You're driving along, windows down, enjoying plenty of lovely fragrances: roadside flowers, that fresh rain smell, the restaurant next to the stoplight, burning brakes—wait, what? If your sniffer gets a whiff of a burning smell when you hit the brakes, pay attention! There are a few possible reasons your brakes smell like they're sizzling.
Burning Smell from Brakes: Possible Causes
1. Your brakes are overheating.
Your brakes use friction to stop your moving vehicle, and friction generates heat. Unfortunately, overuse or aggressive braking habits can lead to your brakes overheating. How do you know if excess heat has your brakes smelling like they're burning? In addition to the scent, overheated brakes may also squeal excessively, or you may notice the brake pedal feels spongy when you press down on it. Focus on smooth and steady driving to help avoid overheated brakes.
2. You have new brake components.
If you've recently had your brakes serviced or replaced, the new parts may be to blame for the weird brake smell—and that's okay. The scent most often indicates that the resin in your new brake pads is curing, which means the material is getting stronger with use. (Some people compare it to breaking in a fresh pair of shoes.)
If you've recently had your brake pads replaced and you notice a "burnt brake" smell, don't be alarmed unless there's a reduction in braking power or if the scent lasts longer than a few days. When in doubt, have your brakes checked for free to be safe.
3. You forgot to disengage your parking brake.
You parked on a hill last night, and this morning your brakes smell like a 4th of July barbecue. Did you remember to disengage your parking brake before you drove off? If you forgot to release it, this could be the reason you have a burning smell from your brakes.
The parking brake is meant to stop your vehicle from rolling when stationary. Therefore, forcing your car to move while it's still engaged is a recipe for excessive heat in your braking system.
Depending on how long you drove around with the parking brake on, the damage could be minimal, or it could be significant. Either way, if you realize you've been driving with the parking brake engaged, take your car to your nearest Firestone Complete Auto Care for a brake check. "Oops" moments happen to all of us, but it's vital to stop any possible brake damage in its tracks with top-notch brake service.
What to Do About a Burning Smell from Your Brakes
Stop and smell the roses — not your brakes. Unless you've just had braking components replaced, a burning smell from your car brakes could indicate a problem. Schedule a quick brake check at your local Firestone Complete Auto Care today. Don't compromise your safety on the road or let small issues turn into more significant repairs later.