New Brake Pads Tight on Rotors—Causes and Fixes

Replacing worn pads is a great way of improving your car’s braking. However, there are situations where the new pads get too tight to the rotors, which to many is a call for concern.

What is the cause, and is it really something to be worried about? Let’s find out as I have put together the causes of new brake pads tight on rotor and possible ways to fix it.

new brake pads tight on rotor

What causes the new brake pad Tight against rotor

New brake pads rubbing on rotor is a serious issue that calls for immediate attention. This can lead to overheating of the braking system and cause many problems. However, the best way to fix a problem is first to know the cause of the issue.

New brake pads tight on rotor can stem from wrong-sized or improperly installed pads, new rotors, calipers, caliper pistons, etc.

1. Your rotors are new

New brake pads rubbing on new rotor is normal. If you replaced the pads and rotors, expect them to rub on each other since they are both new. After driving for a while, the pads and rotors should break in, giving some clearance between them. However, if you have only changed your pads yet your pads feel too tight to the rotors, you may need to look at other possibilities.

2. Wrong pads

A common reason new brake pads won’t fit over rotor is the use of wrong pads. Every vehicle has specific brake pads recommended for it. If, however, you replace worn pads with the wrong size, the new pads will press on the rotors, giving that tight feeling.

New brake pads tight on rotor in Motorcycle or any vehicle often result in squealing and grinding noise. And sometimes causes the brake to overheat since the pads and rotors constantly rub against each other even when brakes are not applied.

3. Incorrectly installed brake pads

Another common cause of new brake pads rubbing on rotor is not properly installing the brake pads. If the pads are not properly positioned on the rotors, it may lead to fitment issues, causing both components to tightly press on each other. Signs of improperly installed brake pads include brake overheating, resulting in smoky wheels.

Constant rubbing of the pads and rotors causes brake overheating that leads to the burning smells that look like you’re burning rubber. Overheated brakes will also cause a squealing noise when you hit the brake pedal.

4. Old or corroded caliper

The caliper clamps the brake pads and rotors together. When the brake is applied, it is the caliper that pushes the pads against the rotor, producing friction to stop your car. Many calipers are also built to provide clearance between the pads and rotors. This way, they don’t contact each other. If, however, the calipers are too old or corroded, they won’t only get stuck.

They won’t provide the clearance needed by the pad and rotors, causing them to constantly rub against each other. A rust-coated oxidation on the caliper piston clearly indicates that your calipers are corroded. Moreover, the caliper has internal components that can age quickly, especially in wet regions.

5. Rusty caliper piston

The caliper piston resides in the caliper and moves up and down in the caliper cylinder, allowing the pads to press against the rotor when you apply brakes.  This action allows contact between the pads and rotors to bring your car to a stop.

When it gets corroded, it will fail to ride back and forth within the caliper cylinder and invariably stop the caliper from functioning. The caliper piston failing to move will cause the pads to tighten against the rotors.

6. Incorrect size caliper pin

New brake pads tight on rotor in a bike or other automobiles may also stem from using the wrong size caliper pin. There are two caliper bolts that allow the pads to slide on the caliper. If both are not the same size, they can rub on the rotor, pushing it against the pads.

7. Stuck caliper or Caliper not fully retracted

The caliper holding the brake pads and rotor in place is supposed to move. If, however, it gets jammed, it will permanently clench the pads against the rotor, resulting in the tightness between both components.

A stuck caliper often stems from a leaky brake fluid hose. The hose itself also feeds fluid to the caliper to enable its movement. When the hose gets old or leaky, it will result in caliper jamming since the caliper no longer gets fluid to stay lubricated.

The most common reason for brake pads to rub against the rotors is that caliper pistons are not fully retracted. If this is the case, you will find it very difficult to fix the new brake pads.

Is it normal for new brake pads to touch the rotor?

Should new brake pads be tight against rotors? Generally, new brake pads should not be tight against rotors unless brake is applied. However, there are situations where this can occur.

For example, new brake pads tight on rotor while braking or not are completely normal if the rotors are also new. They would float and separate after driving a few miles; just expect to deal with some grinding noise.

If, however, you have only changed your pad, yet it is tight against the rotor, you may need to inspect other components. This includes the pad itself, the caliper, the caliper pistons, etc. Aside from the situation described above, whether old or new, pads are not supposed to rub against the rotors when the brakes are not applied.

Here is how a brake works. When the brakes are applied, the brake pad rubs against the rotor, creating friction to slow or stop your car. So unless you’ve applied brakes, the pads should not be in steady contact with the rotors.

The danger of both constantly rubbing against each other is that when you finally hit the brake pedal, they won’t release.  While they may feel like they are contacting each other during braking, they are not. This situation is very dangerous and can lead to an accident since the friction needed to stop the car is absent.

Also, pads lapping against rotors generate a small amount of drag, which most times leads to decreased fuel efficiency. Pads dragging against rotors can also lead to uneven brake pad wear, which results in variation in thickness, leading to brake vibration.

In many cars, to eliminate this drag between the pads and rotor, many manufacturers designed their calipers to allow a degree of clearance between the pads and rotor.

However, while they shouldn’t touch each other except when the brake is applied, they should slightly touch whether the brakes are not applied. This way, when you press the brake pedal, they contact quickly, releasing friction to stop your car.

should new brake pads be tight against rotors

How do you fix new brake pads tight against the rotor?

Doing the following should fix new brake pads that are too tight on rotors.

Drive for a while

It is completely normal for new brake pads to be tight against the new rotor. You need to give them time to break. And here is how to break in new brake discs and pads. Drive the vehicle for about 100-400 miles. After this, there should be enough clearance between them. Just ensure you bleed your brakes within that period.

Use only correct-sized brake pads

Use only the right-sized brake pads. The recommended pad thickness is usually 6.4mm or ¼ inch. If you’re unsure what size pad is recommended for your vehicle, look up your owner’s manual.

You can also contact your OEM manufacturer for your correct size brake pads. All you need is to give them your VIN; they should be able to tell you your correct pads and even rotor sizes

Ensure you install pads accurately

Disc brakes rubbing after new pads were installed may point to improperly installed brake pads. So, you may need to check if your pads are seated correctly on the rotors. If they don’t, remove and reinstall them correctly, ensuring they merely touch the brake rotors. If you’re unsure how to install your brake pads properly, please visit an expert.

Change or service calipers

If the calipers appear too old or have worked more than their estimated life span, replace them. However, if they appear in good shape, you may need to service them. The caliper pistons which push the pads against the rotors, can, over time, build up rust.

So start by servicing the calipers by removing the brake piston and cleaning it and the cylinder walls thoroughly. For light corrosion, wipe with a little brake fluid, then finish up with sandpaper if you know how to use it. If, however, the corrosion is heavy, soak the calipers and piston in brake fluid for a few hours, then clean until the rust comes off.

Be careful when working with brake fluid, as they contain chemicals that can cause respiratory issues. Basically, one way to avoid this is working with nose gear and in a well-ventilated place.

Use correct size caliper bolts

Check if the two caliper bolts are of the same size. If they are not, replace them with the correct ones. If not, they will rub against the new pads, which eventually rubs on the rotors. However, this is only necessary if you replaced the calipers and the caliper hanger.

Properly install the caliper

Also check if the caliper is well fitted into the pad and rotors. If they are not, remove and reinstall the calipers, ensuring it doesn’t clamp the pads and rotors too tightly.

Final Words

New brake pads tight on rotor often stem from wrong-size pads, calipers, and rough rotors. So ensure while installing new pads, also check if the rotors and caliper are in good shape. And more importantly, install only pads with the right thickness. And make sure the pads and calipers sit properly on each other.

Aside from a new pad and a new rotor situation, pads should not rub against each other if the brakes are not applied. They should only slightly touch. Constant rubbing of the pads and rotor can lead to overheated brakes and brake failure.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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