It seems like any other regular afternoon, and you are driving like you usually do. Your radio volume is up, and you are enjoying the ride. All of a sudden, you notice a faint noise that slowly becomes louder. You probably do not know this; that if you are traveling at a speed of over 60 miles per hour, your car will come to a definite stop after about 100 yards. However, this is only likely if you have maintained your car brakes in excellent condition.
Brakes may not be the most prominent part of your vehicle, but they are crucial. You ought to pay attention to the warning signs that show the need for servicing the brakes. Besides, it could be the difference between life and death on the road.
Some signs that your brakes should be serviced are apparent, such as the feeling that your automobile is taking longer than it should stop, or the light that appears on the dashboard. In both instances, you need to visit a mechanic for a brake inspection as soon as you can. Here are other seven warning signs that it’s time to take your car to a mechanic.
You may have been warned against listening to deafening music in the vehicle. Your mother told you that it is terrible for your ears, but hear this; it is awful for your car too. If your brakes are faulty and they produce strange noises, you would not hear the sounds amidst the loud volume.
The warning signs that your brakes require inspecting may come as an indicator from your system as high-pitched squeal sounds from your brakes. While this sounds may be heard when your windows are up, there is no way you will know any of it when your music is high in the car.
Besides the squeal from the sensor, you should also look out for a harsh grinding sound. The noises show that the brake pad is completely worn out and when you apply the brakes, the metal on the caliper is crushing against the rotors. This does not only make it hard to stop your car, but it also damages the rotors. If you continue driving with the pads in this condition, they will get extremely broken, to the extent that a relatively inexpensive repair job into a costly rotor replacement or resurfacing task.
Have you ever had to execute an emergency stop in a vehicle that has antilock brakes? If you have felt this, then you understand the kind of rapid brake-pedal pulsing that accompanies the quick grabs in a car brake system when you try to stop it. If your brake pedal vibrates when you are trying to stop your vehicle under regular circumstances, you might have an issue.
A vibrating brake bar is a sign of warped rotors. When the surfaces are uneven, they will thrum against the pads, and you will experience the feedback as vibration pulses through the brake pedal.
Rotors tend to warp when they are put under excessive stress for a long time. The heat that comes from the friction experienced such as when you stop frequently or when driving down steep mountainsides can make the rotors to change shape.
If you have not stressed your brakes recently yet you feel some vibrations in the pedal, your wheels might be misaligned. As such, you need to take your automobile to a mechanic for a proper diagnosis.
Have you ever felt like your vehicle is resisting your commands and wants to follow its ways? It keeps making left or right turns when you are driving or braking. If you ever experience this, have your brakes checked immediately because it could signal an issue with your car’s brake system.
The cause of this pulling may be a clipper that is stuck inside the system. This is because such a happening would result in friction on one wheel while the others remain in perfect condition. That way, your car might pull to the side where the caliper is stuck.
Another scenario that might make a vehicle to pull is a collapsed brake hose that makes your calipers to move unevenly when you apply the brakes. The third scenario would be uneven brake pads, which also leads to unequal amounts of pressure on the different wheels.
However, you should understand that pulling is not always related to brakes. Sometimes it results due to tires that are not inflated evenly, an issue with the car’s suspension or due to poor alignment. That is why you should stop your car the moment you notice that it is pulling. Take it to your local mechanic repair shop or contact a mechanic. Driving a vehicle under this condition is dangerous.
Besides the vibrations, your brakes can give other signals that your vehicle’s braking system needs some examining. If you notice that your pedal is mushy, in that it goes down even before you engage it, there might be an issue with the hydraulic system.
Common problems in the hydraulic system include brake fluid leak, air leak and air in the line. If you would like to do a fast check for fluid leakage, place a white sheet or white cardboard under the vehicle overnight. Examine the fluid that collects on the cloth or cardboard. Usually, brake fluid is clear and has the consistency of cooking oil.
If your brake is not mushy, but it grabs right away at the smallest touch, it is an indication of an unevenly worn rotor, contamination of the fluid by moisture or dirty brake fluid. You can harden the brakes by changing the brake fluid, which is relatively inexpensive. If possible, you can change the fluid yourself or hire a mechanic to do it.
Also, if you are having difficulty stopping your car, there might be a brake line obstruction or an issue with the vacuum system. You will know this is the situation when you have to push the pedal hard for it to work. Both hard and soft pedals will make the brake pedal hard to operate and will require servicing without delay. Just like in the previous case, changing the oil might do the trick, but you should consider taking the car to a reputable mechanic for inspection.
Before diving into this issue, here is an overview of how brakes work. Most brakes are dependent on a system known as disc brakes. They function similarly to brakes on a ten-speed bicycle. A hydraulic system that is filled with brake fluid cases a series of padded clamps referred to as calipers. The action causes the calipers to squeeze on a disk known as a rotor. The friction that arises between the rotor and the pads stops the car eventually.
Just like you would expect with any other system, the pads start wearing out, and they eventually become less efficient at stopping or slowing down the vehicle.
You should check the width of the brake pads often to ensure that they are in excellent condition. Thankfully, the process is straightforward as all you’ve got to do is to check between the spokes of the wheels to spot the shiny metal rotor inside. When you place it, check around the outer sides where the metal caliper is located. The pad is between the rotor and the caliper. Pads should be about a quarter an inch thick. All the same, you will have to do a rough estimate. If they are thinner than this, you should take your car to a mechanic right away.
If your vehicle’s wheel is made in a way that you cannot see through the spokes, make sure you remove the tire to inspect the pads and rotor. Either way, make sure you check the rotor too. It should be smooth. If you notice any pits or deep grooves, consider replacing it as well.
Although the inspection seems like a DIY job, it is always wise to hire a trained mechanic to do it. That way, you are assured of quality.
Brake Warning Signs
If the brake warning sign on your dashboard illuminates, it could mean many things. When you first start your vehicle, all the lights on the dash should illuminate. This is a procedural bulb check. They should go off after a while, at times even after a few seconds. If any of the lights fails to go off, your car is communicating about an issue in the system. If the lights do not go on during the bulb check, it’s an indication that you should replace the bulb.
The brake light shows one of these two things:
- That the emergency brake is on – If this is the case, release it to solve the issue
- That the pressure is the brake system is down by a half – You need to get an inspection immediately.
Releasing the emergency brake is easy. However, if you do that and the light doesn’t go off, it’s time to consider an inspection.
Brake Maintenance Tips
Here are some steps you can take to ensure your brakes work better:
- Perform regular inspections
Most vehicles are made using alloy wheels or steel, which makes inspection straightforward. The mechanic or the owner can quickly look at the rotors, pads, and calipers. Look out for uneven pad wear, scratches or pits on the rotor, as well as rust and other defects. A regular checkup will keep you ahead of the maintenance schedule.
- Keep the fluid cylinder full
When the brake fluid is at a lower level than it is recommended, you will be putting too much strain on the brake cylinder and its accompanying components. The effects spread to other parts like the drums, rotors, and pads.
- Check the underbelly
Your vehicle’s underside takes up a lot of things that can damage the entire system. For instance, it takes up ice, pebbles, salt, tar and other materials. Eventually, your brake lines might take the fall. Make sure you check for rust, holes and other indications or wear and tear.
Common Reasons for Brake Problems
- Corroded slide pins
The caliper should slide in smoothly and evenly at all times. In case the slide pins are corroded, the caliper will not slide in as they should. This leaves it sitting off the center. The pad is therefore in contact with the rotor, and eventually, you may have to replace the pads.
- Driver error
This is among the most common reason for abnormally fast tear and wear of the brakes. It is common among drivers who step on the gas pedal and the brake pedal simultaneously. These drivers usually leave one foot resting on the brake pedal slightly, but eventually, they step on it. It is essential to understand that any pressure on the pedals will engage the brakes, regardless of how minor it may seem. This will wear the pads quickly and overburden the rotors.
- Using cheap pads
Replacement pads are available at varying prices. Although you may be enticed to go for the lowest priced brakes, understand that sub-standard brake pads do not last for a long time. Besides, some cheap pads contain large portions of metal that might damage the rotors. That is why you should always buy high-quality rotors even if you have to spend a little more.
- Abnormal rotor wear
In a well-functioning brake system, the surfaces of the rotors are smooth, and both sides are of equal thickness. When the rotors are worn, they wear out rapidly. This can result in cracks on the brake pads and uneven tear and wear.
Regular driving will put make your car’s working parts wear and tear. How long the brakes last will depend on your driving habits, but on average, they should last four to five years. If you notice any of these signals, make sure you have the brakes checked immediately. Make sure you hire a reputable mechanic for the inspection as you wouldn’t want to take chances with how well the vehicle is cared for.