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Bad rotors on 1999 Oldsmobile Alero

dingdongbelledingdongbelle Posts: 2
edited April 2014 in Oldsmobile
I've been driving for 21 years. Mazda 626 & MX6,
Nissan Stanza, Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega & Honda
Accord. Each time, I drove the cars in excess of
60k miles. In the case of my Ford and Chevy, I had
an excess of 80k miles on each of them. This is the
FIRST time I've had to deal with the issue of
warped rotors. And to add insult to injury, my car
has 20k miles on it!

The problem began at 17k miles, but the dealer
couldn't "find" anything! Luckily, from reading
reader responses in the Town Hall, others have
complained. I took the car to the dealer today,
and they have to replace the front brakes and
rotate the rotors. Since I'm at 20k miles, the
dealer said the cost is on me!

This has got to be a design/manufacturer flaw,
woulnd't you think?. What's the next step to
filing a formal complaint? I can't believe this is
my fault and I can't believe that Oldsmobile isn't
doing a recall or something. Can anyone help me?


  • vacstudvacstud Posts: 1
    In reply to your rotor replacement bill: If you had to pay out of your pocket, that is unacceptable!! Call 1-800-Olds4U and complain. I bet that they will reimburse you. And find yourself a better dealer. Do you know if the 2000 GLS Coupes had a change from the 1999? I have less than 1000 miles on mine, and ok so far. Thanks. Brad
  • yofa42yofa42 Posts: 1
    i had bad rotors, but they were the rears not the fronts. i did notice that both rotors, front and rear, are same diameters so maybe there was mixups at the plant.

    after i had the dealer change the rear rotors, i stopped using the e-brake when parking the car with my auto tranny. so far, so good. never any problems with front rotors though.

    you shouldn't pay to have them replaced. rotors are warrantied as long as the engine, i think. pads are not but i did pay for my brake inspection after she crossed 10k km. i don't think i should have even paid that. everything else was free, under warranty.

    yofa -
  • gpmyersgpmyers Posts: 1
    I bought a Kia Sportage 98. I read that people are having problems with brakes particlarly the rotors.
    I need to know more about this. What is a brake rotor. How much does it cost to replave them?

    Is there any maintenance possible?
  • blb1blb1 Posts: 1
    I started noticing a chatter type vibration when stopping my Alero GLS at about 20K miles. The dealer tried telling me that I had hit something and warped the rotors----complete nonsense. Finally, they agreed to turn them. Clearly, from the sounds of this bullentin board----Olds screwed up. Maybe a class action lawsuit would be in order.
  • ajrockerajrocker Posts: 1
    Hey gang,
    I've noticed that many of you have been experiencing brake rotor problems. I can't speak for other brands, but in the case of GM cars, like the Olds Alero, I do have some insight for y'all... I currently own a '92 Pontiac Grand Prix sedan, and my dad previously owned a '93 Grand Prix sedan. Both cars had REAR brake rotor problems. Here's my versions of WHAT and WHY:

    Firstly, WHAT problems?
    Well, the rear brake rotors would tend to get rough, creating a rear brake chatter, which would consequently lead to uneven brake pad wear such that the two uneven surfaces may rub and make minor squeaking noises while driving. (Although only noticeable at low speeds with the window down for me.) I've LET this problem progress to the point that the rear brake pads and rotors were so rough (and shot) that they caused some kickback, which was noticeable at the brake pedal under braking. Note again, that I let them get this severe by letting it go until there was hardly any brake pads left, literally. Nevertheless, some of you may be familiar with the brake chatter and other consequences of having uneven (not smooth) brake pads and rotors in the REAR. I know myself that sometimes it SEEMS like the brake problems are being caused by the front brakes, but it is the rear brake rotors causing the problem. I've noticed this, and so has my dad, who learned the hard way--the first time he encountered this problem he thought it was the front brakes; so, he changed them, only to find it didn't solve the problem. It was only when he changed the rears that the problem was fixed. Indeed, once I encountered the same problem on my Grand Prix, bought later, used, did I think I had a problem with my front brakes, only to be told by my dad that it was really the rears. Guess what, dad knew best. Fixing the rear brakes only did solve the problem. Therefore, at least GM seems to have a problem with their REAR DISC BRAKES.

    Here's what I have gathered as to why this problem happens... A car does 80% of its braking using the front brakes, meaning the rear brakes only account for 20% of its braking. So, the rear brakes aren't used for much of the braking to begin with, PLUS look at the size of the brake pads on the front and the back disc brakes. The rear brake pads are almost as large as the front brake pads, yet remember, the rear pads aren't being used as much as fronts are. So what? Well, for forward driving the rear brake pads are really too big than they need to be, such that they aren't applying (squeezing with) as much pressure to the brake rotor as the front ones are. Fine, except for one more tidbit: Brake rotors, over time will rust and wear. As the rotors wear, the pressure that the front brake pads put on the front rotors is usually enough to rub away any imperfections on the surfaces of the front rotors, thereby keeping them smooth and trouble-free. However, because the rear brakes aren't used as much, the imperfections, like roughness, flakey rust, etc. won't get completed rubbed away by the rear brake pads. In fact, they'll probably get worse as time goes by, meaning you'll end up with rough rear brake rotors and unevenly worn rear brake pads to match them. In the end, the quality, AT LEAST in sound, will suck from your rear disc brakes.

    What can you do?
    Well, this problem regarding rear brakes is only found in GM cars like the early '90's mid-sized cars featuring REAR DISC BRAKES. If you have REAR DRUM BRAKES, then you will never have these problems. In the case of the new Olds Alero, all Aleros feature rear disc brakes, while its Pontiac kin, the new Grand Am avoids the these problems by offering rear drum brakes in all its models EXCEPT the GT models, which have disc brakes in the back. The catch is this: For braking purposes, REAR DISC BRAKES are better and when smooth offer better braking feel at the brake pedal than REAR DRUM BRAKES do. Yet, if you are encountering problems with your rear disc brakes, these advantages may account for nil versus rear drum brakes. So the choice is yours here. BUT surely SOME MANUFACTURER MUST have REAR DISC BRAKES that are as trouble-free as front disc brakes; so, why can't GM (and whoever else has cars with this problem)?
    Secondly, I'll tell you one way I've heard of to try and keep rear disc brakes smooth and free of imperfections like the fronts... every once in awhile when you're in your driveway or somewhere safe, stop and PARTIALLY engage the parking brake. The parking brake only engages the rear disc brakes on front wheel drive cars; so, with a front wheel drive car you can then start to drive SLOWLY with your parking brake partially engaged. Don't leave your driveway, because you should never drive with your parking brake engaged, partially or not, but just enough so that you'll get that extra pressure on your rear disc brakes to rub off any roughness that may be beginning to form on your rears. Thus, this should keep them smoother, longer. Just remember to disengage your parking brake after your 30sec in-house clean up.
    Thirdly, you can also take off your rear tires and use a chiselled hammer to chip off the rust that accumulates on the rear brake rotors to keep them smooth. The inner side is difficult to get at though, while still on the automobile.

    Hopes this helps.
  • kurt28kurt28 Posts: 1
    My Alero has had several front rotor issues. AT about 1500 miles a bad shake was developing when braking. The rotors were warped and the dealer cut them. Again at 5500 miles the same situation occured and this time new rotors were replaced because they noticed they "blued" from excess heat. Then proceeded to explain that my wifes braking technique is the issue. Her previous car was a cavailer with 175K on it, changed rotors once at 115K when brake pads were replaced and my car (Neon) went 75K before pad and rotor change and the rotors were fine, just did it for piece of mind. So the brake technique issue was not to blame. Only after the 3rd trip when they replaced the rotors again and put in new pads at 11K did the problem stop. My guess is the original batch of rotors had a metal defect or the pads were too "hard". We have put 14K on the car since the last issue and the braking has been perfect.
  • metcher2metcher2 Posts: 1
    I owned a 93 Buick Regal and had the same problems with the 4 wheel disc brakes. I figured GM would have solved the problem by 1999, so I mistakenly bought a 99 Alero. I have 15,000 miles on it and touching the brake over 55 miles an hour feels like a earthquake. My mechanic (GM will not cover this problem under warranty even though it is the company's fault & they have know about it for years) told me GM has this problem with all of their 4 wheel disc brake cars. This is absolutely the last time I will buy GM. I am sure there are much more reliable manufacturers out there.
  • bhungbhung Posts: 3
    I have send the following mail to GM... I hope they get back to me soon. When (if) they answers my concern, I will post it ASAP... or have them post it here.
    I have drive my 99 Alero GLS for about 27,000km. I notice that when I apply the break, vibration can be felt. I had notice this issue before, and taken my vehicle back to the dealer for repair at about 10,000km. I believe they have grinded the rotor to resolve the problem then. I would like GM to tell me if there is a perminate fix. As this problem with the brake may be protentially dangerous. Please advise me of the corrective actions, and tell me if the warrenty cover this type of problems. If you follow the site provided below, you will find other complaining of the same issue. Thank You...

    *NOTE : This letter will be copied to the Auto web site to assist other customers.
  • My brandy new 2000 Alero (actually October 1999 vintage) just had the same problem after about 10,000 miles. I took it in to the dealer after the vibration in the front end became noticeable under all braking conditions. I didn't have any problems at the dealership, however. They cut the rotors at no charge to me. But the manufacturing problem has obviously not been corrected.

    I did think it odd that this would happen so quickly, but that maybe my problem was a freak occurrence. Now I know better. If the rotors do this again, I'll be demanding new rotors, not machined ones, and I'll take all these posts along with me.

    Thanks for the information....
  • fkoehlerfkoehler Posts: 15
    Hi All,

    FYI, check the Malibu section, seems to have a lot more complaints about the brakes.

    I have 2 posts about my horrible problems, and the fnial one may have a solution for most owners.
  • fkoehlerfkoehler Posts: 15
    Sorry, didn't mean to leave anyone hanging.

    With the Malibu's, the front brakes are undersized, causing the front brakes to just get eaten at an insane rate. This seems to be a common problem with GM, as of late, at least.

    My mechanic services a fleet of Malibu's, and ended up solving the problem by using heavy duty pads with a ceramic compound as a base. These are commonly used bu ambulance and cab fleets

    All these theories that the rotors are bad or defective are most likely wrong.

    Your front brakes should be larger than the rears, assuming the rears are even properly sized.

    Best option is to pass the word, and find another brand when you decide to buy again.

    BTW, my entire bill for the job will be about $145, and thats for resurfacing rotors, news pads, and labor. That is a deal as far as I can tell, at least out here in CA where the hourly rate is $60/hr.

    Best of luck.
  • kywomankywoman Posts: 1
    Hey, first time buyer of Oldsmobile. Purchased Alero in Nov '99. Only 23 miles on it. Started noticing pulsation in local driving. Then drove it out of town and noticed more definite pulsation in steering wheel at speeds of 65. Took it to dealer, said it was rotors and they suggested resurfaced. I asked for new ones because of warranty - dealer said GM would not accept this, but they would resurface them without charge. Not happy, thinking this is a defect, I contacted GM by e-mail. They were pleasant, but only used their customer service tactics without any results. The concern that I have is that the resurfacing has taken maybe a few years of wear at a cost to me sooner than anticipated. Other than this problem, really like the car.
  • skimann20skimann20 Posts: 5
    To all that are having problems with their rotors. I had mine completely replaced with new pads at 17,325 miles on them. DO NOT have them milled. This will only delay the problem to a mileage that will not be covered. There is a reason why your rotors are the thickness they are. When they mill them down you loose surface area and this causes them to get hotter faster causing them to warp. Tell them you want your rotors replaced and you also want new pads. If they do not, ask to see the manager of the dealership and tell them your story. I'm sure they will see it your way, they did with me.
    Western Pa.
  • ybeam01ybeam01 Posts: 1
    I took my car in today for its 30K service and mentioned to them several problems. One in particular I see has plagued many people. Well, the service guy thought it was strange that this was happening so often. (i had the rotors resurfaced at 15K). Anyways, he calls me back and told me he spoke with the GM tech department and said that they had solved the problem and were sending him a new set of brake pads and rotors. This is going to be done free of charge in a week. Good thing too. I was down to just a little bit of brake pad left, and this saved me quite a bit of money.

    It all really depends on who you go to. There's another dealer locally that when I asked them at the 15K mark about warped rotors, said that I would be responsible for the costs. Then I decided to go to one near my work and they've been doign a really good job.

    On another note, have any of you had problems with the fuel tank guage? My sensor went berserk after 6 months and was replaced. Now they have to replace another one. Just wondering.

    Also the door runoff molding on my car started to warp too. Maybe because of the hot sun in Caliornia? But anyways, they had to replace those today as well.

    Overall, I've had nothing but fun driving my car. I have to admit that I am a very aggressive driver and will and have taken my car to the limit. And so far, the car handles great (but I would like to find some stiffer srpings for it) and the power is great (although a nice supercharger woudl be good too). Hey what can I say, I'm a speed freak.

    Well I would like to hear whatever responses you guys may have had to my problems as well as sharing your own.
  • bill42bill42 Posts: 29
    You would think that for a company building cars as long as GM they would get the basics right--brakes. My wife had a '90 Cutlass Supreme that my younger son now drives. Overall a reasonably decent car once you get past the interminable squeaks, rattles, etc. The car has eaten brakes ever since new. Within the past couple of weeks we received notice in the mail about a class action suit against GM. Need to round up receipts for brake repairs, send them in and cross your fingers. As the car is about to be 11 model years old finding receipts will be a bit tough.

    My wife now drives a '98 Intrigue. It was an early build in the initial year the car was offered. Got about every imaginable option except chrome wheels. Sunroof, leather, Autobahn package, CD player, etc. Again, overall a decent car but not outstanding. Bad fit and finish in the interior, lots of broken plastic parts, intermediate half-shaft replaced, etc. Interestingly though, it still has its original brakes. I'm convinced that there is something wrong with them, my wife has no complaints. Since I drive the car once every two months I'm going to butt out.

    Now, the '90 Olds needs to be replaced and the lease is up on the Intrigue at the end of August. Wife and son were thinking of 2 Aleros or an Alero and an Intrigue. Given the comments on this list and over on the Intrigue list I'm having some serious second thoughts about the wisdom of that action.
  • bhungbhung Posts: 3
    After notifying GM-Canada (I'm from Ontario), they promptly reply to my mail the next day, and contacted me over the phone to bring the car in for inspection. After waking up at 9:00am on a Saturday morning, my scheduled date, the dealer told me that the brake is back ordered. They nicely instructed me to come visit again again. But I did find out that there is a "design problem" with the front brakes (material, size, or whatever I don't know), and they are going to replace them with "new design" ones.

    Now, the next thing is, I have received a recall notice for my Alero, with recall#036 on the code. One can not help but wonder what are the other 35? Does anyone know where to find them. I know that it is a standard industrial practice for car manufacture not to notify clients of minor problems until we compliant...
  • steve227steve227 Posts: 8
    The problem with bad rotors probably has to do with the slide pins on the calipers. GM has had many complaints on the 88 - 93 W body cars (Regals, Grand Prix, Cutlass Supreme and Lumina). The problem is that, as the brakes wear, the calipers seize to the caliper pins thereby preventing the caliper from 'following' the rotor as it should. The outside pad typically stays in contact with the rotor causing additional heat buildup which then warps the rotors and wears out the pads prematurely. It is VERY typical of the the rear brakes on the vehicles listed above. I've replaced the rear brakes on my 89 GP not less than 6 times in 215,000 miles, the last 125,000 of which is mostly highway miles at 400 miles per trip. It needs repairs again as of the date of this note.

    I would not doubt, although I have no information to support it, that the problem on the newer Aleros, Malibus, Cutlasses and Grand Ams likely stems from the same issue as noted above.

    The solution? The W body car owners/lessee have already gotten, or will get soon, a response on the class action suit. The others will likely have to form their own class in order to get GM to address the issue. Good luck.
  • jmmmbjmmmb Posts: 2
    Just took my 99 Alero (12300 miles) in to the dealer. At 60 or so MPH when I brake, car shudders and steering wheel shakes. They said there was a service bulletin (can't find it referenced it anywhere), and they ordered new rotors and brake shoes. I'm wondering, will this really help?
  • brad256brad256 Posts: 11
    Ybeam, will your dealer be replacing all four rotors and pad sets, or only a pair?

    I imagine that I'll be getting myself added to the backorder list. I've been ignoring my warped rotors for the last 3000-4000 miles as I have not really heard of a true solution. Replacing the parts with the same quality really makes no difference if there is a flaw in the design, which it sound like there is.

    What is feel is bizarre with my rotors is sometimes I can really feel them shake when braking, and other times after a longer trip I barely notice the shaking. Can we say "easily warped?"
  • gnlgnl Posts: 94
    How long will replacing the rotors be covered under the warranty, just for the first 3 yrs./36,000 miles?
  • mswilsonmswilson Posts: 1
    I've just purchased a 1999 Alero GL Coupe V6 nicely equipped. I got it used from a GM dealership for $19K(CDN) with 25900 Km (14100 miles). I also got an extended warranty to cover it for 4 years total. I'm a bit concerned at all the owners that are having rotor problems as I noticed that this car had a pronounced shudder/vibration while braking. The dealership said it would be looked after prior to picking up the car. Many responses seem to indicate that replacing rather than resurfacing is the course to go. As a used car buyer through a GM dealership (with balance of original warranty still available too), can I force this issue with them and demand replacement before taking possesion of the car. Does anyone have a history of success in regard to the rotor problem and what did you do. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Michael Wilson
  • hengheng Posts: 411
    You would be wise to make them replace the brakes before accepting the car. That is your biggest leverage with the dealer, not to buy it if it isn't fixed before hand.
  • louie_jlouie_j Posts: 11
    The brakes weren't right from the beginning on my Alero six months and 10k miles ago. At first the vibration/chatter was there only when the brakes were wet. Never having ABS on a car before, I thought maybe it was the ABS kicking in. Then about a month ago I noticed the brakes would chatter, but only when they were cold. The chatter would go away when the brakes heated up. I guess it's only a matter of time before they chatter all the time.
    Being a person that doesn't like going back to the dealer, I'll search the aftermarket (NAPA, Pep Boys) for replacement rotors and pads. I know the dealer will cut them for free, but the aggravation of taking it back to the dealer isn't worth it. Besides, I don't believe in cutting rotors, they only warp faster.
    Has anyone checked the lug nut torque? I know overtightened lug nuts warp rotors real fast.
  • hengheng Posts: 411
    I've rotated my tires myself so I know its not over tightened nuts. My symptoms started with a high speed brake chatter. Then progressed to brake pulsation at lower speeds.

    The TSB has the dealers replacing rotors and pads, not just pads and cutting rotors. My dealer expects the replacement rotors and pads next week.
  • mike0424mike0424 Posts: 2
    Hi folks: I leased a 99 Alero coupe back in Feb 99, returning a 97 2wd Blazer at the same time.

    Both cars are/were great, except for the brakes.

    On the Blazer, at 8,500m, the front brakes were so badly worn the pads and discs had to be replaced, and on checking the service log, I discovered they had also been replaced at 1,500m (1,500 miles!) before I received the vehicle.

    The pads had to be replaced again at 17,000m - this seemed extreme, so I checked with GM who said there were no problems, must be my driving technique.

    I admittedly drive fairly aggressively, but three pad, and two disc, replacements in 17,000 miles?

    Now on the Alero, I have 12,000m on the clock, and again there is shudder from the front brakes, and under little or no pressure, the steering wheel shakes from side to side. Then two days ago, without any warning (no shrill whistle warning of brake pad wear), the front right brake started making an ominous grinding noise. Looks like a trip to the dealer tomorrow.

    Anyhow, just wanted to check in with my experiences with GM cars and their brakes. Will update on what the dealer has to say tomorrow. But in the meantime, thanks for the postings on these problems - at least I have a starting point for tomorrow.
  • mike0424mike0424 Posts: 2
    Took the Alero in to the dealer today.
    They suggested front rotors and pads need replacing, along with a tire rotation and wheel alignment for $836.
    Got the usual BS about driving styles, and was told warranty was not in force at 12,326m (warranty on brakes is apparantly 12,000m/12months)
    Stood my ground, mentioned the conversation here on, and guess what - they are now doing the work for free, "because I am a long standing customer".
    Good luck with your Alero's brakes, and thanks for the postings - they helped me.
  • edwardh1edwardh1 Posts: 88
    GM just started building cars a few years ago. They are a new start up foreign company and do not have large numbers of engineers, or a long history of manufacturing brakes that would help them design them properly. They don't know about US traffic, or teen age drivers. They also don't have any vendors like say, Delco, to work with to bring a good product to market. They also do not yet have any test facilities to test the product so, right now they let you test the product. How are the tests coming?

    They do have well paid executives making millions while you keep buying.
  • newzgrl74newzgrl74 Posts: 3
    I have a few questions for you all. My 2000 Alero GLS is not even two weeks old, yet, I have a few questions. First, my radio seems to get very hot even after just say...20 minutes of being turned on. Secondly, my temperature gauge is always in the middle. Does everyone else's stay there as well? I don't want to seem neurotic (although I will take the risk)but my last car (91 cavalier) only went to the middle when I had the air conditioner on and the weather was very hot and humid. Thirdly, as well as kywoman I too was in bumper to bumper traffic on 4th of July and I noticed the car pulsating. I didn't know where it came from or what was causing it. The air conditioner was on and I had about 5 people in the car. That to me dosen't sound as though the car should pulsate. And finally...yes one more thought my cd player doesn't seem to have a stop button and I don't want to ruin my CD's. I looked over the manual and came up with nothing. I could have missed it. Any insight on these few things would be greatly appreciated. I have to say (knock on wood) so far I still enjoy the car!

  • The radio getting hot is not really a big deal considering that head units these days have a fairly decent amp in them. As far as the buttons on the radio getting warm to the touch, I found that it helps if you turn the intensity of the buttons down to about 3/4.
    As for the temp guage, mine sits just below the half-way point until about 40 mins of driving where it will rise to half way. It's only passed there when idling my car overheated (don't worry, no biggie, it was a faulty seal on the coolant cap, fixed under warranty)
    For the pulsation, I've only noticed it when slowing down from highway speeds, never in stop and go traffic. But, GM is slowly replacing the rotors and pads on the Alero so you might want to book an appointment if you're worried about it. Although they are seriously backordered nationwide. I've currently waited 2 weeks without a call so far. Hopefully they will be in soon.
    But, in any case, I still love the car and hope you enjoy it as much as the rest of us. Happy driving! =)
  • bhungbhung Posts: 3
    I've write in the past regarding my rotor, and the dealer replaced them. However, I also noticed another problem, which is overheating... I don't know if you can actually call it over heating. My temperature gauge will go all the way up to about 70%, then the drops back to about 55%. I spoke to the tech. He indicate that it is normal for this type of car... maybe I am gullible, I actually believed him at the time. His explanation was this, "the fan will not kick in until about 2/3 of the way, once there, the fan turns on and cool the engine down. This is a mileage saving feature". I'm no tech, I can say whether it is accurate, but it does sound logical (maybe). From the note above, I know there is a Service Bulletin for sealant on coolant cap. I wonder if it is related? Does everyone's Alero Temp Gauge go well pass 1/2 way? Even my cheap Hyundi does not show this symptom!
This discussion has been closed.