Brake smell is a good indicator you have overheated brakes. There are two common explanations for this problem. The first explanation is that your emergency brake was left on while driving. The second is that you've recently installed new front brakes and now they are "breaking-in". But brake smells can have numerous causes. Fortunately, the following information will tell you the causes of brake smell and the next steps to take in fixing your brakes.
#1: Emergency Brake
As mentioned before, an emergency brake engaged while driving can cause hot brakes. The rear brakes become overheated if you drive with the emergency brake on, causing a foul odor. Simply disengage the brake and continue to drive normally. However, you should get the rear brakes examined if you drove a long distance with the emergency brake on.
#2: New Brakes
Some new brakes usually smell for an hour or two after installation. This brief period occurs while the brakes "break-in". If the smell does not go away after a reasonable amount of time, there may be a problem with your front brakes' calipers. You or your mechanic probably did not check all of the braking hardware before replacing the brake pads. If this is the case, replace the hardware to avoid further braking smells.
#3: Other Causes
If you haven't recently installed new brakes or didn't leave the emergency brake on, then you have to investigate more. Jack up the rear of your car so that the back wheels are slightly off the ground. Put your car in neutral and try spinning these wheels. If you have trouble or they don't spin at all, it means the brake is engaged. You can also check for this by finding an open and safe place to drive your car in a straight line. Release your foot from the gas after reaching about 30 mph. If your car slows too quickly, then your brake is stuck.
Related Questions and AnswersWhere can I Buy Emergency Brake Handles?
You can purchase emergency brake handles from almost any auto accessory shop in your area. You can also go to various websites and order them. These handles are available in various colors, sizes and designs to suit the interior of your car. Another place you can source them from is the dealership. If you want OEM equipment for your car and nothing else, it is recommended that you get them from the dealership. This ensures quality and you will be certain that the material of the emergency brake handles they sell is up to spec and made specifically for your car's application.Why Does My Emergency Brake Light Come On While I'm Driving?
There are several reasons why your emergency brake light comes on while you are driving. One reason could be the switch on the lever or pedal being misadjusted. This can be resolved quickly with a little adjustment. Another reason is that the brake fluid level is low and needs to be refilled. It could also mean that there is uneven hydraulic pressure in the system. In any of these cases, you should tend to your brakes immediately, because leaving them in this state can be dangerous and could cause an accident. When the emergency brake light comes on for any reason, you should not neglect it and it should be inspected immediately.Why Does My Emergency Brake Keep Sticking?
There might be many causes why your emergency brake is sticking. One reason is when you have brake fluid leaking between the drum or disc brakes and brake pads. This causes some friction between the two materials and will eventually cause your brakes to stick. Another reason is your emergency brake could be frozen during the winter. It is therefore suggested not to engage the emergency brake during this kind of weather. Lastly, you may have passed through a flood or body of water which could have wet your brakes. Engaging the emergency brake while the pads and disc or drum brakes are wet will cause emergency brake sticking. Especially if left for a long time without use.Is it OK to Drive with a Frozen Emergency Brake?
Driving with a frozen emergency brake is not safe and definitely not recommended. Your wheels could lock up at any time and your acceleration would be very erratic. It will also burn out your brake pads, which could be very dangerous in the long run. However, you can drive a small distance in order to free up your frozen brakes. Moving the car a short distance will usually free the emergency brakes from being frozen. Just make sure not to drive too fast and it should be in a controlled manner. This is the only time and reason why you should drive with a frozen emergency brake. And if it does not go free, take it to a reputable auto shop.