Driving a car is an automatic function of our lives. Within weeks of purchasing it, we adjust to its sounds, noises, and movements. We expect it to work … until it doesn’t.
The more aware you are of the sounds, noises, and movements, the greater chance you have of noticing when problems occur. Solving the issue before it escalates can save you time, energy, and money. It may also save your life.
Your brake system is one of the most vital systems on your car. If your brakes fail, it can put you in a precarious situation. Luckily, your brake system has warning signs that potential problems are occurring. If you notice these early, you can fix the problem before it escalates. What should you watch for?
Watch for the brake light on your dashboard
We see it quite frequently where a driver brings their vehicle in with several dashboard icons lit. These sensors go off for a reason; don’t ignore them. They are providing you with ample warning that your vehicle no longer meets manufacturer’s guidelines.
If the brake light indicator appears on the dashboard, it’s providing you with a warning that it’s either time for a routine maintenance check, or there’s a problem within the system. An illuminated brake light could signify that your vehicle has low levels of brake fluid. If this is left unchecked for too long, it could lead to serious braking issues. Low fluid impacts stopping distance, and could impact how the brake pads wear.
Schedule your appointment soon to avoid bigger problems.
Listen for squealing or squeaking noises
Cars make a lot of noise throughout your drive. You can easily pick up on noises as they change over time if you stay fully aware. New noises coming from your brakes aren’t always a bad thing, but they might be indicators of a potential problem.
How long do they last? Do you hear the noise over and over again? Sometimes a rock or debris can impact sound. But as it leaves the system, your car should return to normal.
Brake pads are built with wear indicators that produce a squealing noise. This high-pitched sound will continue to build the more you drive. This ensures you can’t ignore it. You’ll notice it every time you step on the brakes.
Watch for problems with anti-lock brakes
Most modern day cars come with anti-lock braking systems that offer a key safety component to help your drive. ABS is designed to help prevent your brakes from locking up during emergency situations. It also helps your tires from losing traction on icy or slippery roads when you step on the brakes.
In most cases, if your anti-lock brakes have a problem, you’ll see an icon on your dashboard illuminate. Problems can range from a damaged ABS tone ring to a faulty speed sensor. The best way to determine where the problem lies is to bring it in for a diagnostic test to see what’s triggering the warning light.
Notice brakes get spongy to the touch
When you first get your vehicle, your brakes respond immediately to your touch. As brakes wear down, it takes more pressure to achieve the same results. As you press down on the brake pedal, it moves closer to the floor, and it takes on a somewhat spongy feel. Causes can include:
- Air in the brake line. This is often caused by a brake fluid leak or if the brake fluid is low.
- Damage to the brake line. If you’ve been in a car crash, or your car was damaged in any way, it could have impacted the brake line. Age can also impact it, allowing the line to become brittle, cracked, or rusted out
- Low brake fluid. If there is a leak in the system, brake fluid might not be at the recommended level.
- Master cylinder issues. The master cylinder controls brake fluid levels. If it isn’t working correctly, it isn’t sending brake fluid in the quantity needed. It will be more difficult to brake as you’re driving.
You notice a shake or vibration when steering
If the steering wheel shakes or vibrates when you apply the brakes, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. Common problems include:
- Worn brake pads. Any time the brake pads reach end of life, it can impact the way your car drives. When the pads can no longer grip the rotors as intended, it can cause the steering wheel to shake.
- Warped rotors. When applying the brakes, the brake pads connect with the rotors to stop the wheels from spinning. Over time, the rotor can wear down. If it does so unevenly, it can impact the brake friction when you apply the brakes. This is why it’s important to fix the brake pads quickly, as they are less expensive and easier to repair than the rotor.
You notice a burning smell
If the brakes get too hot, they can leave off a sharp, chemical odor. If you notice this coming back from a day of skiing, for example, it’s best to pull over and let your brakes cool before driving again. Double check the parking brake to ensure it’s not engaged. If there’s smoke coming from the wheel, it may be a caliper that is malfunctioning. If you aren’t sure, your safest bet is to have your car towed. It keeps you safe and ensures further damage isn’t caused to your brake system.
Your car pulls to the left or right
While this can be caused by a variety of problems, it might be from a problem with your brake system. If it’s caused by the front brakes, one brake may be working while the other is not. That will cause your car to handle differently as you apply the brake, with your car moving right or left depending on which brake isn’t working. Any time you notice your car not driving in a straight line, it’s time to have an inspection to ensure it’s working correctly.
Don’t ignore problems with your brakes
Even the smallest issues can cause your brakes to fail. Any warning sign is designed to give you a chance to bring your car in for inspection before you have more serious problems.
Schedule your appointment today.