Burning Smell from Car

I have a 2001 Chrysler Voyager 2.5 CRD  car and I was driving it the other day and all of a sudden I smelled something burning.

Smelled like Bakelite. You know, the material like the old phones were made of or some old music LP s. I couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from.

Than last evening I picked my wife up from the airport and  on the way back home the smell was there again along with some juddering of one of the front wheels.

Puzzled me a bit and when I stopped the car to look under the hood, the hood won’t pop open. (Just like in the movies). So I was walking around the car, ducking under it for a smell test and when I got to the right front wheel, I could feel heat. Searing hot heat. Touched the metal part of the wheel and it was burning hot.

I drove the car home and parked it. The brake caliper either seized or it’s on its way out.

This is what a brake caliper looks like on most cars

car brake caliper


The caliper has two parts. One fixed by two bolts to the wheel assembly and one is floating and operated by the pressure of the piston that moves one of the brake pads and slides on those two pins.

As you can see on one end of the pins there is a rubber sleeve to protect the sliding surface from dust and road grime. Sometimes dirt and moisture gets under it and hardens the grease inside and the pins start to corroding and rusting and stop working, seizing the brake caliper.

The other possibility is the piston that moves the floating part. This piston is inside the fixed part of the caliper and when you press on the brake pedal a piston (or barrel)  moves in and out pressing the brake pads onto the brake disc.

brake piston


There too fine dust and grime can get in and corrode it or rust it.

How to fix a seized brake caliper?

Take the caliper off and unscrew the two sliding pins and clean them off and even using very fine sandpaper if you have to to get corroded or rust off. Try saving the rubber sleeve that protects it from dust if you can.

Before re assemble apply grease to the surface and into the whole that slides in.

If the piston inside the caliper seized, keep pressing the brake pedal until it pops out and clean it off really good. Also clean the inside where it slides in and out of. There is also a rubber sleeve that is a pain in the butt to put it back and most of the time it’ll rip. There are videos on Youtube of how to do it right.

Most of the time it’ll work if you just clean the old piston, but if it’s too far gone you need to replace it with a new one.

Once cleaned, just reassemble it and put the pads back and you are ready to go.
Next time you notice a burning smell than check your brakes first.

Leave a Reply