Brake problems are the vehicle nightmare many drivers hope they’ll never have to face. Because your brakes play such an integral role in safety and how your vehicle handles, when your brakes begin to fail, you’ll notice. One way or another, they’ll act differently. Here are some signs you may be having brake problems and need to have them inspected.
1. Your brakes make a squealing, grinding or scraping sound
That screeching, grinding sound of metal on metal is what comes to mind when most drivers think of failing brakes. If you do hear that metal-to-metal brakes squealing noise, it likely means your brakes are completely worn.
Regular vehicle maintenance and inspections can help detect worn brake pads so they can be replaced. Brake pads are designed to wear over time and need to be replaced every so often. Most automotive brake systems incorporate wear sensors to provide an audible warning (squealing) when the brake pads are worn out.
Note that it is possible for your brakes to fail and not make those ear-scratching sounds.
2. Your brake pedal has fallen
One of the sure-fire signs your brakes are failing is a falling brake pedal. On any given day when your brakes are in good condition, your brake pedal will sit at the same height. Because you’re used to that height, you’ll notice when your brake pedal falls to the floor.
A falling brake pedal indicates that there may be something wrong, and it could be a sign there’s air in your system or a mechanical failure.
3. You have to hit the brakes harder or it takes longer to stop at traffic lights
If any one brake or axle is not performing the way it’s supposed to, you’ll have to push harder on your pedal to stop your vehicle. Some people describe it as a ‘soft brake pedal.’
4. Your brake pedal or steering wheel is vibrating or pulsating when brakes are applied
Why are you noticing a vibrating brake pedal when you apply the brakes? Sometimes when brakes aren’t working properly, you might notice vibrations or shudders. This is usually indicative of worn and/or corrosion compromised brake rotors or drums and is common after periods of inactivity.
If the issue is caused by your ABS, you’ll notice a mechanical pulsation. If it’s because of warped brake rotors, you’ll feel a wobble through the steering wheel when you apply the brakes.
5. Your car pulls to one side when you brake
If you’re applying the brakes and you notice a pull to the left or right, it could mean one of the vehicle’s calipers or wheel cylinders are seized. That can cause the other side to do all the work, and the tire that’s braking harder will pull to that side.
6. Your brake warning light is illuminating or you feel a low brake pedal
Usually, if your vehicle has a hydraulic failure, you’ll see its red dashboard symbol—an image of brakes or the word ‘brakes.’ Hydraulic failures usually will be accompanied by low brake pedal.
Some of the more common causes of a brake warning light illuminating include:
- worn brake pads
- burst brake line
- slightly low brake fluid level
- parking/emergency brake still on or a cable that’s broken or won’t fully release
What should you do if you think your brakes are failing?
If you’re noticing just a slight vibration on your brake pedal when you apply the brakes, bring your vehicle to a Kal Tire store near you as soon as you can. In the meantime, if you happen to notice your brake fluid is low, only use an approved brake fluid in the master cylinder.
If your pedal goes to the floor instantly or it’s taking enormous effort to brake, it’s not safe to be driving your vehicle. Safely pull over to an area with ample room and have your vehicle towed to a Kal Tire store near you for brake service. From brake pads and shoes to ABS sensors and calipers, we offer full brake service to get you safely back on the road. After we inspect your brakes, we might find that they only need brake service—cleaning and servicing, rather than replacing—and our mechanical experts can take care of that for you.
What is brake service?
Brake service is a preventative maintenance step that can go a long way in ensuring your brakes are working properly, especially in emergency situations.
- ensures the brake system is functioning properly
- prevents premature brake wear from sticking or seizing parts
- removes debris embedded in the brake material that can lead to noise or grooving of the rotors
- extends pad life by ensuring the brake system works in balance and brake pads wear evenly
- prevents overheating in high use situations (ie going down steep hills in the mountains)
- removes rust buildup from rotor edges that can lead to noise issues