Brake rotors play a crucial role in a car’s braking system. They spin with the wheels and stop them when the brake clamps are pressed down on them.
During this process, brake rotors are exposed to a lot of heat which can lead to warping.
Warping of brake rotors is when the top part of these objects becomes uneven after a while. Warped rotors often affect the car’s braking system by making it less effective, and at times, it can be jittery.
Table of Contents
- So, Can Warped Brake Rotors Cause a Car to Vibrate When Not Braking?
- How to Diagnose Rotor Warping?
- Are Warped Rotors Fixable?
- What are the Leading Causes of Car Vibrations?
- What Could Be Causing My Car to Vibrate When Not Braking?
- Can Warped Rotors Cause Vibrations on the Steering Wheel?
- How Frequently Does Warping of Brake Rotors Occur?
So, Can Warped Brake Rotors Cause a Car to Vibrate When Not Braking?
If your car has warped rotors, the first symptom is that you will experience some vibration when you apply the brakes.
Should you notice any vibrations when not braking, then you may be dealing with another issue and not warped rotors.
Alternatively, you may brake rotors may be warped, and you could be facing another issue such as tire imbalance.
To better understand why warped rotors cause a vibration when you apply the brakes, we must look much deeper into this problem.
Warped brake rotors often occur in two ways. We have already mentioned the first one, where wear may occur due to heat and cause the top part of the brakes to be uneven.
This is usually because of applying constant pressure to the brakes. Mechanical wear may cause some parts on the rotor to be higher than others.
On the other hand, the material on the brake pads can glaze the exterior area of the rotors when these two parts rub against one another in the presence of high heat. This can also lead to uneven surfaces on the brake rotor.
Warped rotors can be prevented as long as you practice good braking habits. As you apply your car’s brakes, avoid doing so for an extended duration as this leads to long-term exposure to heat, which can either cause glazing of brake pad material to the rotor or actual wear of the rotor surface.
How to Diagnose Rotor Warping?
The number one sign of rotor warping is that the car will vibrate when applying brakes. This is what most car owners use to diagnose brake rotor issues.
There are other signs such as jittery brakes, the car vibrating when it comes to a stop, the smell of burning rubber when applying brakes, and loud squeaking.
These could also be signs of other issues. The best thing to do when you think you have warped brakes is to disassemble the braking system and check if the exterior area of the rotors is uniform.
At times a visual inspection may not be enough. You may need special tools to check if the surface level of the rotors is even.
Are Warped Rotors Fixable?
Should you discover that the rotors are worn out or uneven, the guys at your nearest auto shop can provide resurfacing services.
This is whereby your rotors are scrapped off to achieve a uniform surface. Even if the warped rotors aren’t causing the car to vibrate when not braking, they must be fixed right away.
Nowadays, resurfacing brake rotors aren’t the go-to solution because the cost of replacing the warped rotors has become significantly low.
The cost of new brake rotors has decreased drastically. Therefore instead of resurfacing, your mechanic can advise you to replace the entire set with new ones.
The other reason why we are advising you to replace warped rotors is that industry standards require rotors to have a certain thickness level which may be limited on a rotor that has been resurfaced.
What are the Leading Causes of Car Vibrations?
Warped rotors are undeniably the leading cause of car vibrations. The problem here is that warped rotors only cause vibrations when the brakes are engaged.
If your car is vibrating yet you are not applying the brakes, you need to look for another culprit. The reason why warped rotors cause a vibration when the car is braking is because of the contact between the brake clamps and an uneven surface.
This should cause the car to shake. But, if the brakes aren’t engaged, then there is nothing that is causing unwanted friction.
What Could Be Causing My Car to Vibrate When Not Braking?
This is the right question you should be asking. Having ruled out that warped rotors are not to blame for vibrations when not braking, you need to identify the cause of this problem.
Here are some reasons why your car could be vibrating even when not braking;
1. Wheel Alignment Issues
There is a reason why you should always check your wheel alignment from time to time. Cars are designed to move in the direction dictated by the steering wheels.
After a while, it is normal for one or some of your wheels to deviate from the angle that the manufacturer sets. This is what leads to the misalignment of wheels.
If the wheels of your vehicles are misaligned, then you will notice frequent vibrations even if you are not applying the brakes.
Constant shaking is also a common symptom of wheel misalignment. The difference is that it occurs whether you are braking or not. Vibrations aren’t the only sign of misalignment issues.
You may also experience uneven tire wear, and noise coming from the tires, and another sign that can inform you of wheel misalignment is that the steering wheel can pull towards one side of the road.
You may notice the car leaning towards the left or right, yet the steering wheel is straight when you drive.
Wheel alignment issues aren’t a big problem. This is a service that can be offered in a gas station or mechanic shop near your home.
In some rare cases, you may have to replace tires in case one or two have worn out excessively due to misalignment. Similar to warped motors, wheel alignment issues can be avoided through regular alignment inspection. This will also ensure your tires last longer.
2. Tire Balancing Issues
You will realize that most causes of car vibrations seem to arise from the wheels. Tire balancing is another cause of vibrations when not braking.
If your car tires are not balanced, the rotation intervals may vary at particular speeds, thus causing the vehicle to shake.
Unbalanced tires manifest these issues in two ways. The car may vibrate, and you may notice uneven tire wear. The latter will take time to notice.
So, you should take vibrations seriously. With unbalanced tires, the vibration mostly occurs on the affected tire. If it’s the left-back tire, you should feel the vibration in the back seat.
Before the affected tires wear out completely, this is an issue that can be fixed quickly and fairly easily. Your mechanic should provide tire balancing services. In case the unbalanced tire has worn out, you may have to replace it right away.
3. Faulty Axles
The axle of your car connects to the wheels and rotates to support the vehicle’s movement. When the axle gets hit during an accident, it can bend and start to wobble when driving, leading to vibrations, especially when driving fast.
A damaged axle is a serious issue, and its repair or replacement can cost you a significant amount of money. It is important to drive carefully and remember that such issues can be expensive to repair and risky to drive your car with.
These aren’t the only things that can cause a car to vibrate without braking. Wheel issues such as loose lug nuts or even bearings can cause the vehicle to vibrate without braking.
Also, if you have suspension or engine problems, the car may vibrate. It’s important always to unearth the root cause.
Can Warped Rotors Cause Vibrations on the Steering Wheel?
If you are dealing with warped rotors, you should feel the vibration on the affected rotor. If it’s on the wheel on the co-driver side, the vibrations should be present there.
However, if the warped rotor is on the driver’s side, you can feel the vibration extending to the wheel because it is directly beneath it.
This often varies from one car to another. The best way to confirm is to get a professional diagnosis.
How Frequently Does Warping of Brake Rotors Occur?
Brake rotors are made of a very strong material that can withstand heat and friction. Therefore, they do not warp easily. However, certain braking habits can cause some brake rotors to warp faster than others.
If you have the habit of pressing on the brakes for a considerably long period, you expose the rotors to a lot of heat which can either glaze the rotors or physically wear out the surface.
The bottom line is that brake rotors don’t wear out quickly. In most cases, it’s usually the build-up of the brake pad material which can be removed during resurfacing.
Though avoidable, warped brake rotors are something that is bound to happen after some time.
If you notice any vibrations, always take your vehicle to a mechanic for a professional diagnosis. As you can see, some of the causes of vibration when not braking can be quite severe.