Has your car ever made a strange noise when you’ve pressed the brake? This is just one of the signs that your car may need its brakes repair or replace. Your car’s brakes experience a lot of wear and tear with each drive. However, different factors like the type of roads you drive on, how you drive, the type of vehicle you have, and how hard and often you brake all affect how regularly the brakes may need replacing or repair work. It’s best to look out for these signs to make sure your brakes don’t fail when you need them most.
Brake warning light
If your brake warning light turns on, this is a serious sign that something is wrong. It could mean your brake fluid is leaking, a speed sensor is faulty or the brake pads need replacing. Don’t ignore this sign and take your car in for a service immediately.
The brake warning light usually looks like an exclamation mark inside a circle, with two curved lines on either side. It may even say ‘brake’ over the top. Different cars may use different symbols, however, so check your car’s manual to be sure.
Squealing or grinding sound
While it can be normal to hear a little bit of squealing from your brakes, you shouldn’t hear it regularly. Loud screeching can mean that your brake pads need to be replaced. This is because the brake pads have worn thin and the metal of the brake pad is pressing against the rotors and discs.
If you don’t get your brake pads replace, the squealing may turn into a grinding sound, like metal scraping against metal. This happens when there is no more protective layer around the brake pads. With the metal of the brake pads fully rubbing against the metal of the brake discs, the brake discs can easily become damaged.
It’s best to get your brake pads replaced before the squealing sound turns into a grinding sound.
You may not hear a squealing or grinding sound, but a clicking noise instead. It can mean a problem with the brake pads, callipers or backing plates.
The brake pads are secured against the brake calliper. If the brake pads come loose, they can move up and down when the brake is used. This can be behind any clicking noises you hear when you drive slowly or brake when driving slowly.
Alternatively, it may be the calliper that has come loose.
Another cause may be a bent backing plate. These protect the brake from damage, but they can be bent inwards. If this happens, it can rub against the rotor or calliper causing a clicking noise.
If you notice odd vibrations when braking, this can be caused by uneven rotors or worn brake pads.
When you apply the brakes, the brake pads press against the rotors, which slows down your car. However, if the rotors are not smooth and the same thickness across, the brake pad will not press against the rotor as effectively. This can give you a wobbly sensation or vibration when you brake.
However, if it feels like your brake pedal is vibrating or you’re having difficulty stopping your car, this is a sign that your brake pad has worn out. Get this fixed as soon as possible.
Brake fluid leak
If you see a small yellow-brown puddle under your car, particularly near a wheel, this can mean your car is leaking brake fluid. Brake fluid leaves a slippery residue on your skin if you touch it.
Brake fluid is crucial to your overall brake system working. Without it you may not be able to stop your car. Get this problem fixed immediately.
You may not always see this leak though.
Spongy or soft brakes
A brake fluid leak might not be visible, but you can also spot it if your brake pedal feels ‘soft’ (this is when it sinks all the way to the floor when you press down). There should be some resistance when you use the brakes.
A soft brake can also mean that there is air or moisture in the braking system. There may also be a problem with master cylinder.
You may find that your brake is unusually hard to press, however. There may be a problem with the brake fluid, like it has becoming sludgy and contaminated. You may need to drain the reservoir and replace the brake fluid so that the brake system can move smoothly.
Car pulling to one side
It can be scary to feel your car pulling to one direction when you brake. There are typically two causes for this. It may be that a brake hose has gone bad or one calliper is applying more pressure than the others when you’re braking, which makes your car unbalanced. It’s a bit like if you were being pulled from either side by someone, but the person on your left side pulled harder. You would be more likely go to the left.
If you smell a strong chemical burning smell, particularly after repeatedly braking hard on a steep road, stop your car immediately. You need to give your brakes time to cool, otherwise the brake fluid may boil leading to brake failure. Check that you haven’t left the parking brake on either.
You may also see smoke coming from one of the wheels. If you do, it may not be safe to continue driving your car. Smoke can be an indicator of a stuck brake calliper. This too can cause a complete brake failure. Call for a mechanic immediately and ensure these 5 parts to include in a Brake Service!
How often should you change your brake pads?
Many of the signs above are indicators that your brake pads need replacing or fixing. While there aren’t any strict guidelines for when you need to change them, they should be checked every 16,000 km or so. The regularity will depend how you drive, the kinds of roads you drive on and how you use the brakes though. Check your car’s owner manual as well. They may advise a different time period.
If you need to replace your brake discs, replace the brake pads at the same time.
How to make your brakes last longer?
- Driving style: Reduce your speed before intersections or traffic lights so you do not need to brake as quickly or heavily.
- Brake quality: Some brake pads are of a better quality and will last longer.
- Environment: Where possible, avoid driving on roads that require a lot of braking, for instance, urban roads with lots of traffic lights. If possible, use motorways or highways.
If you notice any of the above signs, it can mean you need to see a car mechanic. Even small problems, when left alone, can become expensive. Remember when you have your car serviced to mention any brake issues you are having.