Reader Question: Pulsating Pedal?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Betsy asks: My car does this weird thing when I press on the brake pedal. It stops ok but there is kickback or a pulsation feeling coming through the brake pedal. I know the brakes are ok because I had the pads changed just three months ago! Can you give me any advice?

My reply: The fact that the brakes pulse is indicative of the brakes not being ok. This may be due to the brake job you got not having been done properly. I suspect that the pads were, indeed, changed. But were the rotors checked? Turned/trued – or replaced, as necessary? If not, they may be warped (uneven) and that would explain the pulsation through the pedal. It is common for people (and some shops) to just replace the pads and call it done. In part because pads are cheap and easy while rotors are more expensive – and require more disassembly.

Another possible source of your problem is a fastener that’s loose or a caliper that’s sticking. In any event, what you ought to do is have someone who knows how to perform brake work properly inspect the brakes (all four, at each corner) and establish that the rotors aren’t warped and are within spec, that the calipers aren’t sticking, that the pads are all good and the hardware is all connected/fastened properly.

That ought to solve your pulsation problem!

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  1. Interesting that you feel it in the pedal. Usually a warped front rotor is felt in the steering wheel, a rear rotor “in the seat.”

    I just went thought this on the work truck. Took it to the shop to get new tires and mentioned the warped rear rotor. The wrench said they were fine. I asked him to drive it and put a runout gauge on the back rotors, called me back an hour later telling me they got approval from fleet for the new rotors.

  2. I had that same problem with my ‘01 Corolla; turned out to be a warped rotor. Bought a pair of new rotors for not that much money and it now stops smooth as silk.


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