The brake system is one of the most important safety systems in your vehicle. It’s vital for slowing down, avoiding collisions and maintaining control in all situations from day-to-day driving to emergencies.
While disc brake systems are designed to deal with immense amounts of heat and friction, they will inevitably wear down over time. Fortunately, your brakes will give you clear signals if the pads are wearing out or if there is something else wrong.
Knowing what these signals are and what they mean will ensure the safe operation of your car’s brakes and help you to avoid costly repairs and even accidents.
These are the top 6 signs that you need brake repairs.
- The warning light comes on So, this one’s pretty obvious. Some vehicles are fitted with sensors in the brake pads. Once the pads are worn down to a certain level, the brake warning light in the dashboard will turn on. When this happens, you should consult your mechanic. They can assess the wear and make a recommendation regarding when the pads should be replaced.
- Brake squealing, squeaking or grinding Noises coming from your brakes is rarely a good sign. If you’re hearing a high-pitched squeal or squeak whenever you apply the brakes, that’s a pretty clear sign your brakes pads are wearing down. Most brake pads include wear indicators. These are small pieces of metal that make contact with the brake disc once enough material has worn off the brake pad. This contact will cause the high-pitched noise letting you know that you need your brake pads replaced. A grinding sound in your brakes could be a sign of more serious problems. When brake pads have been left too long without servicing, they can wear through, causing a metal-on-metal grinding noise when you apply the brakes. This can cause additional and more costly damage to the brake discs.
- Vibrations Feeling vibrations through the steering wheel or brake pedal when you apply the brakes means that your brake rotor may be unevenly worn. The brake rotor is the large disc that sits inside the wheels. When you hit the brakes, the pads apply pressure to the disc to slow the vehicle. Over time, the disc can wear unevenly and these variations can cause vibrations that are transferred through the vehicle to the steering and brake pedal.
- Spongy or soft brake pedal Any difference in your brake pedal’s resistance could also be a sign of brake problems. If the pedal feels soft, spongy or sinks right to the floor, you should book a car service or get to your mechanic ASAP.
- Car pulls to one side when braking If your vehicle is regularly pulling to one side when braking, you might have a problem with a brake hose or brake caliper. The calipers house the brake pads and apply pressure to the discs. One caliper applying more pressure during braking can cause the car to pull to the left or right. This will result in unbalanced stopping, which is dangerous, as well as uneven wear on your breaks, which can make the problem worse.
- Burning smell A sharp burning smell after hard or prolonged braking could be a sign of brake or clutch overheating. You should pull over, check that your parking brake isn’t on and give your brakes time to cool down. Driving on overheated brakes can cause the brake fluid to boil, which can lead to complete brake failure.A burning smell could also be due to a stuck brake caliper, in which case the vehicle may not be safe to continue driving without repairs.
How to make your brakes last longer
You braking system deals with an incredible amount of friction and heat and will inevitably wear out. However, there are a few things you can to prolong the lifespan of your brakes.
- Driving style Constantly braking hard will dramatically speed up the wear on your brake pads. Braking earlier, braking gently and coasting to reduce your speed before braking will help extend the lifespan of your brakes.
- Consider the routes you drive The more you use your brakes, the faster they will wear out. So, city driving and areas with a lot of hills and corners are harder on your brakes than long open stretches of road. Oftentimes, you won’t have a great deal of say over the routes you need to take. However, if there’s a choice between a long, interrupted freeway and winding stop-and-start back streets, the freeway will be much gentler on your brakes.
- Buy quality As with any vehicle components, the quality can vary greatly depending on brand and manufacturer, with some products lasting much longer than others. In general, the higher quality products will last longer, but will be more expensive.
When it comes to your car brakes, you can’t afford to take a chance on safety. You should always spend the money on the best possible brake components, get your car serviced regularly and speak to your mechanic immediately if you notice any of the signs mentioned above.