Your vehicle’s brakes are a critical safety component that you rely on every time you drive. Being able to slow and stop your vehicle on the road is a necessity. But, for many drivers, the brake system is often an afterthought until it is needed most.
Understanding how your brakes work, keeping them properly maintained, and knowing the warning signs to look out for will keep your brake system in proper working condition. Thus keeping you, your passengers, and other drivers around you safe out on the road.
How Your Car Brakes Work
If you stop and think about it, what your brake system does is pretty remarkable . Your brakes can bring your large, 1.5 ton (or more) vehicle to a complete stop simply by applying pressure to the brake pedal.
Several things happen very quickly to initiate a stop. When your foot presses the brake pedal, a plunger is pushed against the master cylinder. This releases hydraulic brake fluid through the lines and hoses into the brake calipers of each wheel unit. This hydraulic fluid amplifies the pressure from your foot, allowing you to slow and stop your vehicle.
The brake calipers then apply pressure and squeeze the brake pads against the brake rotors (or discs). Your brake pads, which have a friction material, absorb the pressure and heat of this exchange to safely slow and stop the moving rotors as needed. Every time the brakes are used, parts of this friction material wear away. This is why your brake pads need to be inspected regularly and replaced, if necessary.
There are also additional small parts that hold your brake system together. All of these things need to be in proper function for your brakes to work as effectively as they should.
So, how can you tell when your brakes aren’t working properly and you may be in need of a brake repair? There are several warning signs you should look out for.
The Warning Signs Of Brake Trouble
One of the first signs that often comes to mind when people think about bad brakes is loud screeching coming from the wheels. But, there are several other things to look out for that also indicate it is time for brake service.
Ineffective or Slower Braking
The time it takes for your vehicle to stop can depend on your vehicle’s size, tire condition, the road surface, the pressure applied to the brake pedal, and more. But, if you notice that your vehicle is not slowing or stopping as effectively as it was before, this is a key indicator that your brakes need to be serviced.
When there is an issue with your brake system, it may take longer or a farther distance to make a complete stop. In this instance, you may need a brake pad replacement, new brake fluid, or another type of brake service. Unresolved braking issues can increase your chances of being involved in an accident due to your inability to stop in time.
As mentioned above, unusual sounds when braking can indicate a need for service. You’ll often hear a squeaking or squealing sound caused by the wear indicators near the brake pads. As they become overly worn and make contact with the brake disc it creates this sound. This is the time to bring your vehicle in for a brake inspection.
If left for too long without service, this squealing can turn into a grinding sound. This means your brake pads are completely worn down and the calipers are scraping against the rotors. At this point, stopping your vehicle will be more difficult and repairs more extensive. Replacing both your brake pads and rotors is much more expensive than replacing just your brake pads.
Worn Brake Pads
Overly worn brake pads will often cause the delayed braking reaction time mentioned above. Depending on the design of your wheels, you can look through the spokes and find the brake pad between the caliper and the brake rotor. Visually inspect the thickness of the pad. The optimal condition is generally ¼ of an inch thick.
Pulling to One Side
Your vehicle may be pulling to the right or left as you are driving or braking and you’re probably wondering what could be causing it. Usually, it’s attributed to a bad alignment, worn or uneven tires, or a problem with your car’s suspension that is causing pulling while you are driving. If it is happening when you try and slow or stop the car, this is an indication that something is wrong within your brake system. The problem could be:
- Uneven brake pads: The wheels are receiving different amounts of pressure, causing pulling to one side.
- Stuck caliper: The vehicle will pull towards the side of the stuck caliper that is causing excess pressure on the rotor.
- Collapsed brake hose: The flow and pressure of the brake fluid is impeded and it’s causing the calipers to react unevenly.
Some brake issues will cause vibrations or pulsing through your steering wheel and/or brake pedal during normal braking (versus emergency). This is commonly due to warped brake rotors. In an emergency that requires sudden stopping power, your vehicle’s anti-lock brakes will execute a series of pulsing quick grabs on the rotors to decelerate the car quickly. But, if your rotors are warped, you’ll often notice a different vibration when slowing or stopping normally.
Extreme stress over an extended period can generate enough friction to warp your vehicle’s brake rotors. Descending steep hills or mountainsides or frequent braking while towing heavy loads will heat the rotors to extreme degrees and cause warping. In this case, the rotors would need to either be resurfaced (if possible) or replaced.
Different Feel of the Brake Pedal
Does your brake pedal feel “mushy” or oversensitive? With a mushy pedal, you will feel like you have to stand on it to get the brakes to finally engage. Alternatively, barely touching an oversensitive pedal will cause your car to jolt.
A mushy brake pedal can be caused by worn brake pads, air in the hydraulic brake fluid line, or a fluid leak. If you suspect a brake fluid leak, put a piece of cardboard or paper under your vehicle’s engine overnight and check any drippings in the morning. Brake fluid will be light yellow to brown (if not maintained), with a consistency similar to vegetable oil.
An oversensitive pedal can be caused by overly worn brake rotors and/or contaminated brake fluid.
If any of the warning signs covered above are happening on your vehicle, bring it to the closest Tire Works location for a free brake inspection. We can pinpoint exactly what is going on and determine what brake service you may need.
Rely On The Experts When You Need Brake Service
If it is time for brake repair or service on your vehicle and you are searching for experts in brake repair in Las Vegas, you can count on the experienced professionals at Tire Works. Our ASE-certified master technicians can perform the brake services you need, from brake pad replacement to resurfacing rotors and everything in between.
Drivers throughout Nevada trust the Tire Works Total Car Care experts to meet any of the vehicle repair and maintenance needs they may have. We use only top-quality parts and provide unmatched customer service that you won’t find at other brake shops, all unbeatable prices.
If your car, truck, or SUV needs professional brake service, come into your closest Tire Works location today. Schedule your appointment online now!