Burning Smell, Brake Job

I have a 2005 Honda Civic. 2 days ago I went to start it for work and it was completely dead. Turned out to be a little piece sorta like a bolt that broke and fell onto my floor board and my brake lights were staying on so that’s why the car battery died.

So we put a door clip in its place to get the brake lights to go off, we also replaced the brake switch. I drove about 3 miles when I noticed the car would not go above 30 mph, I pulled into a parking lot and the brakes would not brake anymore I had to throw it into park so the car would stop. The brakes smelt burned and where smoking. We let it cool off and adjusted the brake switch.

I drove about 7 more miles to my house where the brake pads and rotors where replaced with brand new ones. I then drove about 10 miles and noticed a burning smell but no smoke this this time and the hood was extremely hot to touch. Not sure if that has anything to do with it.

Let car sit overnight and adjusted the brake switch all the way to the loosest setting drove about 15 miles and the smell is not nearly as strong but can still smell a slight burning smell when I get out of the parked car and hood is still extremely hot.

What could be causing this burning smell??! How do I fix it!? Thank you!

It sounds like multiple problems may be going on here. Take it to a qualified mechanic before you kill someone. It sounds like there is an electrical problem and maybe a brake caliper is sticking but cannot tell from what you are saying. What are ARE telling points to what might be a serious safety issue.

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With the brake light switch properly installed the brake lights should turn on when the brake pedal is depressed about 1/4".

It sounds like you installed the new brake light switch in a manner that pre-loaded the brake pedal that caused the brakes to drag and overheat.

After you properly adjust the brake light switch you should assess the damage to the brake pads and rotors.


“I drove about 7 more miles to my house where the brake pads and rotors where replaced with brand new ones”?
you changed brake switch. you changed pads/rotors. same mechanic? i see a link

I gather from this, that you may think that the “brake light switch” also activates the brakes themselves.
This does not. Adjust the brake light switch so that the brake lights are on after you press the pedal slightly 1/4 to 1/2 inch. This part is then done and you can move on the the problem at the wheels themselves.

First check that you have released the E-brake. You would be surprised how many people ruin a good brake job by forgetting to release the brake.

The second problem may be either a frozen caliper that is not releasing the brake on one side. Or more likely a flexible brake hose that goes to that caliper. These hoses break down from the inside and a small piece may be acting like a check valve, allowing fluid to push the caliper piston out, then blocking that fluid from returning up the brake line and the brake never releases…

Take the vehicle for a short drive…a block or two will do…while riding the brake slightly on the way out, and braking normally on the way back. Get out and hold your hand close to each rotor to determine which one is very hot. Use caution you will burn your hand on the hot one. An infrared thermometer works great for this if you have one.

If both rear rotors are hot, the e-brake may not be released or the E-brake cable is rusted and not releasing.

Do not drive this far if the brake is not releasing. This will overheat the rotor…warping it, and it will overheat and ruin the new pads that you just put on.


he has already driven 35 miles with the sticking brake, from the original post. I’d say he needs new brakes after he solves the sticking problem.

I Agree @BillRussell

I was just trying to point out that fixing the problem is first and foremost before going on such a long test drive.

And until they are sure that a brake is not locking up, they may as well leave the ruined pads and rotors on it for now. They will have to replace it all when they do get it fixed right.


As mentioned above, most likely an improperly installed brake light switch causing the brakes to drag and fry. Now you have to fix the brake light switch and then fix the brakes/again.