Brakes again

I don't want to trigger another never-ending thread, but in research for another forum I stumbled across this essay on brake pulsations at http://www.powerbrake.co.za/downloads/tech_01_judder.pdf
It seems to pull together the cementite issue with the issue of disc thickness variation and supports it with pictures. I've seen the individual pieces in various places but thought this did a good job of making sense of it all. There is also a good treatment of brake pad selection that mainly reinforces my preference for staying with OEM.
Mike
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Michael Pardee wrote:

wrong, they lose all credibility.
bottom line, honda disk hubs are ultra-lightweight. they elastically distort when the lugs are tightened. if the torque is incorrect, the disk starts to sit out of plane, and the brake judders. it's real simple!
metallurgical problems can exist, and they show disk cracking as one of them, [but get that explanation wrong too], but cementite transformation at normal braking temperatures is pure b.s.
i've permanently fixed this issue several times now on different civics and most recently on my crx. simply apply a thin layer of antiseize to the hub surfaces, torque in a 2 or more stage process and bob's your mother's brother.
i've been thinking about this for a while, but i guess this article ratchets things up my agenda - i must go to a junk yard and take some pics of things to look out for in the disk brake department. there's one thing particularly i want to show for cheap chinese disk castings.
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In spite of your doubt about the role of cementite, did you read it all? And do you have disagreements about the rules for avoiding pulsations on page 7?
I am a skeptic about cementite formation as a factor in brake disc deterioration, but looking back on the odd visual patterns I've seen on some brake discs after being in service a while I am not so skeptical. I'm sure you've seen those, too - scaly looking areas with irregular shapes. Given that cementite will form below 700 degrees C (according to the link) and that braking under adverse conditions such as short downhill freeway off-ramps dumps a whole lot of energy into the brakes in a hurry, it makes sense. As the link points out, cementite isn't necessarily the root cause of brake pulsation. It places heavy blame on poorly cleaned surfaces and anything else that causes uneven friction. The disc with darkened areas over the dividers in the cooling vanes (figure 4) really turned on the light bulb for me. I've seen that.
I too have experienced much less brake trouble since I began torquing wheels with a torque wrench. But the pulsations often still appear down the road - just farther down the road. Something is happening to what were carefully installed brakes, and not just on Hondas. My Volvo is even touchier.
Does this prove cementite is to blame for all cases of brake pulsation or worsening pulsations? No, but it is a good fit in that the conditions to create cementite are known to exist in heavily used brakes. It isn't proof, but it sure is more credible than global warming theories. It has my attention.
Mike
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Michael Pardee wrote:

the #1 issue with "cementite theory", even if the metallurgy weren't bogus, is that brake pulsing disappears if you take the wheel off, clean, antiseize and correctly torque. even if you're unsure on the metallurgical argument, that alone identifies it as a mechanical issue, nothing else.
regarding casting quality, there are indeed a multitude of issues that can be present including non-homogeneity of the casting, voids, inclusions, etc. there can also be heat treatment issues too, lots and lots of things. but to suppose there's any significant metallurgical transformation going on at the temperatures cited, for the few seconds it can be sustained, is massively underinformed.
if we're looking at patchiness on the disk, my money's 80% on surface contamination. a thumb print for instance leaves oils which carbonize on heating. then you have a glazed patch with different friction and wear properties to the rest of the disk. add to that a brake pad with insufficient silica [abrasive] content, and this patch will remain while the the remainder of the surface wears. etc.
my other 20% is on insufficient post-casting heat treatment. disk irons are usually "gray" - that means carbon flakes are precipitated throughout the material. if there's a region where it's been insufficiently heated for not long enough, there my be insufficient precipitation and too much retained cementite, but that's /retained/, not formed as the result of service.
so, inasmuch as the article tries to address the problem, it's making a good effort regarding cleanliness, torque, q.c., etc. but it's well wide of the mark on the metallurgy and only part way there on contamination.
oh, and why do disks "warp" over time? believe it or not, the wheel moves about on the hub, even when bolted tight. not a lot, but a little. if something "settles" as the result of this movement, it'll "warp" the disk. likewise corrosion - that can creep in under bolted surfaces and have the same effect. keep things clean and antiseized, there will be no problems.
and as a final reality check, always bear in mind that brakes are supposed to be able to cope with severe service. [despite the "standards" considered acceptable in detroit not so many years ago] if a brake can't stop a fully loaded car from it's maximum speed, fully loaded, on a steep grade, it's a potential killer. cast irons can retain sufficient strength and hardness for this function well into the red heat zone. that's a good deal hotter than our "avoid 610 C" friends seem to be able to envisage.
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long - no corrosion.) My Volvo has disks that are essentially removed when I remove the wheel and once they pulsate they only get worse. When I learned the importance of torque I tried removing and retorquing the wheels without any improvement. New rotors were as smooth as butter the first few years, then they too gradually started pulsating.

descriptions fit my experience very well.

discs and my hands well before installation and clean the disc with brake cleaner and isopropyl alcohol (and lots of paper towels) before final assembly. I still get the scaly spots occasionally - I just figured they were casting anomalies. They may still be.

The major problem with the cementite theory is that it doesn't take us very far into the practical realm: what to do to prevent trouble. The link covers your points and more (including intelligent pad selection for the use and breaking in brakes) but the cementite theory only offers an explanation as to why the problem is progressive, not anything new to do about it.

Although - the brakes will do that, cementite formation or not. Brakes are made to be serviced based on inspection and performance, so if the performance has degraded the brakes are fixed, regardless why it got that way.
I agree the argument for the role of cementite is not conclusive but it isn't something to be rejected out of hand either. Whether it is *useful* or not, I'm not prepared to debate. But it is interesting.
Mike
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Michael Pardee wrote:

if we saw honda disks with patches on them, then sure, but since it's rare in comparison to the "other cause", and the "other cause" disappears with simple remedies, i say it's clutching at straws.

perhaps, but metallurgically unsound. my casting metallurgy is a little vague these days, but iirc, unless there's some crazy prolonged heating involved, combined with alloying problems, i don't see how gray iron is going to re-transform itself into cementite. casting and subsequent heat treatment errors leading to /retained/ cementite are /much/ more likely in comparison, and they'd show up in machining.
slightly tangential to this, the europeans are big into abrasive pads on their disk brakes - the disk wear rate on bmw, mercedes, volvo, the euro fords, etc., is very high compared to japanese [honda] disk wear rates. while disk replacement on each pad change is pretty much inevitable, with the higher expense involved, there is some method to this madness. because they're effectively always being skimmed, these disks are much less susceptible to surface contamination problems, including the effects of rust.
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