It’s a sad fact of life that many car drivers are guilty of ignoring symptoms in their vehicle which indicate a potential fundamental problem with the brakes.
It’s worth being clear that your brakes might be all that stands between you or other people and death. If you continue to ignore those danger signs then the results could literally be catastrophic.
So, here are the top signs to be aware of.
1. Your vehicle pulls to the right or left when you are breaking. This could be caused by many different things but none of them are good.
2. You can feel a pronounced ‘spongy feeling’ in the brake pedal when applying the brakes.
3. Your car has started to require longer distances to come to a stop when you break than it seemed to be doing a relatively short time in the past. If you are in any doubt here, there will typically be information in your owner’s manual about average stopping distances at stated speeds. Check your car in a quiet and safe area and if you are exceeding those distances significantly, you may have a serious problem.
4. There is a grinding or scraping noise when you apply the brakes. This probably indicates that your brake shoes or brake pads or badly worn and require immediate attention. Note that some manufacturers of braking systems build features into their products that are specifically designed to start making a noise when the shoe or pad is in need of replacement.
5. You are feeling ‘shuddering’ through the steering wheel when braking, even if the car itself is actually breaking in a reasonably straight line.
6. Signs of hard to explain fluid around your wheels or underneath the car near the wheels are a bad sign. Of course, it could be coming from any one of several different sources but one of them might be your braking systems’ hydraulic fluid.
7. You notice a burning or charring smell when you are breaking. This is extremely likely to be serious and symptoms of smoke near the brakes or wheels might be further confirmation that a problem exists.
8. When braking, you are being forced to ‘pump’ your brake pedal in order to get a response.
9. There are indications that one of your brakes may be failing to fully disengage leading to heat around the wheel.
10. Finally, don’t forget that your handbrake is part of your braking system. If it is not holding your car firmly stopped on inclines, don’t just ignore it and leave your car in gear instead. Also, if you need to apply excessive force to get the handbrake lever up to a level where it engages, that’s another bad sign.