Dangerous to drive with warped rotor or sticking brake?

Our college kids have a car for their use 2 1/2 hours from Mom and Dad. One wheel has been making a squealing sound, but we were waiting until the car was ‘home’ to check it out. Today our daughter smelled ‘something hot’, and when she looked at the wheel, it was glowing red inside! I’m guessing it’s a warped rotor or a stuck caliper or something I’ve heard mentioned over the years. Are we endangering our kids if we wait until the car is driven home to be fixed - or should they take it ASAP to a shop where they live?

Yes, very dangerous. A “glowing red hot” brake can cause the brake fluid to boil, resulting in loss of braking capacity (brake pedal sinking to the floor and the car not stopping). Especially if the kids are planning to drive 2-1/2 hrs home for the holidays: no way.

Have them take it to a trusted local mechanic, and if they don’t have one, find one in their area here: http://www.cartalk.com/content/mechx/

It’s a stuck caliper. It’s dangerous because as the brake pad heats up, it loses the ability to stop the car. If it gets hot enough it can “boil” the brake fluid which results in you basically having no brakes at all. I did this once on a race track before I was smart enough to modify my brakes BEFORE anything else, and I can tell you it’s no fun to be approaching a turn only to discover that your brakes are only about 5% as effective as usual.

Jesmed and Shadow said it perfectly. I’m posting to provide emphasis. This is a dangerous condition. I’d recommend that they have the car TOWED to a trusted local mechanic rather than driving it there. It only takes one loss of brakes and one resulting accident to ruin a life forever. It isn’t worth the risk.

Let's see? Brakes stop your car and protect your life.  Fixing brakes maybe $200.  What is your life worth?

Think that $200 if you have the work done (not DIY) is a pretty low estimate. Still, I suspect that the OP’s kids are worth more than the cost of a brake repair.

Would you drive your car 2 1/2 hrs with red hot brakes? Apparently yes, since you asked the question. Very dangerous.

Have them get the car fixed away from home. If you don’t trust them to find a good shop you can drive the 2 1/2 hrs to whereever and take the car to a shop you choose.

Yeah, especially since they’ll claim they have to replace the opposite side caliper because when one sticks it contaminates the other. I’ve heard that line a lot.

Please add my name to the repair ASAP column. If you need more specifics please indicate and I will be glad to further substantiate the apparent unanimous opinion. I will also add a recommendation that you have a wrecker carry the car to a reputable shop.