Brake judder, that unsettling vibration or pulsation you feel when you apply the brakes, is a common issue that DIY mechanics encounter. In this article on Troubleshooting & Problem-Solving, we will delve into the world of brake judder: what causes it, how to diagnose it, and steps to rectify this annoying problem. Let’s get started on the path to smoother, safer braking.

Understanding Brake Judder

Brake judder, also known as brake pulsation or brake shudder, occurs when the vehicle’s brakes exhibit an unwanted vibration or pulsation during braking. This phenomenon typically presents itself through the brake pedal, steering wheel, or the entire vehicle. It can be mild or severe, depending on the underlying causes.

Common Symptoms of Brake Judder:

  • Vibration in the Brake Pedal: You may feel a pulsating sensation in the brake pedal when applying the brakes.
  • Steering Wheel Wobble: The steering wheel might shake or wobble when braking, especially at higher speeds.
  • Vehicle Shaking: In severe cases, the entire vehicle can shake during braking.

Causes of Brake Judder

Brake judder is typically attributed to issues within the braking system. Here are some common causes:

1. Warped Brake Rotors:

Warped or unevenly worn brake rotors are a leading cause of brake judder. This can happen due to excessive heat buildup during braking.

2. Uneven Brake Pad Deposits:

Uneven deposits of brake pad material on the rotor’s surface can create an uneven braking surface, leading to judder.

Diagnosing Brake Judder

Proper diagnosis is crucial to identify the underlying cause and apply the appropriate fix. Here’s how you can do it:

1. Road Test:

  • Begin with a road test to confirm the symptoms of brake judder. Pay attention to when it occurs (e.g., at high speeds, during light braking) and where you feel it (brake pedal, steering wheel).

2. Visual Inspection:

  • Inspect the brake rotors for visible signs of damage, such as grooves or uneven wear. Look for any excessive rust or corrosion.

3. Measure Rotor Thickness:

  • Use a micrometer to measure the thickness of the brake rotors. Compare the measurements to the manufacturer’s specifications to determine if they are within tolerance.

4. Check Brake Pads:

  • Inspect the brake pads for even wear and any signs of uneven deposits. Uneven pad wear can contribute to brake judder.

5. Caliper Inspection:

  • Examine the brake calipers for proper operation. Ensure that the caliper pistons move smoothly and that the caliper slides are not binding.

Rectifying Brake Judder

Once you’ve diagnosed the cause of brake judder, it’s time to take the necessary steps to address the issue. Here’s how you can rectify brake judder:

1. Resurface or Replace Rotors:

  • If you’ve determined that the brake rotors are warped or unevenly worn, you can choose to either resurface them or replace them with new ones.
  • Resurfacing involves removing a thin layer of material from the rotor’s surface to restore evenness. Make sure the rotors are still within the manufacturer’s minimum thickness specifications after resurfacing.

2. Replace Brake Pads:

  • If the brake pads show signs of uneven wear or deposits, it’s advisable to replace them. Opt for high-quality brake pads that are compatible with your vehicle.

3. Caliper Service:

  • Inspect and service the brake calipers as needed. This may involve cleaning and lubricating the caliper slides, ensuring proper piston movement, and addressing any issues that could lead to uneven braking.

4. Proper Torqueing:

  • Ensure that all brake components, including caliper bolts and lug nuts, are properly torqued to manufacturer-recommended specifications. Incorrect torque can lead to rotor warping.

5. Bedding-in New Components:

  • After replacing brake pads or rotors, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for bedding-in procedures. This helps ensure proper contact and even wear.

6. Wheel Hub Inspection:

  • Check the wheel hubs for damage or runout. Damaged hubs can contribute to brake judder.

Professional Assistance

While DIY mechanics can address some cases of brake judder, it’s essential to acknowledge the limitations of DIY repairs. If you’re uncertain about the diagnosis or the complexity of the repair, consider seeking professional assistance. Brake safety is paramount, and professional mechanics have the expertise and equipment to ensure your brakes are in optimal condition.


Brake judder can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous issue, but with proper diagnosis and rectification, you can restore your vehicle’s braking performance. Whether it involves resurfacing rotors, replacing brake pads, or servicing calipers, addressing brake judder is essential for safe and smooth driving.

Stay informed and stay safe on the road with expert insights from our Troubleshooting & Problem-Solving series.

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