A happy brake system keeps you safe. There are several parts of the brake system that will wear out over time and can cause you issues when driving. What can you look out for to prevent a major problem with your brakes? Fortunately, there are a few key things you should pay attention to if you notice them with your car to head off more serious brake repairs or safety issues.
You Notice Squeaking When You Brake
You come up to a stop sign – and squeak your way to a stop. So long as you don’t notice that same squeaking sound when not applying the brakes, it’s probably time you took a look at your brake pads. A squeaking sound when braking is most likely your brake pads’ built-in notification for wear. It’s actually light metal-on-metal friction causing that squeaking or squealing sound as part of one or both of the brake pads is now touching the rotor.
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Check the Wear on Your Brake Pads
At this point, that metal-on-metal friction is simply notifying you that you should check the wear on your brake pads. You don’t have to worry about damage being done – yet. But do take a look at your brake pads. Generally speaking, you want to have at least 3-4mm of thickness still on them. If you have less, it’s time to make an appointment to have your brake pads replaced.
There’s a Grinding Sound When You Brake
If you hear grinding when applying the brakes, that means that your brake pads are very worn and there is now metal-on-metal contact that is most likely causing damage to your rotors. More specifically, the metal caliper that holds your brake pads in place is now grinding against the rotor.
Don’t Procrastinate Once Your Brakes Start Grinding
Not only are you in for a more expensive repair once you hear grinding when braking, it’s also a major safety issue. Once there’s metal hitting your rotors instead of brake pad, your brakes are significantly less able to slow the motion of your car. This means if you have to make a sudden stop, you may not be able to in time to avoid an accident. If you procrastinate getting your brake pads replaced when you hear squeaking, don’t do the same once you hear grinding.
You Notice Vibration When Braking
Vibration at different times can have different meanings. If you start noticing vibration when applying the brakes, in particular noticing your brake pedal vibrating, it points to your rotors. As your rotors wear down, it’s possible they can get uneven wear, which can cause your brake pads to wear unevenly, as well as causing vibration.
A Mechanic Will Be Able to Level Your Rotors
To the naked eye, you may not be able to tell that your rotors have uneven wear. It takes a lot of precision to level a rotor, so it’s best left to a trained mechanic. In some cases, you may be better off just paying for new rotors. Your mechanic will be able to advise you about your situation, and which option is best.
Your Brake Pedal Feels Soft or Spongy
As your brake pads wear down, you’ll probably notice having to press your brake pedal harder or further down. You may also notice your brake pedal feeling soft or spongey. Rather than pointing to your brake pads and rotors, this more likely means you have air in the brake fluid line.
You May Need a Brake Fluid Service
If you take your car to a trusted mechanic, they’ll likely bleed the brake fluid line. This should clear out any air pockets so that your brake pedal feels firm again and it’s easier for you to apply the brakes. They’ll also check the fluid in the line to make sure it’s not over-contaminated. If your brake fluid is getting old, they’ll be able to replace it with fresh brake fluid that will also help with performance.
Your Brake Light Comes On
Any dashboard warning light that turns on deserves your attention. If you see the Brake Light come on, it’s a sign that a major issue with your brake system has been detected. Because your brakes are essential, it’s best not to ignore the warning light or procrastinate getting it checked out by a mechanic.