Your brakes are one of the most important components in your vehicle, but many drivers take them for granted and may not recognize signs that they need professional attention. Brakes are responsible for stopping your vehicle and keeping you, your passengers, and pedestrians safe from accidents. While your vehicle may run with bad brakes, it absolutely cannot be driven safely without brakes you can fully trust.
Luckily, manufacturers have designed automotive brakes to give ample warning before they become unsafe. In this article, we're going to look at some of the warning signs that your brakes may need service as well as some symptoms of damaged or broken brake components.
HOW DO CAR BRAKES WORK?
The brakes on your car use hydraulic fluid to transfer energy from your foot pressing the brake pedal into the caliper pistons, which then press your brake pads onto your wheel rotor, slowing its rotation through friction. With each press of the brake pedal and stopping event, a thin layer of brake pad material is worn away.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF BAD BRAKES?
The warning signs of brakes going bad are obvious and easy to diagnose. While it may be difficult to know whether a brake problem is the result of bad pads, calipers, rotors, or brake fluid, when your vehicle's brake system needs attention, you will know.
One of the most common signs your brakes need service is a screeching or squealing sound when stopping. Manufacturers design most pads with metal feelers that make contact with your rotors once the pad material has worn too thin but before you have bad brake pads, resulting in warning screeches when stopping. Addressing these signs as soon as you hear them can help prevent damage to your rotors and calipers.
IMPAIRED OR SHAKING STOPPING
If you ever find yourself asking, “Why does my car shake when I brake?” it’s time to see a mechanic because this is a sure sign of a failing brake component somewhere. It could be a bad brake pad or bad brake rotor, but your mechanic will need to diagnose it. Similarly, if you notice that you're having to press the brake pedal harder to get your vehicle to stop or it's taking longer for your brakes to slow and stop your vehicle, you have a problem with your brakes that needs attention. Anything from dirty brake fluid, superheated pads and rotors, or air in the brake lines could be at fault, so you should get to a mechanic as quickly as possible.
PULLING TO ONE SIDE
Frequently, when a vehicle’s brake lining is not wearing evenly, it can make your car feel like it’s pulling to one side, particularly under braking. If you’re experiencing this, you should get your vehicle to a mechanic.
BRAKE FLUID PUDDLE
Fluid puddles that collect under your vehicle may just be condensation from your AC unit dripping, but they could also indicate a brake fluid leak. Brake fluid typically looks light yellow when fresh and will gradually brown as it ages.
There’s no such thing as a trivial brake issue. If you experience any warning signs that your brakes are failing, you should make every attempt to get your car in for service as soon as possible. This can not only save you from expensive repairs moving forward, but it will keep your car operating safely for those inside and around it.