Your Car – Is It Time For New Brakes?

Need New BrakesCommon Signs That Your Brakes Need Maintenance

According to Scott Welsh, owner of Brake Repair Tacoma, while you might not think about this too often, your vehicle’s brakes are a very important mechanism, and for your safety, you should always make sure that they’re working at their top condition. These tips will help you figuring out that you need new brakes.

Use Your Eyes And Ears

“Basically, you can tell there’s brake wear by listening and looking attentively,” says Welsh. By looking, you can examine your brake pads, looking through the spaces in between the wheel’s spokes. There will usually be at least a quarter of an inch of pad pressed against the metal rotor. If you notice there’s less than that, you should probably have the pads replaced or at least inspected.

If you ever hear a high-pitched screeching when applying your brakes, that’s a bad sign as well – it’s the indicator, a metal shim which is there for the purpose of warning that your pads should be replaced. The sound can be heard when you have the windows open, but may not be loud enough that you’ll be able to hear it over radio or the air conditioning, so be aware of it. If you hear this regularly, schedule an appointment with a mechanic as soon as you can.

An exception is if your vehicle has sat for a while after exposure to water, perhaps from washing it or from rain. The moisture might cause a layer of rust to develop on the rotors, which is normal. This thin layer of rust might cause a squeal for a while as the pads press on them. Don’t worry about it, though – this is not at all dangerous, and the rust should soon wear off, making the noise stop.

There are a few other signs of problems with your brakes. Make sure to look out for them when you drive, and should you notice any, it’s a good idea to pay you mechanic a visit just to make sure.

Fading or reduced responsiveness. If you have the impression that your brakes haven’t been responding as well as they should, or that the pedal tends to “sink” toward the floor, you might have a leak in your braking system. It might be a brake fluid leak or an air leak in the hose. A telltale sign of fluid leak is a puddle of fluid at the location you park your car. Brake fluid looks a lot like motor oil, but its texture is a bit less “slimy”.

Pulling. If you notice that your vehicle has been pulling to one side when you brake, your linings might have been wearing unevenly, or there might be some foreign mater in the fluid. You might need a brake adjustment, or to remove the braking fluid and replace it entirely.

Growling or grinding. If you hear a loud metallic sound, you probably have worn your pads down completely, probably beyond any sort of replacement. The noise is caused by the caliper and the disc rubbing together, which will scratch your rotors and create an uneven surface. If this is the case, your rotors will need to be turned, or replaced.

Vibration. If your brake pedal is vibrating or pulsating, you probably have warped rotors. It’s similar to the feedback you get in brake pedals when you do a panic stop and you have anti-lock brakes. This can also be an indicator that your vehicle is misaligned.

Do your brakes need repair or replacement?

If the vibration occurs when you’re braking and the anti-lock brakes aren’t engaged, you probably do have warped rotors, though. These are caused when you brake extensively through a long time, such when towing or driving down a mountain. These conditions create lots of friction, which in turn heats the rotors up, getting them to warp. This makes the brake pads unable to grip the surface evenly, which is the reason why you feel the vibration. When driving under these conditions, stop braking periodically, so you can let your brakes cool off.

Avoid overlooking your brakes’ maintenance, like many owners do. By keeping your brakes in good condition and calibrated well, you can prevent costly repairs on the long run, and even avoid a collision.