The effectiveness of your brakes could make the difference between life or death. When you need to stop suddenly while driving at more than 60 mph, even well-functioning brakes will require about 100 yards to take your car to a standstill. If your brakes fail you, the results could be catastrophic.
So how do you know when you need new brakes or brake repair? Here are a few telltale signs:
- Worn pads – The brake system stops your car when the calipers squeeze together on the rotor. Brake pads cover the part of the calipers that come in contact with the rotor. Over time, friction will wear the pads down. When the brake pads become thinner than ¼ inch, it is high time that they be replaced.
- Strange sounds – The high-pitched squeal you hear when you step on your brakes may be an early warning sign that your brakes are ebbing. This is especially true if the sound is loud enough that you can hear it even when your car windows are up. In addition to the squeal, you may also hear grinding sounds which indicates that you have maxed out your brake pads.
- Pulling – When your car seems to have a mind of its own, veering right or left when you want to driving straight, you may have brake issues such as a stuck caliper.
- Vibrations – It’s normal to feel some movement in the car when you slam on the brakes for an emergency stop. If you feel this vibration or pulsing when you brake normally, though, there may be a problem. Warped rotors may be to blame. The uneven surface of the rotors will cause vibration when they come in contact with the brake pads. Another possibility is misaligned wheels, which should be corrected immediately.
- Temperamental pedal – You shouldn’t have to drive your brake pedal to the floor before you feel the brakes engage. If you do, you could have brake fluid leaks or air in the brake lines. Both of these issues need prompt servicing.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of good brakes. If you suspect any problems, err on the side of caution and get them serviced.