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7 Brake Problems That You Should Address Immediately

Team AckoSept 23, 2022

The brakes of an automobile are probably one of the car's most important pieces of hardware, and they must be checked regularly and serviced as required. Above all else, these ensure the safety of the car and more importantly the driver. A stitch in time saves nine is something you should always remember when keeping your brakes in peak working order.

Common Car Brake Problems

Here are a few indications to help you identify common car braking problems.

1. The Brake Light on the Dashboard Stays On

Every time you turn on your car's ignition, you would have noticed that all the warning lights stay on for a few seconds before turning off again. This is a test to ensure all the bulbs are in working order. If all the bulbs turn on and off as usual, then that's your vehicle telling you that everything is working as it should. If the brake light indicator continues to stay on, it's most likely that your parking brake is on. The light should go off the moment you disengage the parking brake. If it doesn't, it could be your vehicle telling you that something is wrong with your brake system that needs to be looked at by professionals immediately.

2. Squeaking Noises While Braking

Brake pads generally have metallic indicators that get exposed after they have worn down and are nearing the end of their life. When these indicators touch the rotor while braking, they screech to let the driver know it's time to get the pads replaced, indicating one of the most common car braking problems. This is something that should not be ignored. If the pads wear out completely, you may damage the brake rotor, which can be a very expensive repair job.

3. Grinding Noises When The Brakes Are Applied

It could be a few things if you hear a grinding noise under braking. The simplest could be small stones or gravel caught in the brake calliper unit. This can easily be fixed with a pressure washer or some compressed air. It could also indicate that your brake pads have worn out completely, and the sounds are caused by metal grinding against the rotor, which can again lead to a very expensive repair job if ignored.

4. The Brake Pedal Has Gone Soft

When you press on the brake pedal, it should offer some resistance. If they feel soft or spongy, you can press the pedal down to the floorboard and pull over immediately, as this could be another car braking problem. Your brakes could fail at any moment. The most likely cause could be a leak in the master cylinder or somewhere else in the brake system. Continuing to drive the vehicle in this condition would put you and your passengers at risk.

5. The Brake Pedal or Steering Wheels Vibrate Under Braking

Any vibrations felt in the brake pedal or the steering wheel under braking, means that the brake rotors have deformed or have formed surface regularities. This can occur due to rusting or rotor wear from worn-out brake callipers. If the damage is superficial, the rotors can be resurfaced by a professional but if the rotors have worn out beyond the minimum safe thickness, then changing the rotors is the only option. Uneven tyre wear could also be a culprit in this scenario. Therefore, tyre rotation should be done as per the manufacturer's guidelines.

6. The Vehicle Pulls to One Side Under Braking

If your vehicle starts to pull one side under braking, it is most likely due to uneven braking pressure being applied by the callipers. Rust, water in the system or dust could contribute to this car braking problem. You should take your vehicle to a mechanic to get this checked the moment you start noticing this issue. If ignored, it could pull your vehicle violently to one side under hard braking, which can be dangerous to you and the oncoming traffic.

7. Burning Smell Under Braking

Getting a nasty burning smell under braking? It could mean that your brake fluid is starting to overheat, which is one of the most serious car braking problems. Your brakes could fail altogether if the fluid reaches its boiling point. Pull over to the side and park in a safe spot to let your brake fluid cool down. The best way to prevent this problem altogether is to drive sensibly. Use engine braking to your advantage to assist and reduce the amount of work your brakes are doing. If you are moving in the canyons or going downhill, stick to lower gears so that you don't have to use your brakes all the time. If most of your driving is in difficult terrain that requires a lot of braking, consider using a higher-quality brake fluid with a higher boiling point. This will improve your braking performance significantly.

General advice to extend the life of your brakes

A few simple changes can go a long way to extend the life of your brakes:

  • Improve your driving style: driving fast and then braking hard will put a lot of stress on your brakes and wear them out more quickly. For example, when you know you have to stop ahead, don't accelerate till the last moment and then brake hard. Reduce your speed beforehand and use your gear to slow down as much as possible before you need to use your brakes.

  • Don't drive with your foot on the brake pedal.

  • Remove any unnecessary weight from your vehicle. Don't drive around with things in the trunk you don't need. The heavier the car, the harder the brakes have to work to bring you to a stop.

Wrapping up

These are some of the most common car braking problems you should address when you notice them. A brake failure can be extremely dangerous, potentially life-threatening and will put a deep hole in your pocket if you happen to crash. It is best to stay ahead to avoid any problems. Get your brakes checked by a professional mechanic frequently and replace any parts as mentioned in the car's service manual.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to most common car brake questions

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1. How often should I get my brakes checked?

Ideally, as per the manufacturer's instructions, every six months and every time you send in your vehicle for service. If you feel something is not right with your brakes, get them checked immediately.

2. What are the components of the braking system that should be checked regularly?

A lot happens inside the car mechanism when you press the brake pedal. Braking is done via an intricate system of components. The most obvious features to check are the brake pads, the rotors, the callipers, the master cylinder and all the hoses to ensure no leaks in the braking system. If you experience any of the above symptoms, get your entire brake system checked thoroughly by a professional.

3. How often should I change the brake fluid?

Most manufacturers recommend changing the brake fluid every two years. If your braking performance has declined, but the rest of the hardware seems to be in good condition, it is a sign that your braking fluid is close to giving up. 

4. I have overhauled my entire braking system but still find the braking performance inadequate. What could be the reason?

Your tyres must have worn down! Tyres play a significant role in helping you slow down. Fresh and grippy tyres will improve your braking performance significantly. As the tread wears out, they cannot translate all the braking force onto the road and will tend to lock up, especially if your vehicle isn't equipped with ABS. This can be dangerous as you cannot steer your car under braking when your tyres are locked up. Proper tyre maintenance and good braking performance go hand in hand.

5. How can I improve my vehicle's braking performance?

There are three ways to improve your braking performance:

  • Upgrade to a Big Brake Kit (BBK): The larger the discs, the higher the surface area for the callipers to bite onto. BBK's also typically come with ventilated discs; these greatly help dissipate heat, thereby improving your braking performance.

  • Switch to braided lines: Brake fluid is distributed via rubber hoses in a typical braking system. When the fluid heats, these rubber hoses expand. This creates a drop in fluid pressure, affecting your braking performance. Braided lines do not grow as much, thus maintaining consistent braking pressure. Switching to a higher-quality braking fluid will help as well.

  • Upgrade your tyres: Your tyres are the only link between your vehicle and the road. Better tyres with softer, stickier compounds will drastically improve your braking performance under all conditions.

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