Ah, the smell of burning brake pads in the morning...smelled like...victory. ABS problem?

Ok, so my brake pads are actually not smelling like “victory” right now. Right now I am relegated to public Wi-fi at McDonald’s so I’m sorry if a question like this has been asked and answered already. Any ideas on what these symptoms might mean?

Background: 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse. I think this might have all started when I hit the brakes pretty hard one day, hard enough to normally skid a car but the car has ABS, so it did not skid. Didn’t notice these signs immediately after, but they have happening for weeks now and here they are:

  1. Front driver’s side tire bumps, sounds like a jack hammer but slower. Can get bad enough where I feel the steering wheel jarring so I have to hold on with both hands (I don’t have power steering.) At first I suspected bad tire maybe, but the tire is fine.

  2. First few times it did that, it smelled like burned brake pads

  3. Only saw this once at night but the rotor got so hot that when I pulled over to look, it was glowing orange.

  4. It do longer smells like brake pads, but it still shakes

  5. The shaking and hammering stops and starts form one day to the next. I drive on the highway, then maybe 20 minutes I have to pull over
    and drive on the road. If I let it rest an hour, it might go away.

  6. I happens randomly at different speeds. One day it does it at highway speeds, the next day, 40 and some other day at 20mph.

  7. I jacked up the car and got both front tires off the ground. Then I started the car and put it drive: a.) the left side would not rotate! b.) gave it gas, the tranny shifted gears, got up all the way to 35 “mph” on the speedometer, and still the left tire would not rotate.

  8. The tire can rotate with enough applied force using a crow bar. Nothing terribly strong…18" bar, I would say 20lbs torque

  9. Oh and by the way the 30 amp? ABS fuse in the hood is not there, never has been.

I lowered the car and it drove. But it still acts up from time to time. Any ideas? Any help would be appreciated.

edit: it doesn’t shake so much now as it does hammer. But I really don’t feel the car tire hammering or bumping, I can hear it. Metal to metal, like a little gremlin is hammering the inside of the hood or something.

It sounds to me like the ABS system intermittantly thinks that wheel isn’t turning (is skidding) and is fluctuating it’s little valve in the modulator, creating pulsating of the brake. This isn’t normal, but the only root causes I can suggest are a broken or defective wheel speed sensor or sensing ring. I suspect it’s unrelated to the hard stop, but was just due to fail.

Head straight to a shop. No good can come from ignoring this.

Can I for the time being somehow disable ABS (yeah I know, it’s dangerous). On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being really good, what are the chances of this being a do-it-yourself? I’ve done basic stuff like brakes, fuel pumps, rebuilt an engine once but I just followed my mechanic’s friend instructions. Point is, I’m mechanically inclined. Think I have a shot?

Sure you have a shot…if you are mechanically inclined just follow some of the things to check in my post here

This sounds to me like you have a Sticking Brake caliper… When you slammed on the brakes that day…you may have gotten the calipers panties in a bunch… Many X it is the sliders on the caliper…the caliper actually sort of floats on these “pins” They need to be grease and free moving…so that the caliper can move and the brake pads can wear evenly. MANY people do their brakes and totally ignore these pins…BAD IDEA.

So…check for the stuck caliper…and if this has been happening long enough for you to see a Cherry red rotor…then methinks that you probably have now suffered brake pad damage…as in you need to replace them…They are probably worn crooked…take a look at them.

You can also have stuck/sticky/hard to move brake pads in the caliper…you need to check the action of the pads in the caliper also… I always grease the tips of the pads…or rather I grease the corners of the caliper…where the stainless steel clips are inserted to assist the pads in sliding.the stuck caliper piston…or the not greased caliper slider pins.

SO…you need to look into that brake caliper on the left side…IF you do not notice anything out of the ordinary…which is HIGHLY UNLIKELY…then check for wheel bearing issues. With the car raised and front wheels off the ground and lug nuts tight, grab the wheel and try to move it left to right…then up and down…Is there any play? Does the wheel feel loose in some way? If so you found the bearing…this can get the wheel and rotor/etc out of alignment and this will make the rotor bind in the caliper because it is no longer properly lined up to spin freely.

You DEFINITELY have some type of brake issue on the left side of the car…At this point also those Cherry red rotors…are most likely garbage now…they dont like that kind of heat…they warp…compounding everything.

You have a lot of inspections to do…Let us know what you find and we will go from there Sir.


Jack up the L/F wheel. Remove the tire. Firmly step on the brake and release. Can you turn the hub with your hand? You should be able to…But if not, momentarily open the bleeder valve. Did fluid squirt out? Can you turn the rotor now? If yes, replace the rubber fllex hose feeding the caliper. If opening the bleeder did not release the brake, replace the caliper.

From what you have said, smoking brakes, red-hot rotors, I would replace both calipers, rotors, pads and flex-lines as these parts useful life is OVER…

The OP really needs to go thru the checklist I /we have provided for him… We need to know the status of that left caliper…

If you find a bad caliper…then replace it… ALSO replace the pads…from your description they have suffered enough and are most likely distorted in some way…so…new padski’s please. You can replace only the parts that you find are faulty. No need to do both of everything…HOWEVER…you cant go wrong by doing as Caddy suggested… I know some guys that do part replacements in pairs…like changing BOTH brake calipers when they find one to be bad… The logic here is “If the left caliper just died…and the right side is still working…Well its as old as the one that just failed so it may not live much longer…etc” Not much wrong with that logic…Just costs more… You can do it part by part…or in pairs… Up to you… I see logic in both methods… I do it part by part personally, but that’s just me…being a mechanic its easy for me to make that decision.


What scares me is that the car is driven, knowing that one front wheel locks up from time to time at random.
“I lowered the car and it drove. But it still acts up from time to time.” – I hope that’s in a parking lot with nobody around. Please don’t drive that thing on public roads until you’ve definitely fixed it. You’re going to kill someone.

I know…do you need a few more clues to tell you to STOP DRIVING?

If this is how people choose to limit the size of the gene pool, I guess I’m OK with it. Just stay away from me and mine. :slight_smile:

Whether it’s a stuck caliper, a malfunctioning ABS, or a dead racoon in the wheel, have this towed to a shop ASAP.

The excess heat in the LF corner can do more damage than you might realize. Others here have suggested warping oof the rotor (almost guaranteed), but that level of heat can also boil brake fluid and can damage the flex hose that connects the main line to the wheel. It can also damage seals and fittings. You could easily fid yourself suddenly training a line of draining brake fluid. Without brakes. At the same time that someone’s child runs out into the street in front of you. Could you live with that on your conscience?

Once the cause of the problem is diagnosed and corrected, I’d recommend as a minimum a brake fluid flush. Perhaps even a new flex line just to be on the safe side.

Whenever your rotor gets so hot that it’s “glowing” orange (as the OP put it) . . . you have to suspect a stuck caliper or broken pad within the caliper . . . but certainly enough to warrant that the OP STOP DRIVING THE VEHICLE before the brake locks up while driving and causes an accident. I’m teaching my Son to drive and trying at the same time to educate him on the general workings of a motor vehicle and it still scares me to see how little some folks (not necessarily you, OP) care about safety when they’re driving a 3500 pound piece of metal 65 mph toward or around me. I know all of you guys must have some great stories, but this one could turn into a fatality. Get some professional advice and have a mechanic look at it before you get killed or kill someone else. Rocketman

I’m going to add one more think, if that rotor got hot enough to glow, then the wheel bearing is also cooked. Regardless of the root cause, that much heat will ruin the caliper, rotor, pads, wheel bearing and the hose. So the bottom line is, replace it all on the left side. Let your mechanic help you decide what needs to be done on the right side.

Also get the ABS checked out.

Not to mention…the possibility of FIRE!!!

So you will be rocketing down the street…Out of control…Unable to STOP…AND ON FIRE! LOL…I think I saw that in the movies once… The outcome wasn’t good in the movie either.

You needs to get this REPAIRED SUPER ASAP…We don’t want you hurting yourself…but more importantly…hurting other innocent folk in your way.