Having brakes that work properly and are in good shape are essential for staying safe on the roads. But how many drivers can tell when there is a problem with their brake system before it’s too late? You don’t have to be in the dark about this key element of safe driving. Here are five critical warning signs that signal a problem with your brakes. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to have your braking system checked by a trained mechanic.
Thin Brake Pads
Look at your brake pads through the spaces on your wheels. There should be a minimum of 1/4 inch of the outside brake pad pressing against the metal rotor. If there’s more than a 1/4 inch, then you should be fine. If there is less than that, it’s important to take your vehicle to the auto repair shop before any damage is done to the rotor, or worse, you experience failed brakes while driving.
Before you come to a stop sign or a stoplight at an intersection, turn your stereo system down and pay attention to any sound you hear. Manufacturers install a thin, metal shim (a strip of metal) that begins to make a sound when your pads are getting too thin. If you hear high-pitched screeching when you apply your brakes, it’s likely that your brakes need attending to.
If you have ignored this sound or have missed it because of a loud radio, the next noise you hear is even more of a warning that you have something to fix. If the problem has gone this far, you will not only hear a grinding sound when you come to a stop, but you will also feel a grinding sensation under your foot when you apply the brakes. When this happens, it means that the brake pads are completely worn. As a result, your wheel rotors are scraping against what’s left of your brakes. It is dangerous to attempt to drive a car in this condition, so if it’s happening to you, get your vehicle to a mechanic immediately.
It’s easy to ignore a warning light on your dashboard when you’re busy or in a hurry. But by avoiding the issue instead of addressing it, you could be making a decision that is hazardous to the safety of your car or your life and the drivers around you. So, don’t delay when your anti-lock braking system (ABS) light comes on. This dashboard signal tells you when your vehicle is running low on brake fluid. This likely means there is a leak somewhere, and if it is found early enough, it is easy to fix. However, if a leak goes too long without being checked, your car’s brakes could stop working entirely.
A Loose Pedal
If you brake and your pedal goes down much easier than it usually does, it could mean that there is a brake fluid leak or that there is air in the brake lines. Either way, it’s important to have your brakes checked so your mechanic can identify and repair the problem. Sometimes after braking and experiencing a loose pedal, you may find that the brake pedal stiffens up. This is also an indication that all may not be well with your brake system, and it’s time to bring your vehicle in for maintenance.
If you feel a vibration while driving, it doesn’t automatically mean there is an issue with the safety of your car. However, if your entire car shimmies and shakes when you are applying the brakes, there may be a serious problem. The rotors may be misaligned due to road wear, or warped due to previous brake issues. Guide pins may be dry, or the brake pads could be worn. In any case, a car that vibrates badly when braking is not a good sign and should be addressed for your protection and the longevity of your vehicle.
If you notice any of these warning signs, RC Auto can help. Schedule an appointment right away or stop by today and let us help you diagnose what’s happening with your vehicle and get you back on the roads safely.