Do you know how to tell when your brakes need repairs?
What to Look for
There are a few tell-tale signs that something is wrong:
- A brake pedal that feels "mushy"
- A "check brakes" or "check brake fluid" warning light
- A brake pedal that goes all the way to the floor when pressed
- A grinding noise when braking
- Squeaking sounds when braking
- Vibrations when braking
What Does It Mean?
Overall, there are many possible problems when you experience these symptoms. But if you are experiencing the “mushy” brakes or have a brake pedal going all the way down to the floor, you may have:
- A leak in the brake system
- Low brake fluid
- Dirty brake fluid
- Air in the brake fluid
Grinding and clunking noises may indicate:
- Missing or loose hardware
- Damaged or missing parts in the suspension system
Brakes that squeak or squeal usually need new brake pads. In fact, engineers design brake pads to squeal at the end of their lifecycle. This is called a "wear indicator" and means:
- The brake pads are about to wear out completely
- With worn-out pads, the brakes will damage the rest of the system by grinding metal against metal
If you experience vibrations when braking, it may mean:
- Bad brake pads (see above)
- A bad brake disc
- Worn out front suspension
Drums or Rotors?
When getting your brakes fixed, the mechanic may mention drums or rotors. This is dependent on one of two types of brake systems:
- Drum brakes (the brake pads come in contact with the drum to slow the car)
- Disc brakes (brake pads come in contact with a rotor to slow the car down)
Drums and rotors wear down the same as brake pads. When a mechanic puts on new pads, there must be a smooth and even surface for them to grip or the brakes will not function properly. Luckily, the drums and rotors may not require complete replacement.
- Drums and rotors can be "turned" or resurfaced if they are not badly worn.
- Resurfacing the drums or rotors is a common practice and is safe when done according to the specifications.
- Drums and rotors that are too worn out must be replaced.
Drivers must never ignore brake issues and should address them immediately. If you notice any of the symptoms, do not delay. Mechanics typically perform most brake repairs the same day.
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