7 Common Signs Your Brakes Need Attention

Your safety behind the wheel is very much dependent on all the systems in your car working properly and not being compromised. Let’s spend a moment examining one of the most critical parts of your vehicle – the brakes.

How Do Car Brakes Work?

Some cars are equipped with drum brakes, most often on the non-actively driven wheels. Electric cars can also sometimes use regenerative braking systems, which are altogether different. All car brakes have the same purpose, and that’s to stop or slow the car down.

Most often on a modern car, disc brakes are used, so for the purposes of our explanation, we’ll focus on how the disc brake works.

Very simply, when you press on your brake pedal, a specially constructed friction surface (called a brake pad) is applied against a metal disc (called a brake disc) to use force to slow the wheel’s spin down and in turn slow the car down. Brakes work by physically stopping the wheel from spinning.

Modern cars use a hydraulic braking system paired with something called a brake booster to turn the force you apply to the brake pedal efficiently to the braking system without you needing to apply a lot of pressure to the brake pedal to elicit a slowdown of the car under braking. It does this by pressurizing a special liquid, called brake fluid, and sending this liquid down brake lines and tubes to apply pressure to a caliper piston, which is forced closed, causing the braking surfaces to make contact and slow the rotation of the wheel.

What Parts Need Replacing?

Almost all the parts of a car’s braking system can ultimately be at fault for the brakes to not work as well as they should. There are some parts that would be considered normal to replace occasionally as part of a service or when needed due to wear and tear, and other more serious faults that are less common that you might not experience at all.

Your brake pads and brake discs are likely the part you’ll replace most often as they naturally wear down and become misshapen or worn from making contact at high speeds and high heat with each other. They’re routine to change, and don’t cost too much when it’s time to do so. You’ll also need to keep the brake fluid topped up as part of your regular vehicle maintenance. It’s easy enough to do this yourself at home.

Other parts that can go faulty and need to be replaced include the brake calipers and associated systems, the power brake booster, handbrake cable and disc brake assembly, all of which require immediate attention and replacement. Paul Campanella’s Auto and Tire Center can assist with all brake problems you might encounter and there are several locations for your convenience. They’ll also arrange a local shuttle and a cup of great coffee while you wait. Finance options are also available for you should you need them.

High Pitched Screeching or Grinding Noise

A high-pitched screech or grinding noise from your brakes when you press the brake pedal is a surefire sign its time to take your car in for a brake check. It’s almost certainly a sign that your brake pads have worn through and instead of that specially made brake mad material, you’re now getting metal on metal which can not only cause a loud and unpleasant noise, but it can also lead to very degraded and dangerous braking performance, as well as damage to all the components of your car’s braking system. It’s recommended that, as soon as you hear any noises coming from the brakes, you head to a service station immediately and do not continue to drive if possible.

Unfamiliar Noise Right After You Replace the Brake Pads

It’s not always a worn brake pad that can cause an awful noise from the brakes. A glazed, worn or grooved brake disc can be another cause of noise coming from the brakes. Usually, your fitment center will tell you when you replace your brake pads if you need to change the discs too, but if they don’t and you continue to endure a noise from your brakes right after changing your brake pads, you’ll likely need to change the discs too. You can spot a glazed brake disc by a dark ring or blue marks on the disc itself.

Vibration When You Push the Brake Pedal

Another symptom that can indicate a problem with the brake discs is a vibration when you apply brakes. This is usually a sign that your brake discs have become warped or misshapen. It can be as gentle as a pulsing feeling on your foot from the brake pedal or it can cause the whole car to vibrate or shudder. Either way, it’s affecting your brake’s performance drastically, so you need to have it taken care of without delay.

Slow Stopping Response

If you’re finding that your car isn’t slowing down as quickly as you’re used to and there is no noise of any kind and no vibrating, shuddering or pulsing of the brake pedal, it could be that you need to check and correct fluid levels in your braking system. Adding brake fluid is very similar to adding coolant or oil to your car and is done by adding it to a reservoir under the hood. If the problem occurs frequently or quickly after adding brake fluid, it’s likely that you have a fluid or hydraulic leak, which is more serious and will need the attention of a professional to repair and rectify.

Having to Push the Brake Pedal Down Harder Than Usual

Having to really push down on the brake pedal so it feels almost like it would be easier to stop by physically slowing the car down with your foot on the road is a sign that there is trouble with your braking system. It might be the power brake booster that needs repair or replacement, or it might be low brake fluid, or worse you might have air in the brake system. All these issues are urgent and need attention right away.

Having to Push the Brake Pedal Down Softer Than Usual

If you find yourself having the opposite problem and your brakes feel much more sensitive than usual, this can point to a problem with the brakes that is just as serious. It might mean you need to fully change out the brake fluid, or our old friend the warped brake disc.

You Car Pulls to One Side Under Braking

Another problem that can occur with your car’s brakes are the brake linings. If these brake linings wear unevenly it can cause the vehicle to start to pull to one side under braking. Your brake lining might need to be adjusted if this is happening to you. This uneven wear can also be a sign that you might have contaminants in your brake fluid and that means draining and replacing all the fluids in your brake system.

If you experience any of the above issues or generally any degraded or different performance from your brakes, you need to make sure you get them attended to as soon as possible and without delay. It is critical that your brakes are in perfect working order at all times.

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