What’s That Burning Smell Coming From My Tires?

Why is my tire smoking? If you ever see or smell smoke radiating from your tires it could be cause for concern. Constant road friction, overheated brake pads, malfunctioning brake cylinder, caliper or warped brake rotor can all be leading candidates.

In this blog post, we will discuss the top reasons for this phenomenon and how to fix them.

What are the causes behind my tire-smoking?

When it comes to smoke from the tires, there are mainly three possible causes behind this.  Tire wear, brake system failure, or something to do with the wheel bearing.

Let’s examine how they cause your tire to smoke:

Tire Wear

This one is pretty self-explanatory. When your tires roll on the surface of the road it generates friction and heat.

In normal driving conditions, these two components are balanced and tires wear out over time. However, in accidents when your tires drag across the road surface, or during intentional rough driving like drifting on your rear tire.

Excessive heat and constant friction are generated over a localized region of the tire, causing the rubber to melt. This not only gives off smoke but also a burning smell.

In most cases, hard braking will also cause the front tires to start smoking.

This is because of the same reason mentioned above. The sudden force from the brakes will stop your tires, but the inertia from the vehicle will continue to move the tires forward. Thus causing tire wear and smoke.

Brake System Failure

Another common reason for tires smoking is your brakes.

These days almost all cars have either drum brakes or disc brakes. In both cases, there are brake pads that press against a surface to increase friction and slow you down.

If you press your brake pedal hard while moving at a good speed, the same effect of tire wear will take place with your brake pads. Overheating and friction will cause the brake pad to melt, and it will start smoking. 

There can be some other more serious reasons for your brakes smoking as well. Like caliper piston getting stuck, brake fluid issues, brake lockups, etc. We have discussed those causes in more detail in the next question.

Wheel Bearing

Not a very common occurrence, but damaged bearings can cause smoke. 

If this is indeed the cause of your problem, there would be other serious indications along the way before smoke starts coming out of your wheels.

This problem is usually an indication of a damaged wheel hub. If you continue to drive on that damaged wheel hub it may lead to a bent axle or broken driveshaft.

What are the other causes behind brakes smoking?

Earlier we discussed the fact that smoke coming out of brakes is usually due to overheating. But there can be other serious underlying causes behind it as well.

Constant overheating of brakes can cause the brake fluid to boil leading to all sorts of problems with braking performance.

Lack of hydraulic braking fluid (or pressure) can cause the calipers or pistons inside wheel cylinders (in the case of drum brakes) to get locked in their extended position. This leads to even more overheating and as a result more smoke.

Lockups are also one of the main reasons why brakes start smoking.

Brake lockups can happen in both cases, when you are braking hard to avoid an accident, or when you are braking gently to come to a stop.

Essentially during a lockup, some fault in your braking assembly can activate its full stopping power – bringing you to an abrupt and less-than-safe stop.

In severe cases, you will not only notice the smoke from your brakes but you can also expect to lose steering control and traction.

Is it safe to drive with smoking breaks?

The short answer is, no!

Brakes on your vehicle are probably the most important safety features. So if your see smoke coming out of your wheels, you should have your brakes checked immediately.

Not doing so in time can exacerbate the situation and lead to grave consequences.

How to fix smoking tires?

If your tires start smoking while driving, stop driving and thoroughly inspect the tire that started smoking.

Most times if the reason for the smoke is tire wear, due to aggressive vehicle handling you will be left with a small flat spot on the tire tread. This is not too serious and you don’t necessarily need to get it fixed right away.

However, in serious cases when the tire tread is visibly damaged you should get that tire replaced immediately.

It is not safe driving around in damaged tires and it can be a frightening experience when it leads to more serious accidents.

How to fix smoking brakes?

There are various ways to fix smoking brakes, at the end of the day it will depend on the seriousness of your problem.

In most cases, replacing the brake shoes or refilling the brake oil should fix the problem.

However, if the damage is in the hydraulics, the disk (wheel cylinder in case of drum brakes), or the calipers then the mechanic might advise you to replace the entire brake assembly.

Either way, it is a good idea to ask your mechanic to do a thorough checkup of all four brakes whenever you are in the shop.

Conclusion

Remember the best way to avoid smoke from your tires is to pay attention to your driving. Aggressive handling and janky movements will damage your tires and brakes causing them to smoke. 

However, if it is not due to your driving but other reasons mentioned above.

Be prudent and take it to a mechanic immediately. The last thing you want is your brakes failing, or your tires giving out because you ignored the smoke coming out of them. Therefore, always identify the problem, get the replacement, and make your vehicle safe again.

Stay safe on the roads and keep your car in good condition by following our tips!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

Thanks for reading our article! We've written this article with a lot of thought and care. If you're interested in seeing more of our content, please check out our Tires section and find an answer to your questions!

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