CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Brakes make truck feel like 'washboarding'

After 100,000 miles Toyota tundra, truck started to vibrate when I put on brakes. Had work done – rotors turned. Less than year later – again. Only worse. Got someone else who said a ‘pin’ was missing from one side – got new disks in front (I guess they’re called rotors). Less than year later – again. Mainly on freeway, when I apply brake pedal the truck bounces like it’s on a dirt road ‘washboarding’ – doesn’t fade or pulse. Went to Brake place. Said pads were glazed, that last person ‘put braks on wrong’; they did full brake job, turned rotors. Three months later. Again. Now it’s worse and place says they are ‘brake experts’ but I now doubt that. I think it’s the ‘computer’ sensor – abs. I don’t ride brakes (which is what guy was trying to tell me I did – what 100,000 miles on one set of brakes and now I’m riding the brakes? Says ‘people your age tend to ride the brakes’. Well, I don’t. I think he’s going to replace calipers next. Should I stay with this place or go to Toyota to fix whatever it is?

There are a number of things that can mimic a brake shudder; loose wheel bearings, worn suspension parts such as ball joints, tie rods, etc.
You did not state the year model but some Tundras were under recall for ball joints so that is something to consider.

Is this shudder noticeable only in the steering wheel, in the brake pedal, or just felt in the body of the truck?
The steering wheel could point to the front brakes; the pedal and body could point to the rear brakes.

It’s a 2001 sr5 - 6 cyl - 2wd. I can feel it in brake pedal as it does not feel smooth – but it’s not ‘bouncing’. The steering wheel is shuddering and I feel as if the whole truck is bouncing. I have not had calipers replaced.

with 100,000 miles and 8 years, it is not uncommon to have sticking brake calipers. This causes extra drag on the brakes, and can mimic the ‘riding brakes’ problems. The only real cure is to rebuild or replace the calipers. Most shops will replace them with remanufactured units, as it is quicker, and requires less specialized tools.

I doubt it is the ABS kicking in. This would not cause the damage to the rotors they are seeing. And, you’d feel the brakes letting up if the ABS was kicking in.

I rebuilt a caliper once, as remanufactured one’s were not available on that old a car. It took me all day, as it was a dual opposing piston design with plenty of rust and pitting.

Your chronology of events seems very plausible. Your original rotors were turned and then only lasted another year. Turning rotors makes them thinner which can greatly reduce their service life. Then you got new rotors and hopefully new pads. The new pads may have been inappropriate for your Tundra, or if they didn’t replace the pads they could glaze as happened. So then they replaced your glazed pads and turned your rotors. Again, if they turned them too thin, three months later, wallah, your rotors are warped again and your overheated pads may be glazed again.

To stop this cycle of turning rotors and replacing glazed pads, get new OEM pads and rotors. Make sure they are OEM, meaning they need to meet original equipment specifications. Also immediately after installation, your pads and rotors need to be broken in. This is done by performing a series stops, around five or six, progressively increasing speed and braking intensity. Don’t go to a brakes chain shop. Find an independent shop, preferably one that specializes in Toyota rather than an all makes/models shop.

thanks everyone. I’ll try the shop one more time – they said they’d replace calipers if I still had a problem but they didn’t see anythig wrong so they didn’t want to put me to that expense. They guarantee that they use all OEM parts at this shop. If no luck – I’ll go to Toyota. I’ll have to find another local one as the one I trusted closed – business is bad all over.

I would advise getting the suspension checked. If this is a recall vehicle (reasonably sure it is) then you should be able to get this repair done at the Toyota dealer for free.

Normally a steering wheel shake is caused by warped rotors, or worn suspension parts/loose wheel bearings.
A brake pedal pulsation is usually caused by the rear brakes; especially on drum brake brake equipped trucks like yours. I would point out that drums especially are prone to distortion if someone gets too ham-fisted when reinstalling the wheels. Overtightening of the lugs distorts the drum a few thousandths of an inch and that tiny amount is magnified at the pedal. (It’s caused by the wheel cylinder pistons moving back and forth in their bores.)

I would also point out that warped rotors is not a guessing game. It’s very easy to determine if a rotor is really warped or not if the proper diagnosis is used instead of a machine 'em and hope method.