Bouncing Explorer Brakes

courtesy of Bob, The Auto Answer Man

Dear Bob,
I took my '95 Ford Explorer in to the dealer for regular maintenance and they found my brakes needed replacing. It was about time, so I agreed. Ever since, the vehicle vibrates when I brake. The dealer told me it was warpage ( something common in stop and go usage and also, that it was not dangerous.) I was told I could have them smoothed out, but it would cost $130 and they could not guarantee the same thing would not happen again. Have you heard of this? I tended to believe the dealer because my brother-in-law worked there, but it is very annoying and makes people nervous when they ride with me.

Dear Andrea,
Yes, this is a common occurrence with disc brakes. What happens is that the disc rotors (basically hunks of round metal that the brakes squeeze against to stop the car) tend to get hot with normal city type driving. This heating and cooling tend to warp (make not so round anymore) the rotors. Now there are two ways to fix this problem. One way is called "turning." Basically, the rotor is put in a machine called a lathe and a small amount of the surface is removed or cut off until it is a uniform thickness.

Another way, which is the only way if the rotors are too thin to start with is a replacement. The price will vary depending on car type from $30 to $250 each. Now, the labor involved is almost the same for both because they have to be removed from the car to re-surface them. Now, there is a machine that will do it on the car, but there are not too many shops that have them (I wish I had one for myself, but they are a bit pricey). If your car is 4 wheel drive, then the labor cost is even more.

Now, as far as safety is concerned, well one thing is that by not doing this, you will shorten the life of the new pads, and second, this vibration that you feel in the steering wheel is wearing some of the other front end components a little faster. In my experience, you will NEVER experience the same feel that the car had when it was new ever again. My brother and I think we found the solution is a set of brake pads that are designed for racing applications, but then again, the price is high... To be honest, most of the current technology found in modern cars can be traced back to racing applications.
Good Luck!
Drive Safely!
Bob, The Auto Answer Man

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