Squeaking, grinding and squealing sounds are normally associated with needing new brakes.
The steering wheel may also start shaking. (You can read more about when to get new brake pads and rotors in this article.)
However, sometimes a brake problem can be disguised as something else.
The other week, we worked on a vehicle that seemed to have an engine problem and the air conditioning was being impacted.
One of our technicians worked his dad’s 2009 Chevy Malibu. It was experiencing problems when it was driven for 30 minutes or longer at around 45 miles per hour, especially on hot days. The A/C would stop working and the vehicle would feel as though it was running rough or stumbling.
How we diagnosed the brake problem
Our tech had driven it back and forth during his lunch break but wasn’t able to duplicate the issue.
The other day, his dad brought it by the shop when he noticed it was occurring again. The Chevy was driven up the street and – when it hit 35 or 40 mph – there appeared to be a misfire. On top of that, the engine seemed like it wasn’t producing enough power and there was shaking coming from the front end. The mechanic noticed a sort of pulsation, as well.
After pulling over on the side of the road, he pressed on the gas and it took a great deal of effort for the car to accelerate. He could tell there was a braking issue.
It was a very odd situation – the engine felt like it was lacking power, but the brake pads were trying to bite down on spots of the rotor, causing a symptom that resembled a misfire. No codes were being stored, the check engine light wasn’t turning on.
We think the vehicle was attempting to accelerate while the gas pedal was pressed, and it cut off the air conditioning to provide more power.
When the technician returned to Steve’s Auto Repair, he could smell burning brakes. Using a temperature gun, he checked each of the wheels and found that the left front one was much hotter than the rest. In fact, the temperature of the front left wheel was off the charts. This occurred because the caliper was locking up and trying to apply the brakes even when the driver wasn’t stepping on the brake pedal.
Orange and white discoloration around the pads and the reddish hue on the rotors are some signs that the brakes are getting too hot.
To address the issue, the front brake pads, rotors, calipers and brake hoses were replaced.
If you were looking to save yourself some money, you could replace one of the brakes. However, we like to change them as a set.
Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.