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Tire Guides and Advice that make the Grade

Can Tire Rotation Cause Brake Problems?

Tire rotation problems can happen. Initially, it may seem like there should be no connection between having your tires rotated and brake problems. However, both the wheel and the rotor are held in place by the lug nuts.

Ensuring that you tighten lug nuts to the proper torque specification will ensure that no damage will occur under heavy braking.

Even though tire rotation can cause brake problems, that may not actually be the source of your problem.

Can Tire Rotation Cause Brake Problems?

Yes, rotating your tires can cause warped rotors which can reduce braking system performance as well as cause shaking and vibration when stopping.
tire rotation service

Brakes Feel Different After Tire Rotation

Your brakes may feel different after you have your tires rotated, but that doesn’t mean there’s a problem. Sometimes after rotating tires, grip from your tire tread isn’t ideal for a few miles and may cause a different feel. This usually will go away after any uneven tire wear smooths out and the tires settle into their new positions around the vehicle.

It is also possible that the brake rotors have become warped due to over tightening of the wheel lugs when remounting the wheels.

Can Over Torquing Wheels Warp Rotors?

Lug nuts can be over tightened and cause brake rotors to warp. When the brake rotors heat up they need to be able to expand and contract as they cool down. If there is too much torque applied to the lugs and they can’t expand and contract properly, it can lead to a slight warping of the brake rotors.

Brakes Squeaking After Tire Rotation

Brake squeaking can be caused by warped rotors or potentially a squeal strip that was bumped. If the rotors aren’t warped, the squeal strip could be the problem.

Squeal strips are essentially warning sensors that will come into contact with the brake rotor when the brake pads have worn down too far and need to be replaced. They are designed to create a loud squeaking or squealing sound when braking to get your attention before damage is caused.

Car Shakes When Braking After Tire Rotation

Shaking after you have your tires rotated when braking is likely the result of warped brake rotors. As the rotors spin the inconsistent warped surface of the rotors oscillates the brake pads back and forth and can cause there to be a slight shimmy or even a pronounced shaking while braking.

If you are experiencing either a mild shimmy or a pronounced shaking, you should have this problem addressed as soon as possible since it can reduce braking ability.

What Happens If You Over Torque Wheels?

Tightening lug nuts beyond the vehicle manufacturer’s specified torque can potentially cause several problems. The most common potential problem is brake rotor warping.

Other problems that can occur due to over torquing lugs are damaging wheels, stripping threads, or causing broken lug studs or lug bolts.

The damage isn’t usually caused during the initial over tightening. It often comes later during heat cycling. As components heat up during use, or even just normal weather fluctuations, metal expands. It then will contract as it cools. If the components can’t expand and contract properly, they will bend, warp, or even snap and break, depending on the situation.

Symptoms Of Over Tightened Lug Nuts

  • Warped Brake Rotors
  • Stripped Lug Bolt Or Stud Threads
  • Broken Studs or Lug Bolts
  • Wheel Damage

How Tight Should I Torque My Lug Nuts?

Each manufacturer will provide a specification for your car, truck, or SUV for what the torque wrench setting should be when remounting wheels. This torque spec will be included in your owner’s manual.

Can Warped Rotors Cause Vibration When Not Braking?

You might imagine that a warped rotor would look obviously bent and distorted, but in reality you likely wouldn’t be able to notice much any difference unless using a measuring caliper.

My point here is that the warping is very slight and not enough to cause vibration when not under any braking force. Vibrations felt when not braking are likely due to some other cause.

Can Warped Rotors Cause Vibration At High Speeds?

Even at higher speeds, the imbalance caused by rotors being warped is insignificant and not likely to be felt. Vibrations at higher speeds are often the result of tire balance problems.

If you’re having problems with vibrations at highway speeds, I recommend having your wheel assemblies rebalanced using a road force balancer. Road force balancers are the best method of balancing tires under more real-world circumstances. 

How To Fix Warped Rotors

Warping of rotors can be fixed by having them machined smooth. They are essentially placed on a lathe and material is removed until they are perfectly smooth again.

Not all rotors can be fixed by having them machined however. Rotors wear down over time like brake pads do. As they become thinner, they lose their ability to absorb heat. Eventually they will become too thin to be usable.

Rotors that are coming close to the unusable range may not be able to be resurfaced due to causing them to become too thin to function properly. It may also not make much sense to resurface old brake discs that will need to be replaced soon.

Final Thoughts

Lug nuts should be torqued to the vehicle manufacturer’s specification with a torque wrench to avoid potential of rotor warping which can lead to reduced brake system performance, brake pedal pulsing, steering wheel vibration, or even broken hub studs or stripped threads.

As you can see, one improperly tightened lug nut can cause quite a bit of trouble. 

Tire rotation is important to ensure your tires last as long as possible and to maintain your tire warranty. Having your tires rotated properly is important.

Most are concerned about tire rotation patterns, but lug nut torque specifications are another important factor.

When you’re having your mechanic perform a rotation service, be sure you’re comfortable that the shop is competent and detail oriented. Tire maintenance is important and being able to rely on a good mechanic will help you avoid some of these pitfalls.

Resources

Below are some links you may find helpful when learning about tires

About The Author
Will Creech
Will has been an automotive enthusiast since he was old enough to make engine sounds. Formerly a member of the contract training team at Discount Tire, he is unusually knowledgeable on all things related to tires. He is now the owner of and main contributor to TireGrades.com.
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