sure sign that something is wrong with the rotor, and you should seek the help of a professional.

Vehicle Pulling to One Side

If your vehicle ever pulls to the left or right while applying the brakes, this is your cue that you have a damaged rotor due to warping. Now, you should know that this can be an extremely dangerous occurrence, especially during traffic. Thus, as soon as this event occurs, contact a professional mechanic.

What Are the Common Causes of Warped Rotors?

The common causes of warped rotors are pressing too hard on the brakes, defective calipers, extreme heat, and faulty wheel bearings. Other possible causes of warped brake rotors are plying on rough roads, excessive lateral runout, and poor maintenance of the rotors and brake system.

Hard Braking

Braking too hard is a common cause of rotor warping. This is the use of sudden, excessive force on the pedal to halt the vehicle. It is also known as “lead foot syndrome” and is considered a sign of aggressive driving. When you continuously brake too hard, it will overheat the pads.

The overheating of the brake’s pads will cause the component to wear out faster, and this will affect the rotors. Furthermore, the overheating of the pads can create cracks in the brake hoses and leak brake fluid. This leakage of brake fluid can cause brake wear and warping of the rotor.

Defective Brake Calipers

The function of the calipers is to slow the vehicle’s wheels by creating friction with the brake rotors. The caliper is fitted onto the wheel’s rotor to stop the wheel from turning whenever the driver steps on the brakes.

Thus, if the calipers start to malfunction, it can exert too much stress on the brake rotor. If the rotor cannot bear this force, it will go off-balance, resulting in the warping of the rotor.

Faulty Wheel Bearing

Wheel bearings ensure the smooth rotation of a vehicle’s wheels with minimal friction. However, if these bearings become defective, you will notice a wobbling movement while driving. Furthermore, damaged wheel bearings can lead to other car issues, such as rotor wear, rotor warping, and worn-out brake pad.

Faulty Wheel Bearing

If the damaged wheel bearing is left unchecked, it can lead to the deformation of the mounting face of the wheel hub, and this can cause the hub’s rotor to become warped.

Plying Rough Roads

There is a direct relationship between the quality of the roads you drive on and your vehicle’s health. Driving your vehicle on rough roads can expose it to stress. The accumulation of these stresses will lead to problems such as the warping of rotors.

So, whenever you see potholes, try to avoid them for your rotors’ sake. Similarly, bad driving habits like driving roughly over speed bumps can affect your rotors.

Poor Maintenance

Brake pads and rotors should be maintained regularly like every other vehicle component. When you fail to maintain the brake pads or rotors properly, they will be affected by wear and tear.

A worn pad or rotor means a higher chance of warping the rotor. This is because worn pads will not dissipate heat properly, leading to hard spots on the pads. The effect of this phenomenon is rotor warping.

Another sign of poor rotor maintenance is when brake fluid leaks and you fail to clean it regularly. The accumulation of the leak can affect the performance of the rotor and the brake system itself. Similarly, debris buildup in the rotor can lead to warping of the component.

Extreme Heat

Excess heat is one of the most common causes of brake rotors warping. Brake rotors are designed to work with the brake pads to stop your vehicle when pressing the brake pedal.

Brake Rotors Warping

Whenever your foot rests on the pedal, the brake pads clamp down on the rotor, creating friction that slows the wheels and halts the vehicle. This friction usually generates heat in the brake system. Now, when this heat becomes excess, it can warp the rotor.

The rotor’s response to extreme hotness is to become warped, and this will prevent the pads from easily clamping on the rotors. This is why you hear a shuddering noise whenever you attempt to stop the vehicle using the pedal. If this problem isn’t fixed on time, it can lead to brake failure and possible accidents.

Excessive Lateral Runout

Rotor lateral runout is the side-to-side movement of the rotor as it rotates. It refers to how much the rotor alternates from side to side when viewed from the front edge. As normal as this runout process might seem, it will lead to more serious problems if it becomes excessive.

Excessive movement is responsible for the vibration and pulsation in the steering system or seat of the vehicle. Excessive lateral runout causes wearing of the pad and rotor. Subsequently, the worn-out pad or rotor will warp the rotor.

How Can You Fix Warped Rotors?

You can fix warped rotors by replacing or machining the rotors. Besides changing the rotors, you can also fix the root causes of the problem, such as performing timely maintenance on the rotors, repairing or replacing faulty wheel bearings, and changing the calipers.

Machine the Rotors

Machining is one of the fixes on rotors to restore them to good condition. Machining is done to make the rotors’ surface become even again. The machining process is a quick and cheap solution to the warping of rotors. It involves removing layers of metal materials and restoring flat, smooth surfaces that provide the required friction for the rotor’s optimal operation.

Machining of rotors helps to minimize the noise-producing vibrations or rattling sounds and provides maximum pad contact. However, as great as this solution might sound, the rotors will eventually warp. This is because there will be thickness variation with the rotors. It would have become thinner due to the machining process and no longer dissipate heat properly.

This excessive heat can affect the pads and lead to their breakdown. Thus, you will be forced to spend more money in the long run.

Replace Damaged Rotors

The most suitable solution for fixing rotors that have become warped is to replace them. It is best if you work with a professional, which in this case is a mechanic, to fix this problem. To replace it yourself, begin by parking the vehicle on a dry, flat surface. Then, install wheel chocks to keep the vehicle from moving.

Replacing Damaged Rotors

Afterward, inspect the brake fluid level. If you find it’s full, remove some of it to avoid spillage when compressing the caliper piston. After that, raise the vehicle and remove the wheel. Then reach for the caliper bolts to remove the caliper.

Now, you can remove the old pads and rotors. Inspect the pad for uneven wear or rust before disposing of the old rotor. The next step is to clean the rotor mounting surface and install the new rotor. After this, you can reattach the other brake components. Take the vehicle on a test drive to see if the signs of rotor warping have been eliminated.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Damaged Rotor?

The cost to replace a damaged rotor is between $400 – $500, depending on your location and the mechanic’s expertise. The brake discs may cost you between $200 – $400 for the parts alone. You should also factor in labor costs of about $150.

Faulty Braking System

How Can You Prevent The Brake Rotors From Warping?

You can prevent the brake rotors from warping by not applying the brakes at very high speeds or directly after accelerating. Also, applying the brakes smoothly or waiting till you get to lower speeds before using them increases the durability of the brake pads.

Is It Safe To Drive a Car With a Warped or Damaged Rotor?

No, it is not safe to drive a car with a warped or damaged rotor, as it can greatly reduce the vehicle’s braking efficiency. If the braking performance is affected, the vehicle will take a longer distance and time before it stops. This can lead to accidents while driving.

Conclusion

Having read this guide, your vehicle’s rotor being warped shouldn’t be a source of concern anymore. Here are our concluding thoughts on the main points and frequently asked questions discussed in this article:

  • The symptoms of warping of rotors are steering system vibrations, brake noises, and brake pad throbbing. Other signs of warping of rotors include uneven rotor layout and vehicle pulling to one side.
  • The common causes of warping of rotors are pressing too hard on the brake, defective calipers, and faulty wheel bearings. Other possible causes of warping in vehicle rotors are driving on rough roads, poor maintenance of the rotors, extreme heat, and excessive lateral runout.
  • You can fix the warping of rotors by replacing or machining the rotors. Also, you have to fix the root causes of the problem, such as performing timely maintenance on the rotors, repairing or replacing faulty wheel bearings, and changing the calipers.
  • You should not drive a car whose rotor has experienced warping because it is not safe to do so. The warping can greatly reduce the vehicle’s braking efficiency.

With the knowledge gained in this article, you should be able to detect signs of warping in your rotors, troubleshoot their causes, and fix the problem.

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