Our modern society can’t survive without driving a car. Eighty-three percent of all Americans drive on a frequent basis.
Here in Colorado, it’s more than a choice; it’s a necessity. If you want to get to work, school, and enjoy your free time a little bit more, owning a car can get you where you’re going in a fraction of the time.
Of course, owning a car means certain responsibilities. If you own a car, you have to maintain it, so it becomes reliable whenever you need it.
Have you noticed the brakes squealing? Or maybe you notice a new smell as your brakes heat up. All of these and more may be a sign that you have a problem with your brakes.
What happens when you brake?
Most people assume it’s the brakes that stop your car. That isn’t the case. Instead, the brakes are designed to stop the wheels from moving. It’s your wheels slowing down that stops the car.
Modern disc brakes are a large plate-sized disc attached to each wheel. The clamping of the discs causes friction. This is what slows you down. But this friction also generates heat, and that heat has to go somewhere. Disc brakes are designed to dissipate the heat in different ways. Heat will transfer to the brake pads and the brake fluid. It may have a ventilated core with air ducts that help keep them cool.
The system is designed to work flawlessly … for a while. But like everything, sometimes things don’t happen the way they are intended.
What happens if brakes overheat?
When you push down on the brake pedal inside your car, your vehicle’s brake pads generate friction. This friction is what slows the car down or brings it to a stop, depending on the level of force.
This action occurs over and over again as you move through the city. But sometimes as heat builds, there’s too much of it. How do you know if your brakes are overheating?
Your brake pedal feels soft
This is where it helps to pay attention to how your car handles. When you press down on the brake pedal, does it have a “spongy” feel? Over time, water can start accumulating in your car’s brake fluid reservoir. As that heats up from use, it starts to reduce the effectiveness of your brakes. This isn’t always a sign of brakes overheating; it could be several other things. Like damage to the brake line. Or low brake fluid. No matter what the problem, if you notice this “soft” feeling when you tap the brake pedal, it’s best to come in for inspection quickly to avoid the consequences of brake failure.
Your brake pads smoke and smell
Instead of feeling a problem, you may see or smell it instead. Do you notice smoke coming from the wheels? Or maybe you notice a smell every time you brake? This is your brake system telling you something is wrong.
When brake pads overheat, they put off a similar scent to burning carpet. Once you smell it, you’ll recognize it every time. This is a sure sign that it’s time for a checkup.
Your brakes are squealing
You can also hear when brakes are failing. They often make a lot of noise. When the friction from the brake action generates enough heat, the pads start to wear and smooth. As they wear down, the glaze on the pad has more difficulty creating the friction. If you’ve ever thought it sounds like metal on metal, that’s literally the case. Press down on the brake pedal, and you’ll hear it squeak and squeal. That’s a sign it’s time to head in for an inspection.
What to do when brakes overheat
Because there are many signs of brake failure, think of it as your car’s early warning signs. It’s telling you there’s a big problem; you need to slow down and find a safe place to pull over. Only when you’re in a safe place should you let your brakes cool down and determine if they are safe to drive or you should call for a tow.
Are there ways to avoid overheating?
While overheating often comes with age, there are other factors that can make it more of a possibility.
The way you drive
Are you the type who pounds on the brake pedal? Do you roar up to the car in front of you and constantly ride the brakes? You’re more likely to experience overheating. By making your ride smooth and steady, you’ll use your brake pads in a more appropriate manner. You’ll give your brake pads a chance to cool in between your stops and starts.
The way you use your car
Here in Denver, we have a relatively flat city driving experience. But that changes the moment you head up into the hills. As you drive back down from a weekend of playing, try engine braking instead of riding your brakes. Engine braking means downshifting to let the engine take over the slowing process. This means you won’t have to leave your foot on the brake pedal as you spend minutes – hours – coming down out of the mountains.
The way you maintain your car
There are two ways to approach vehicle maintenance: routine or emergency. Either way, we’re here for you. Routine maintenance allows you to take charge of how well your car operates. We’ll check everything out on a routine basis to ensure it’s working in its best condition. Emergency maintenance means we’ll replace the brake system after you experience some type of failure. Of course, this isn’t the most desired way, as you never know when that will occur. But in the event something happens, we’re here.
What happens if your brakes overheat? Your first course of action is to stop and get to safety. But how you proceed depends on your situation.
We suggest bringing your car in and having a full inspection. Your braking system is one of the most important systems on your vehicle; let’s ensure it’s working safely.
Have additional questions about your brake system, brake repair, or how well your car is operating? We’re here for you anytime; give us a call and ask.