Braking Bad: Five Signs of Brake Failure

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In a common driving scenario, you are driving down the highway at 60+ miles per hour and you suddenly have to stop. At that speed, your vehicle could take 100 yards or the length of a football field to come to a standstill. And that is only if you’ve kept one of the most critical systems maintained – your brakes.

Two of the most obvious signs of a brake problem are the appearance of the brake light on the dashboard or the feeling your car is taking longer to stop than it should. Both of these are areas of concern and need to be addressed as soon as possible.

Visualize a 10-speed bike. In the simplest terms, your car brakes operate in much the same way. A hydraulic system filled with brake fluid triggers a set of padded clamps, also known as calipers, causing them to squeeze together on a disc known as a rotor. The friction that occurs between the pads and the rotor eventually stops the car.

Here are five brake issues to keep in mind:

  • Worn Pads – over time pads will begin to wear thin, meaning there is a lot more distance between the pads and the rotor. When this happens, they are less effective at slowing and stopping your car.
  • Strange Sounds – a high-pitched squeal may indicate your pads need replacing. You might also hear a harsh grinding sound. This means you are damaging your rotors – the brake pads are gone.
  • Pulling – pulling might indicate a stuck caliper or a collapsed brake hose. Pulling doesn’t always indicate a problem with the brakes, it could be uneven tire wear or alignment issues.
  • Vibrations – generally speaking a vibrating brake pedal indicates warped rotors. The rotors may have become warped if they were under extreme stress for an extended period by towing something unusually heavy or driving down steep mountainsides. This is also referred to as pulsation.
  • Temperamental Pedal – there are two extremes with pedals. A mushy pedal is one that feels like you are almost pushing the pedal to the floor. This loss in pedal pressure could be a brake leak (either internal or external) or air in the brake lines. A hard brake pedal means you are losing the vacuum assist to your power brakes.

On the road, paying attention to the warning signs that indicate a need for service can mean the difference between life and death. At the first sign of one of these brake issues, bring your vehicle to Sandera’s Auto Works or call our Fortuna auto repair shop at 707.725.6321.