Brake Safety Awareness Month in August is the perfect time to have your brakes checked to ensure they are in safe working condition before summer ends and the school year starts and before the wet weather driving season begins.
Brakes are a normal wear item for any car, and eventually, they’re going to need to be replaced. A vehicle’s braking system should be checked at least once a year. A thorough inspection should include brake lining wear, brake fluid level, rotor thickness, condition of hoses and brake lines, brake and dash warning lights, as well as taking the car for a test drive to detect other potential brake system problems.
Is Your Brake Light On?
When one of the red or yellow brake indicators on your dashboard lights up, it may mean you’re just due for an inspection. It could also be that your vehicle’s smart electronics system is alerting you to a problem.
You Feel Wobbling or Vibration When Braking
Shaking in the steering wheel or vibration when you apply the brakes may result from an uneven rotor or excessive brake pad wear.
Brake rotors are big discs that sit inside of the wheels. When you hit the brake pedal, the brake pads hug the rotors, slowing them and your vehicle to a safe stop. You want your brake rotors to be smooth and completely even in thickness. Excessive heat, the wrong brake pad material, or issues with the brake calipers mounting bolts can cause you to feel vibrations in the steering wheel.
You Hear Squealing, Squeaking or Grinding Sound When Braking
If you start hearing a high-pitched noise that stops when you apply the brakes, that’s likely the sound of the brake pad wear indicators. They’re made of steel, so they make this sound when they start contacting the rotor.
These sounds are letting you know that your pads are worn out and need to be replaced before your vehicle begins to have rotor damage, which can be an expensive fix.
If you’re experiencing a soft brake pedal, have a service technician look for fluid leaking from the master cylinder or elsewhere in the brake system.
The master cylinder is the unit that creates the power for your brakes. If the seals are leaking, or the cap seal has failed, you may see fluid near the firewall. If a wheel cylinder or caliper seal fails, you may see the fluid leaking near the tires. Any sign of fluid leaking should be checked immediately.
Your Brake Pads Appear To Be Thin
If you notice a difference in the resistance in the brake pedal — it feels “softer,” or sinks all the way to the floor mat when you press on it — it could be a sign that your vehicle needs immediate service. There could be air or moisture in the braking system or a problem with the master cylinder. Generally, in autos with power brakes, the pedal should stop 1 to 1 ½ inch from the floor. If you have manual brakes, the pedal should stop no more than 3 inches from the floor
Car Pulling to One Side When Braking
This could be caused by a brake hose gone bad or a caliper problem. For example, one brake caliper may be applying more or all the pressure during braking, resulting in unbalanced stopping. If you notice the car steers in one specific direction when applying the brake pedal, make sure to have the vehicle inspected by a technician soon.
Burning Smell While Driving
A sharp, chemical odor after repeated hard braking on steep roads is a sign of overheated brakes. Pull over immediately in a safe place, check your parking brake to make sure it’s fully released, and allow the brakes to cool. If you don’t, you risk heating up the brake fluid to the boiling point, which can cause brake failure.
If there’s any smoke coming from a wheel, it may be a stuck brake caliper and possibly unsafe to continue driving on without repairs.
Brake repair is an important safety measure. Without properly working brakes, normal driving situations would take a turn for the worst. However, there are other benefits in getting routine brake service and brake repair. Changing your brake pads, when needed, saves wear on your rotors, which translates into less money spent down the line.
At Quality Tune-Up, we always strive to achieve your 100% satisfaction. No matter the service, from brake repair to tune-ups, we are eager to have your vehicle running at its peak performance.