Front Left Wheel Smoking, but there's no way it's the caliper!

So I’m at a total loss here.

Front wheel drive Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, 1987

Long story short, the driver’s side front wheel smokes (billows!), smells bad (a sharp,acrid smell, not sweet), and gets HOT. But I’ve changed the caliper twice, and the wheel bearing once.

It all started when my breaks were grinding so I changed them, but the driver side break was worn down way more than the passenger, so i went ahead and changed the rotor (it was ruined) and the caliper just on the driver side, thinking that would fix it. At this point it had not smoked or smelled.

After doing that, it started smoking! I read online and people said that sometimes that happens if you didn’t clean off the rotor (which I did but I assumed not well enough) so I drove it for a few miles and the smoking stopped. I then took it on a 200 mile round trip on country roads with lots of stops and did not have any issues. When i got back home, the next day it started smoking again.

I changed the caliper again, thinking maybe the car shop had given me a faulty one, but it still smoked, so i changed the wheel bearing. still smoked, so I said fine and took it to the car shop, but on the drive there it was not smoking or acting up and they couldn’t recreate the problem, and on the drive back it was fine (about a 5 mile drive, before it took only about a mile to recreate the problem).

Today, I drove for 10 miles with a few 15 minute stops along the way and only when i got home did it smell faintly and feel very hot, but no smoke

I don’t understand what the issue is. I’ve had my dad and uncle who are both big car buffs look at it and we are all stumped. there does not appear to be a leak and i just can’t imagine it being the caliper.

The problem might be with the brake hoses going to the calipers.

These hoses can deteriorate internally over time where the rubber acts like a check valve. That is, the brakes are applied and they work fine. But when the brakes are released the rubber in the hose keeps the hydraulic pressure applied and the brakes get hot.

Replace the brake hoses going to the calipers to see if that fixes the brake problems.


The rubber hose to the problem caliper may have the liner collapsing and holding pressure intermittantly. And if that is the problem replace the other side as it will soon also.

To test the hose jack up the problem wheel and put the proper wrench on the caliper bleed screw. Start the engine and pump the brake repeatedly and release while someone is pressing the tire to turn. If the wheel locks up and refuses to turn when the pedal is released open the bleeder and if the wheel immediately turn freely you can be certain of the hose being bad.

What they said ++

I agree with the preceding comments.
If the calipers can be ruled out, then there isn’t really much other than internally collapsing flexible brake lines that could be causing the problem on that one wheel.

I suggest that the OP replace ALL of the brake hoses (they are all likely a very elderly 28 years old at this point), and it is also vital to flush the hydraulic system and use new fluid to replace the old cooked fluid.

It truly is a near certainty that it’s the hoses @tester. And don’t you imagine that the calipers were allowed to swing by the hoses when some of the work was done.

Rod Knox also has a great point about allowing a caliper to dangle by the hose instead of being hung from a strut spring.

There’s a couple of YouTube videos I’ve seen whose intent is to show viewers how to replace their own brake pads. The calipers are dangling from their hoses and bobbling in the breeze.

Yes @ok4450. And I have seen professional mechanics, even dealership mechanics leaving calipers swinging from the hose.

Plus those ribs on the BRAKE hose should be straight and not twisted. Thats what the ribs are for.

Replace both side’s rubber hoses on the front, and do a visual check on the rear hoses. Then bleed the system according to the shop manual procedure. If that doesn’t fix the problem, next step is to test the brake booster for a leaking diaphragm, and replace the brake master cylinder.

Hey everyone, thanks for your help. Just in case anyone else had this problem I wanted to share that YES! It WAS the brake hoses. Thanks, it would have cost me a lot of money to take it to a shop, they wanted to re-replace the brakes, calipers, and rotors on both sides before they would even consider anything else!

Hey Carolyn. Do we get a bonus this week?

Keep amd eye on your front brake wear, sometimes the wear on the pads of one caliper is because the other caliper is frozen and the good one is doing all the stopping, This is easy to tell with snow on the ground by getting out and looking at your skid marks,

Thanks for letting us know! I love to hear someone fixes it themselves and saves a bunch of money.

Congrats OP for getting it fixed. Good on you.

@“Rod Knox”, would you care for more donuts?