Your brake system is made up of multiple parts that all need to work together to bring your vehicle to a safe stop. It is crucial that your vehicle braking system is kept in good condition to guarantee both you, your passengers and other drivers remain safe on the road. Your brake pads and rotors should last you at least 2 years or 24,000 miles, but the numbers can differ depending on driving styles and driving conditions. Luckily for you, your brake system will likely start exhibiting minor symptoms that you can use as an indicator that it may be time to replace your brakes. Here are five common signs it’s time to service your brakes.
1. Squeaking or squealing coming from brakes and when stopping
When your brake pads are near the end of their life cycle, they will start making a squeaking noise. This noise is usually caused by a built in wear indicator that is specifically designed to make a squeaking noise when your brake pads are due for service. One way to verify this is to take a look at your brake pad thickness from the brake rotor to the edge of the pad. The minimum brake pad thickness for most brakes is 6 to 3mm.
2. Grinding Noise Coming From Brakes
When your brake pads have completely worn away, the metal backing plate of the pad will begin to grind against the brake rotor. When this occurs, your vehicle is no longer safe to drive. The brake condition in this state is commonly referred to as “metal on metal”. In this condition, not only will your vehicle lose most of its stopping power, but your tires will begin to heat up. Excessive heat in the tires could cause a deadly fire. If you find your vehicle in this condition, it’s best to safely pull over to a safe place and have your vehicle towed to a repair facility. Metal on metal or grinding brakes are a sign your brake system needs to be serviced.
3. Vibration In The Brake Pedal While Stopping
Another sign of a metal on metal condition in your vehicle’s brake system is a vibration in the brake pedal when stopping. This vibration is caused by the metal from the brake pad grinding on your brake system’s metal rotor. This occurs when your brake pad has worn away completely and your brakes must be replaced. When your brake system is in the metal to metal condition, your vehicle is no longer safe to drive. Excessive grinding in the brakes could cause complete brake failure or a fire. If your brake pedal is vibrating when you are braking, it's a sign that you need to service your brakes.
4. Pulsation in the Steering Wheel When Braking
If your steering wheel or brake pedal begin to pulsate, its a sign that you need to repair your brakes. The pulsation occurs when the rotors on your vehicle begin to warp and no longer produce a flat even braking surface for the brake pad. Pulsating brake rotors commonly occur when your brake pads are replaced and the rotors are either not resurfaced or not replaced. Another common cause of warped rotors is installing poor quality rotors as well as excessive heating and immediate cooling. This excessive heating can be caused by using your brakes constantly while driving in hilly terrain. The hot rotors are then quickly cooled while driving through wet terrain. This cause is less common but does occur. If your brake rotors are begging to warp you will feel the pulsation starting at braking from higher speeds such as while taking the off ramp on the freeway. When you feel pulsation in your brake pedal and steering wheel, It is a sign that it’s time to service your brake system.
5. Delayed Or Longer Than Usual Stop
If your brakes are not working like they used to and you notice that your car is taking longer to stop, it’s time to service your brakes. Delayed or longer stop is usually caused by poor quality brake fluid or air inside your brake system. Brake fluid allows the power from your foot to transfer directly to the brake calipers allowing for immediate engagement of the brakes when you need them. Overtime water will condensate in the brake fluid and naturally your brake power will reduce. Air entering the brake fluid system will also create loss of braking power. To prevent this potentially hazardous condition from occurring it is important to properly service your brake system per your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. Brake fluid should be changed every 20,000 to 40,000 miles or every 2 years. If you notice a delay or longer than usually braking time, it’s a sign you need to service your brakes.