The brakes of your car are one of its most important features. They are what keeps you and those around you safe while you are on the road. Brake pads should be replaced every 50,000 miles. But because no two cars are alike and driving habits differ there are some warning signs you should pay attention to that will let you know it’s time for new brakes.
Signs You Need New Brakes
1. Brake light comes on. The warning lights in your vehicle come on for a reason. If the brake light comes on you need to figure out why. Take your vehicle to a professional who can let you know what the problems is and how to fix it.
2. Squealing or squeaking noises from brakes. Your brakes should be quiet. I you hear a high-pitched noise that stops when you apply the brakes it’s an indication that the brake pads have worn down. Brake pads are made of steel and will make this noise when they start touching the rotor, another part of the brake system. Ignore this noise and you’ll have rotor damage that will cost more to fix.
3. Brakes making deep grinding metal noises. This is an indication that you have waited too long to service your brakes. This sound means the pads have worn through and you have metal contacting metal. This will create grooves in the rotor- something you do not want.
4. Vibrating or wobbling when braking. If the brake pedal vibrates or the steering wheel shakes when the brakes are applied, it can be an indication that a rotor is uneven. When you apply the brakes the brake pads hug the rotor to slow your vehicle down. It’s normal for the rotor surface to have slight variations over time. The face of the rotor can be smoothed out during brake servicing.
5. Soft or spongy brake pedal. If it feels like the brake pedal sinks all the way to the floor when you apply it, you may have air or moisture in the braking system. You may also have a problem with the master cylinder. Power brakes should stop 1-1 ½ inches from the floor and manual brakes should stop 3 or more inches from the floor of the car.
6. Burning smell when you drive. If you smell a strong chemical odor after repeated hard braking on steep roads you may have brakes that have become overheated. Pull over when it’s safe and allow your brakes to cool. You risk heating up the brake fluid to boiling and complete brake failure if you don’t.
7. Brake pads are less than a ¼ inch thick. You can look between the spokes on your wheels to see how thick your brake pads are. If they look like they are less than a ¼ inch thick, it’s a sign that you will need to have brake service soon.