The Causes and DIY Fixes for Smoking Brakes

Many of us take car brakes for granted – we keep neglecting them as long they work. And one day, smoke coming out of the brakes make us wonder – why are my brakes smoking? Brakes smoking is something that requires immediate attention. However, the knowledge about its causes and the preventive measure will be helpful to skip this annoying and somewhat dangerous situation. Let’s know the reasons for car smoking, so you can take instant action to avoid accidents on the road.

Smoke Coming from Brakes: An Explanation

Smoke is the result of excessive heat. In the case of a car, the heat comes from friction. It occurs from the contact between the pad and rotor, or pad and drum.

If the driver applies the brakes a lot, it will overheat the brakes and cause the smoke to come out. Besides, pressing the accelerator and brake simultaneously, making hard brakes while driving at high speed, and repetitive braking during the downhill drive – all can cause brakes smoking by generating heat.

brakes smoking on one side
Excessive heat is the cause of smoking. Source: Barescar90 / PixaBay

Whenever there is smoke, stop the car and give it some time to cool down. Stop your vehicle and let it cool. If you have to continue downhill travel, stop pressing the brakes continuously and shift into a lower gear to control the speed.

What are the Causes of Car Brakes Smoking?

Smoking brakes is a common scenario in the case of both the brand new and used cars. These are the common reasons for the smoke emission of brakes.

Stuck Calipers

The most cited cause of smoking brake is a stuck caliper. The floating calipers need to slide around to run a car. Whenever the calipers are stuck, they lock the brake in a place. The stuck calipers cause massive friction while driving, and ultimately, become the reason for smoke as well as odor. Corrosion or any foreign object is often responsible for stuck calipers.

Stuck Wheel Cylinder

A stuck wheel cylinder also causes a car brake to smoke. Like the stuck calipers, dirt or corrosion is responsible for this. With a stuck wheel cylinder, the brake shoes keep pressing on the drum even during the brake release. As a result, the car brakes will start to smoke.


Debris in the Brake System

This one might be a less common cause, but there have been reports of road debris being the cause of smoking. Sometimes, the debris obstructs the caliper motion or makes the caliper stuck. Apart from this, there is internal debris that often blocks the flow of brake fluid. So, even when the driver releases the pressure, there is no reduction in the car pressure.

A Few Ways to Prevent Brakes Smoke

By following these tips, it is possible to prevent the car brakes from smoking.

  • The first rule of avoiding smoke coming from brakes is to take care of the brake system. It often gets neglected in terms of maintenance, and therefore, ends up having problems. Check the brake system whenever you are taking off the tires and or before doing any repair job.
  • Whenever necessary, replace the brake pads and top up the brake fluid. Proper lubrication of the brake system is important.
  • A regular diagnosis by professional mechanics will help you identify caliper problems before they become worse.
    Check the wheel cylinder to see if any rust is building up.
  • Include pads and rotors in the inspection routine and look for any premature wear.
  • By removing debris from the car system, you can prevent smoking brakes from happening. Use a brake cleaner to remove any debris like oil and dirt. A clean brake system will also ensure the proper functioning of the brake system.
brakes smoke
Clean the brakes from time to time. Source: Pikist

How to Fix Smoking Brakes

When smokes come out of the brakes, one must stop driving the car and check. If you are an expert with the car mechanism and have the necessary tools available, it’s possible to locate and fix the problem. Otherwise, it is better to take the vehicle to a mechanic as guesswork may end up damaging the brake system.

Diagnosing by a mechanic is the best way to identify the actual cause. You should tow the car to the repair shop to avoid further damage.

Is It Normal for New Brakes to Smoke

No, it’s not but can happen in some rare cases. There is nothing scary about a small amount of smoke. New brake pads should go first 200 miles without any trouble. If smoke comes out in large amounts, check the brake pads too.
Before using new brake pads, degrease them to avoid smoke. If the smoke occurs despite degreasing the pads, visit a mechanic immediately.

FAQs about Brakes Smoking 

In order to fix the smoking brakes, it is essential to not only understand other factors that affect brakes, but also other car parts around them. In this article, the most common issues will be listed out and answered: 

What does it mean when your brakes start smoking?

There definitely is something wrong with the brake system, and the smoke is the clear sign for it. When there are smoking brakes, heat is usually the main cause. Our guess is because of the heat caused from friction. After all, the main reason for the smoking brakes is the excessive friction.  

Can a stuck caliper fix itself?

Car owners can definitely fix a stuck caliper. With the hydraulic pressure, we can push the seized caliper pistons off the brake system. After this, car owners need to press the brake pedal with the purpose of moving the piston past the corroded section. Now all the parts are disassembled from the automobile, time to rebuild and fix it. 

 Why would a tire smoke?

There are many reasons why a tire smokes and one of them is the locked up wheel. Due to some problems, the tire is skidded which creates loss of acceleration and the smoke. These issues are usually caused by a malfunctioning caloper, brake master cylinder, or brake rotor. So if you spot smoke from tires, it is recommended to stop and give these car parts a check. 

Why do my rear brakes smell like burning?

This burning smell happens when you use car brakes for the first time. By doing the pressing pedal action, the heat which produced during that time causes polymerization. This is called curing.

During this action, the polymerization affects the pad of your brakes, which releases various gases and smells like burning. So if you smell like your car is on fire, don’t panic. The smell will fade away and wear off after a few hours. 


Brakes smoking can be scary, especially if it happens for the first time. Going through the reasons and ways of prevention will surely help to get hold of the situation smartly.