Why does my steering wheel shake when I brake hard in my Honda?

If your brakes are squeaking you need new pads. You already knew that of course. But what if your steering wheel shakes during braking?

You need new pads and rotors. Your wheel is shaking because your rotors are warped or otherwise worn.

That’s what’s happening in this ’99 Prelude so I’m installing new PowerStop drilled/slotted rotors and PowerStop carbon-fiber ceramic pads.

To do this job you mostly need basic tools but I recommend a brake pad spreader as well. They’re inexpensive and sometimes the only way to get the job done.

First step is always jack up the car, put it on jack stands and remove the wheels.

Next unbolt the caliper. There’s usually 2 bolts holding it on. On Hondas those bolts are 17mm.

These bolts are usually tough. I hold the wrench and hit it with a mallet to break it loose.

Pull the caliper off the rotor. The brake line is still connected so hang the caliper from your upper control arm with a bungee, wire, rope, zip tie, whatever you have so it doesn’t hang by the brake line.

If your rotor has set screws remove them and pull off the rotor.

You may have to whack the rotor with a mallet or kick it for it to come loose so that you can pull it off the studs.

You can now place your shiny new rotor on. Be careful not to get grease or dirt on the braking surface. If you mangled the set screws removing them (quite common for me) don’t reuse them. They’re not strictly necessary because the wheel will hold the rotor still.

Now pull your old pads out of the caliper and set aside.

Place your caliper spreader in the caliper and align the screw so it will be able to apply pressure to the piston when you turn the handle.

I’ve seen this done with clamps or other tools but really caliper spreaders are the way. Turn until the piston is completely inside the caliper.

Depending on what pads you bought you may or may not have new pad hardware and/or rubber pin bushings.

If you do, follow the instructions that came with your pads to replace them. This can be made easier by spraying everything with brake parts cleaner (but don’t get it on your new rotor).

The trickiest part is probably getting the new pads in. On Hondas the long tab goes on the inside of the wheel. If you’re not sure which one is the inside and which one is the outside go look at your other wheel.

If your pads came with lubricant or you bought it at the same time apply grease to the contact points of the pad.

This can take some finagling but get the pads into the hardware so they align with the caliper and have space between them for the rotor. I put fresh gloves on for this step to avoid getting any grease or dirt on the pad braking surface.

Place the caliper over the rotor and align the 2 bolt holes. If it doesn’t fit over the rotor you didn’t push the piston in all the way with the caliper spreader and you’re going to have to take the pads out and try that again.

Drive the 17mm bolts back in. I like this Husky electric ratchet but you can use wrenches too.

Would you look at that? This side is done. Go do the same to the other side and put your wheels back on!

Follow the break-in procedure instructions that came with your pads. If they didn’t come with any follow these. By the way, links to parts and tools are affiliate links and I may receive a commission if you buy them.

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