5 Warning Signs of Car Brake Problems: Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions

12 October 2020
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  • Brakes are a critical safety element on your car, and you should never drive if you are experiencing any symptoms of brake issues or failure.
  • Squealing, vibrating, rubbing, and other issues could result from a host of brake issues. Prompt attention is a must to prevent worsening conditions and potential safety risks.
  • If left unattended, common brake issues can lead to serious problems, including tyres catching on fire from seized brakes and total brake failure, which can be very dangerous.
  The brakes on your car are one system that you do not want to let go. When you notice strange noises or feelings coming from the brake system, or even a strange smell, you need to stop and check out the situation immediately. Often, identifying and resolving these smaller issues can save you from big problems later on. There are also certain parts of the brake system that only have a limited lifespan and may require routine maintenance and replacement to offer safe, normal operation.  Depending on the sensitivity of the specific vehicle’s system, a warning light on the dash may or may not come on before or when brake problems occur. Typically, a brake light is a sign of a serious issue and there are a number of other signs and symptoms that an attentive driver will notice before warning lights appear. Unless there is some kind of brake system failure or emergency, drivers should always be on the lookout for the warning signs discussed below.  Vibrations, Alignment Issues, or Uneven Braking The feel of the braking system is important to pay attention to on a regular basis. By knowing how the brake system should feel, you’ll be better prepared to notice when it doesn’t feel as it should. Vibrations and alignment-related issues are one of the most common symptoms of potential brake problems that drivers will notice.  Worn brake pads could be the cause of vibrations or the feeling of uneven braking, and the solution may be as simple as replacing the pads. However, the more likely cause of these issues is related to the callipers in disc brakes or the drums in drum brakes. Vibrations are generally a sign that something is uneven or that only one side of the brake system is having issues. This could be due to warped rotors or corrosion build-up on the brake rotors. It could also be caused by a drum or calliper being blocked entirely, which means that only one side of the brakes is working in the vehicle. In the event of a blockage, drivers will usually notice a pull to one side upon applying pressure to the brakes.  All of these are serious issues that need to be resolved quickly for the safety of the vehicle and the people in it. As soon as you feel anything less than a smooth ride, you should start diagnosing potential causes in the brake system. If you need assistance finding the issue, you can enlist the help of a certified mechanic.  The solution here would be a full replacement of whatever components or parts are failing. This could include things like:
  • New brake rotors
  • New callipers
  • New brake lines
  • New drum brakes
  • New drum brake lines
In some cases, a full brake system replacement may be in order. And as always, make sure that you’re using genuine OEM parts when doing brake repairs and replacements. This helps ensure the best and safest operation at all times.  Squealing or Grinding Noises When brakes start making squealing, rubbing, or grinding noises, it generally means your brake pads need to be replaced. Brake pads wear down over time, so they will require routine replacements throughout the life of the vehicle. It is part of routine maintenance and is something that you should keep up on. Ideally, you should replace pads, or at least inspect them, at the first sign of any squealing or grinding. There are some instances where grinding or rubbing may occur as a result of dirt build-up or corrosion on the brake rotors. In this situation, simply cleaning the brakes or replacing the rotors could do the trick. If you have ever replaced brake pads with generic or aftermarket parts rather than using OEM pads, you may find yourself replacing them more often or having more frequent brake system issues as a result. Even if the pads aren’t completely worn to the usual point of replacement, if they are causing issues it might be time to consider putting OEM pads back on your vehicle.  Brake Fluid Leaks Brake lines are composed of rubber and metal. They also run through and alongside many other parts and components that may become damaged and cause damage to brake lines as a result. Typically, if there is any kind of a brake fluid leak, it’s somewhere in the brake lines. This could happen if the brake line is rotted or corroded, or even if a line has collapsed entirely because the fluid has nowhere to go. Brakes need fluid and hydraulic pressure to work effectively. If there is a fluid leak in your brake system, stop driving the vehicle immediately. A small leak could quickly lead to an entire system failure if not properly addressed. Plus, when the system is leaking, the brakes won’t work as they should. Collapses usually happen in the lines that run to the callipers, while corrosion and other damage can occur anywhere along the system, in both the metal and rubber lines.  Unless you are familiar with replacing brake lines and bleeding brake systems after doing so, you may want to call a reputable mechanic to assist with your brake line repairs or replacements.  Longer Stopping Times and Less Stopping Power Vehicle braking systems operate on hydraulic pressure and the use of brake fluid. As the braking system wears down with use, the pressure in the system is reduced and it requires more power on the pedal and a longer distance to stop the vehicle properly. These symptoms are usually just a sign that it’s time for some routine brake maintenance, which could include the replacement of pads, callipers, and/or rotors. Sometimes, a brake fluid system flush is in order to reset the system and flush debris that could be clogging up the brake lines.  If you notice that you are having to press harder on the brakes to come to a full stop, or that more time and distance is required to complete the stop than previously, it’s probably just related to the pads being worn and in need of replacement. However, this can also be a symptom of brake line leaks and collapses, so it’s important to do a full assessment of the system to diagnose the problem and find the appropriate solution.  In the event that you suddenly lose a lot of power or the brakes fail completely, you could be in a dangerous situation. Try to avoid this by keeping an eye on the brakes during your regular driving. Burning Smell or Smoke Coming from Brakes or Tyres One of the biggest warning signs that your car may have brake problems is a burning smell or smoke coming from the tyres or brakes when you apply pressure to the brake pedal. If there is smoke or a burning smell even after you have released the brakes, you may have issues with a stuck calliper or drum. This could be from the result of a collapsed brake line, uneven wear on the brakes, or even a parking brake that just needs to be released.  If there is visual smoke coming from the wheels of the vehicle and the brakes are hot to the touch after driving, yu should not drive the vehicle again until you get the problem resolved. Doing so could cause a lot more damage to the system, and even lead to a fire that damages a lot more than the brakes in your vehicle.  Whether you are close to home or on the road, you should always pull over immediately and park the car if there is smoke coming from the tyres or brakes. Do not continue to drive the car unless you are certain that the sticking issue was temporary and has been resolved. Call a tow truck or repair shop and have your vehicle towed in for service or towed back to your own home if you are going to do the repairs yourself. Wrapping Up The brake system on your vehicle is one that requires special attention from time to time. It is one of the most important safety systems and it needs to be in good repair. Although there are a variety of different issues that could go wrong, the majority of brake problems stem from or can be identified by one of the symptoms listed here.  Remember to have routine maintenance performed on your brakes, including regular replacements of necessary components. Make sure that whether you do the work yourself or you hire a mechanic, genuine OEM parts are always used for brake pad, calliper, rotor, or brake line replacements.  To learn more about the value of genuine OEM replacement parts and find the brake system components that you need, visit Autofixa. We take pride in offering the best selection of OEM parts and accessories for a variety of vehicles, along with plenty of helpful information on car problems and repairs.

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