Your car’s brakes are a critical component in ensuring you – and those around you – stay safe on the road. If you experience any of the following five warning signs, you need to have your brakes professionally inspected, pronto:
- Pulling to one side. If you notice your car pulling to one side when you brake, it could mean that your brakes are wearing unevenly. Or, there could be a malfunction in the braking system of your vehicle, such as a problem with a caliper or brake hose.
- Vibration. If you feel a wobble or vibration in the steering wheel or pedal when you press the brake, it could be an indication of worn rotors, a caliper or piston issue, or another problem.
- Grinding or squealing noise. While there are a few possible causes of grinding and squealing noises, they generally mean the brake pads are worn out and you are hearing the sound of metal-on-metal when you apply the brakes. Ignoring this situation is not only dangerous, but it could also result in expensive damage to the rotors. You need to get your vehicle in for service right away to determine the exact cause and solution.
- Spongy or fading brake pedal. If your pedal starts to feel softer or sinks closer to the floor when you brake, it could indicate a leak in the brake hose or a problem with the master cylinder. Either way, your stopping distances are longer, making this a serious issue that requires immediate attention.
- Burning smell. A burning smell when braking during regular driving is often caused by a stuck caliper and indicates you need to have your brakes inspected right away. Another possible cause of a burning smell is braking hard when driving down steep roads and overheating the brakes.
Car owners can help avoid experiencing these types of brake problems by regularly checking their brakes. Don Paxton, director of AAA Ohio’s AAA Car Care Plus, recommends that vehicle owners have their tires rotated at every oil change and request that the brake pads be measured in the process. Once pads get down to 4 mm of thickness, it’s a good time to replace them.
“It’s better to keep up with maintenance so that you don’t get to the point where you experience any of the warning signs,” said Paxton.