Signs You Need to Have Your Brakes Serviced
A vehicle’s braking system is arguably its most vital component, as any malfunction can have unwanted — and potentially significant — consequences. However, no mechanical component lasts forever, and you’ll have to repair or replace your brakes at some point. You can avoid the risk of your brakes failing by watching for obvious early signs. If you notice any of the signs on this list, get off the road as soon as possible, and have your vehicle checked by specialized technicians.
How Brakes Work
Before discussing some of the most common signs you need to fix your brakes, it’s important to understand how a vehicle’s braking system works. When you press the brake pedal, brake fluid releases into the brake calipers, which press the brake pads against the rotors. The brake fluid amplifies the force you apply with your foot, and the resulting friction reduces the wheels’ turning speed, causing your vehicle to slow down and eventually stop.
Common Signs You Need Your Brakes Fixed
These signs can indicate a possible issue with your vehicle’s braking system:
Brake Light Coming On
This first sign is the most obvious. If you see a brake light indicator appear on your vehicle’s dashboard, it’s time for a regular brake maintenance check, or your braking system has a major issue. Regardless, visit a mechanic as soon as possible, as either cause could lead to a brake failure and subsequent accident. Some vehicles have a common indicator for brake system issues and the parking brake being on, so check the latter first.
Vibration or Wobbling While Braking
If you feel a shake or vibration while braking, it could be a sign your brake rotor is uneven. Most vehicles brake by pushing the brake pads against the rotors and, over time, the rotors can wear out at different rates. Although this might not be an immediate danger, the uneven spots will likely deepen over time, gradually reducing your braking efficiency. A mechanic can determine if your rotors can be fixed or if they require replacing.
A high-pitched noise when hitting the brakes doesn’t always indicate a problem with your braking system. It can also happen if you haven’t driven your car in a while or if a small pebble gets caught between the rotor and brake pads. In these cases, the noise should go away by itself after you hit the brake a few times. If it persists, however, your brake pads might be worn out and need replacing. Modern brake pads have special indicators that make a high-pitched noise when they reach a certain level of wear.
The Car Pulling in One Direction While Braking
If you notice your vehicle drifts left or right while you brake, you might have an issue with your front brakes. This usually happens when the brakes on one front wheel stop working as they should, which causes the vehicle to tilt in the direction of the working brakes. If the same thing happens with one of your rear brakes, you probably won’t notice it, so have your brakes checked periodically even if they show no clear signs of malfunction.
Sharp Burning Smells
If, while driving, you sense a strong chemical smell, your brakes might be overheating. This can occur even if your brakes work well, but you use them extensively over a short period to the point they overheat. If a smell develops randomly, however, one of your brake calipers might be locked, causing friction and overheating. If the problem persists after allowing the brakes to cool for a few minutes, consider calling a tow service, as it might not be safe to keep driving your car.
Soft Braking Pedal
When your braking system runs well, your braking pedal should be firm but not difficult to press. If the pedal is easier to press than normal or goes all the way down to the floor when you press it, moisture or air might have found their way into your braking system. It could also be a sign of damaged brake lines, a worn master cylinder, or other potential braking system malfunctions. A trained mechanic can discover the root of the problem and fix it for you.
Stopping Your Vehicle Takes Longer Than Normal
Many factors can determine your vehicle’s braking distance, including driving surface, weather conditions, and tire quality. However, the most decisive is usually the quality of your braking system. If you notice braking takes longer than it used to, visit a mechanic as soon as possible. This could indicate a flaw anywhere within your braking system, and not having it fixed immediately means it’s at risk of deteriorating further.
Common Braking System Replacements
These are the braking system components most likely to require regular servicing:
- Brake pads: Your vehicle’s brake pads suffer the most friction and are the parts of your braking system that are most likely to break down. Every vehicle manual indicates an optimal time or distance interval at which you should change them, even if they’re running well. Excessively used brake pads tend to overheat and lose some of their effectiveness.
- Brake fluid: Your vehicle’s brake fluid is crucial for the braking system to run well, as it transfers power from the brake pedal to the wheels. Over time, it depletes or loses its consistency, and a mechanic might need to flush or replace it.
- Brake rotor: Your vehicle’s brake rotors are circular discs attached to each wheel that cause your vehicle to slow down when pressed against the brake pads. Although they typically wear slower than brake pads, you’ll have to replace them eventually.
Having a well-functioning and properly serviced braking system can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can depend on your vehicle in a tight situation. Luckily, you can spot most signs of brake issues early, and fixing them is relatively quick and inexpensive. If you’re looking to have your brakes checked by certified technicians, visit us at Eskridge Chevrolet.