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2004 Toyota Avalon Front Brakes

My 2004 Avalon front brakes cause the front of my car to shimmy a lot when slowing down/braking from highway speeds, 50MPH or so and above. I had the front rotors turned and eventually replaced. The shimmy again started after the new rotors were in use for a couple of months. I drive about 15K miles per year. After talking with my lawyer who drives a 2004 Camry about his and my brakes, I found that he too is experiencing the shimmy when stopping with the 2004 Camry. Is this an overall Toyota design flaw (or modification)? Can the shimmy be eliminated? Are there better quality rotors that can be used in my Avalon? Please let me know. I love the car and hope to keep it for a long time. It’s at 96K miles now and is otherwise a great car to drive and ride in. It’s also the last year the Avalon shipped with the split front bench seat that I really like. Thank you!

Something to consider is whether anyone–you, a mechanic, or a tire shop–has removed and replaced wheels/tires on your car. One of the leading causes of brake rotor warping is failure to use the correct torque (turning force) when tightening wheel lug nuts.

It is far too common for garages and tire shops to use powerful pneumatic guns to tighten lug nuts without any consideration of the proper torque–which differs somewhat from one make/model of car to another. Whenever you need to have tires rotated or changed, be sure to specify that you want a torque wrench to be used for tightening the lug nuts and it might be helpful if you even told the technician the amount of torque to be used. Your Owner’s Manual should specify the correct torque, which will be expressed in Foot Lbs.

IMHO, it is a good idea for car owners to have their own torque wrench. The cost is very quickly recouped if it spares you from just one unnecessary brake rotor replacement.

There are a number of things that can cause a brake shimmy that are not related to the brakes; loose ball joint or wheel bearing, worn tie rod or tie rod end, steering rack mounts, conrol arm mounts, brake caliper mounts, and possibly even a bad tire although the latter is a rare event.

Logic would dictate that one of the above problems should cause a problem all of the time but there’s a reason for that and I won’t get into it at the moment.

Whoever is repairing the brakes should be checking the rotors to make sure they’re the cause of the problem rather than just assuming they are. An assumption like this is often standard operating procedure.

When new brake rotors/pads are installed, there’s usually a break in procedure that’s followed to allow the brake pads to embed themselves properly into the rotors. If this procedure isn’t followed it can result in unwanted brake noise or short brake component life.

Every brake job I perform, I’m the one that does this break in procedure to ensure the brake pads have been properly embedded into the rotors to make sure I don’t have a come-back for a brake performance complaint. And so far, I haven’t.


" Are there better quality rotors that can be used in my Avalon? Please let me know."

Probably…The ones you buy from Toyota or any OEM parts counter are usually the best you will find…Aftermarket rotors are frequently Chinese made copies make from scrap metal and quality can be spotty…“Green” (fresh) cast iron is not dimensionally stable and can warp easily. Having your new rotors carefully turned now that they have broken in could solve the problem…

Also if your calipers are frozen or the slides are no longer sliding, the pads can be constantly pressed against the rotors. This can cause them to overheat and warp. Changing or turning the rotors will fix it for a while but a stuck caliper will do the same thing after some time.