TOP 10 SIGNS YOUR VEHICLE NEEDS BRAKE SERVICE
3/6/2023 - 9:00 AM
In general, ignoring problems is never a good thing as they will only get worse over time. While this statement can be said for a number of things in life, it is especially true when it comes to our vehicles. More specifically, when it comes to our vehicles' safety features and systems.
One of the most important vehicle safety features & systems are the brakes. Considering how much time we spend in our vehicles and considering how fast we drive our vehicles on a daily basis, the brake system is what helps to prevent an accident from happening. However, how do you know if or when your brakes need to be serviced? Here at Monicatti Auto Sales & Service we have put together a list of our top 10 things to look out for.
1. WARNING LIGHTS
One of the first places you should look for signs of brake failure is your vehicle's dashboard. As soon as a brake warning light comes on, it's a clear sign that your brakes need some attention. If you're unsure of what the brake warning lights look like, check out our blog article on WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER IGNORE YOUR WARNING LIGHTS.
Typically, there are 2 main brake warning lights - the main brake system and the anti-lock brake system, or ABS. ABS components can fail and still allow the rest of the brake system to function normally. However, if the main brake system light comes on, it means the vehicle has most likely experienced a failure which needs to be serviced immediately.
2. LONGER BRAKING DISTANCE/TIME
If your vehicle is taking longer than normal to come to a complete stop, that's obviously a problem! It's possible you could be experiencing "brake fade" which is a temporary reduction in the stopping power of your brakes. Depending on the cause, this could be a short-term issue or a long-term issue. For example, if you are driving down a steep hill and riding your brakes, this will heat up your pads and rotors and cause them to be less responsive for a short time. Once cooled down, they may return to their normal performance and be fine. However, over time, this brake fade can become permanent, in which case the pads and/or rotors will need to be replaced.
3. GRINDING NOISES
If you hear noises when you step on the brake pedal, most notably a grinding noise, it likely means the brake pads/shoes are worn out and the metal under the pads is rubbing, or grinding against the metal on the brake rotors or drums. If this is the case, you want to replace the brake pads/shoes as soon as possible to avoid destroying the brake rotors or drums. However, prolonged driving and braking under these conditions will likely require the rotors or drums to be replaced as well.
4. BRAKE FLUID LEAK
Most vehicles have numerous brake lines running throughout the vehicle. Especially vehicles with anti-lock brakes (or ABS). A leak in any of these lines will lead to a loss of fluid and air in the system, which will eventually cause the entire brake system to fail altogether. Depending on the age and condition, brake fluid varies from clear to a rusty-orange coloration. There is also a bit of an odor to brake fluid. Any signs of leaking are bad and must be repaired immediately.
5. SOFT BRAKE PEDAL
Issues like failing calipers, a failing master cylinder, a weak brake line or air in the brake lines can cause the brake pedal to feel very soft or spongy when you step on it. Your brake pedal should feel nice and firm and feel solid as the brakes are gradually applied. This could be as simple as having low brake fluid. However, a soft, spongy brake pedal typically means your brake system is not working as it should and needs to be looked at.
6. HARD BRAKE PEDAL
Conversely, if your brake pedal is too hard to push, this can also be a sign of a problem. Most vehicles use one of 3 different types of brake power assist systems: a vacuum boost, a hydraulic boost or an electric boost. These brake power assist systems are meant to assist you, the driver, to help reduce the amount of effort you need to apply to the brake pedal in order to make your vehicle stop. When these systems fail, it causes the brake pedal to be hard to push. In some cases, the brakes may still function properly but will be much tougher to apply. However, if the brake pedal is hard to push and the brakes do not seem to be working, you will want to have it serviced immediately.
7. PULLING LEFT OR RIGHT
When you step on your brake pedal, pressure is applied to both the left and the right sides of your brake system evenly. If you step on your brakes and the vehicle pulls to one side or the other, there is more than likely an issue with one side. Chances are that the brakes are wearing more on one side than the other. This could be due to a failing wheel cylinder, a sticking brake caliper or maybe worn rotors causing uneven application and wear on the brakes. This is also why it is highly recommended to replace your brake wear components in left & right pairs to ensure equal wear and performance.
8. SLOW ACCELERATION
If you step on the gas and you can hear your engine revving and trying to accelerate, but the vehicle doesn't get up to speed as fast as it should, it's very possible that you could have a brake caliper or drum that's hung up or sticking. Or, if you're driving and you take your foot off the gas and the vehicle slows down much faster than it normally does, this could be another sign of the same issue. This is typically caused by road grime buildup or faulty brake caliper/wheel cylinders. It's also possible that your drum brakes are unable to pull the brake pads/shoes away from the drum and need some adjustment.
When your brakes get heated up too much, the rotors can develop hot spots. Once cooled, they contract more than the rest of the rotor, resulting in a warped brake rotor. If this occurs, every application of the brakes sends pulses, or vibrations, through the brake pedal or steering wheel. These vibrations can also be a sign of poor steering alignment. Either way, it is something you will want to have checked out to avoid further damage.
10. ODD ODOR
If you find yourself smelling an odd burning odor when you hit the brakes, there's definitely a problem! Overheated brakes smell quite bad and are a dangerous situation. If your brakes are smoking, you are burning the friction lining. In extreme cases, such as heavy-duty trucks, the friction material can actually catch fire. Overheated pads and shoes develop a glaze on the surface that is slick, and your braking performance will be greatly reduced. This is a component of brake fade as we discussed earlier.
If you notice any of these signs, it is highly recommended that you immediately take your vehicle to your nearest, trusted automotive service center before the problem gets any worse. Here at Monicatti Auto Sales & Service, our 10,000 sq ft, state-of-the-art Monicatti Service Center can handle all things brake related! Give us a call at 844-463-6722 or fill out our online CONTACT FORM to schedule an appointment TODAY!
As of March 6th, 2023, we have an AMAZING SPRINGTIME BRAKE SPECIAL for you to take advantage of! Check it out TODAY!
(NOTE: Information gathered from NAPAOnline.com)