Keeping a car in top performing shape means being alert so you quickly notice when something needs attention. One of the most critical components on a car is the braking system. The condition of the brakes can make a huge difference when it comes to stopping safely and efficiently. Some signs of bad brakes are more noticeable than others, but with a little knowledge, you can tell quickly if your brakes need attention, without having to take the vehicle apart to inspect each and every component. Neglecting to notice brake issues, or have them repaired in a timely fashion can lead to increased repairs, or even worse, traffic accidents.
The Warning Light
Most newer cars come equipped with a brake indicator light on the dash or console. When this light appears, do not ignore it, even if the brakes seem to be operating normally. The warning light may appear for something as simple as low brake fluid levels, but again, if left unchecked, this minor issue can turn into something for more serious. If you fill the brake fluid to the proper level, but the new fluid is lost quickly, it can mean a leak somewhere in the braking system. Another reason for the warning light is a loss of hydraulic pressure or a problem with the antilock braking system. Regardless of the reason for the light, you should have a mechanic diagnose the problem before attempting to drive. On occasion, a person will forgot to release their parking or emergency brake and this can cause the warning light to remain on.
Squealing or Grinding Sounds
If you come to a stop and you hear a high-pitched squeal, it is obvious something is amiss. Brake pads often come with little pieces of metal known indicators. As the brake pads wear down, the indicator does the same. When the indicator wears to a certain point, it starts touching the rotor underneath the brakes and emits a squealing noise. This squealing noise tells you that it is time to replace the pads. On occasion, the indicator comes off the pad or the pads do not have an indicator in place. If this is the case, having the brakes inspected routinely is ideal. If the pads wear down too much, you may hear a grinding noise. This metal on metal sounds means that your brakes need immediate attention.
Another indication of a brake issue is a shaky steering wheel when the brakes are applied. When feeling a vibration in the steering wheel, the brakes may be the last component that crosses your mind, but chances are, the vibration is due to brake rotors that have warped. Checking to see if the rotors are warped is often more difficult than checking for worn pads, but the vibration is often a strong indicator. When rotors get warped, the only solution is to replace them.
When you apply the brakes and the car pulls to one side or the other, there is a chance the brakes need an adjustment. This issue can also mean that you have a leak in the braking system, or that the brake pads or rotors have worn down and need replaced. This fix is often simple unless it goes unattended for a long period. Warped rotors can also lead to pulling to the right or left.
Lack of Response
Perhaps there are few things scarier than pressing on the brakes and nothing happens. If your brakes do not have that stopping power that you are accustomed to, you possibly have a fluid leak. The same is true if the pedal sinks to the floor easily when pressed. The first step in determining if this is the issue is to check the brake fluid levels. Even if the brake fluid is at the proper level, the lack of response needs immediate attention.
If you press on the brake pedal and it grabs too quickly, the rotor may have uneven wear or the brake fluid is contaminated. The brake fluid becomes contaminated if water, rust or other chemicals mix with the brake fluid. Changing the fluid often does the trick, but if you do it yourself, it is necessary to make sure all of the air is out of the brake line. If air is left in the line, it can cause the brakes to fail.
When your brakes have an issue, you are at an increased risk of having an accident, especially if you do not have the problem fixed as soon as possible. Learning the warning signs of brake problems can help you avoid costly repairs in the long run. Some of the fixes are fairly simple, while others are a little more intricate, but regardless of the issue at hand immediate repairs can get you back on the road safely and confidently.