A few days ago, I started smelling this really strong burning brake odor from the back of my car. I wasn't sure what to make of it until yesterday, when I was filling up at a gas station, smelled the smell, and touched my rear left wheel.
It was really hot. The other wheels were cool.
Even I, with my limited car knowledge, put two and two together and figured it was a stuck caliber (which might explain why my mileage last week was a little worse than usual).
I took it in to the local brand-name brake/tire/burrito place today -- after some initial confusion with the ticket (when they tried to sell me on a new timing belt -- I'd just gotten it inspected at the proper interval -- and all the usual unnecessary fluid replacements), they confirmed, yes, it was a stuck brake caliper.
This is apparently something of a known issue with the Mazda Protege5 (mine is just under 6 years and 70K miles old).
They told me I needed two new rear calipers, rotors and pads. They didn't have the right replacement calipers (they should get in tomorrow), so I'm driving only locally, and carefully. right now.
However, based on my reading, and seeing their ridiculous price quote, I'm going to get a second opinion at the Mazda dealership tomorrow, especially since I don't think the local shop is up to speed on my car's brakes (like, how to free up a stuck piston). I've got a couple of 16ths of an inch of brake pad safety margin left to spare, so I have a little time, and if I'm right, this would probably save me a few hundred bucks.
Of course, my initial thought was to either: 1). Ignore it and hope it goes away, or 2). Throw money at it, but neither of those is really an option right now. But I can't afford to procrastinate on this one, as it's hurting my meeting schedule.