What are the signs of bad brakes?

bad brakes after being removed from a vehicle

Keep Your Brakes in Shape

If there is anything you’re going to skimp on with your car, brake repair is not the one to choose! Running out of gas or needing to jump your battery can be annoying. Not having any brakes is downright dangerous and scary! Just as important as having good tires and air pressure on the ground, you want to make sure your brakes are in good working order too. 

How can you tell you need new brakes?

The brakes on your car are essential for your and your passengers’ safety. They will often work for thousands of miles without any problems. And that can be a problem. They say the squeaking wheel gets oiled. That same thing can be said of brakes. The noisy, malfunctioning brakes need brake repair! 

Most of the time, your car brakes are quietly doing their job. So, what kind of sounds will tell you that you should take your car in for a brake repair job? Here are some tell-tale sounds you should be listening for: 

  • Squeaking: If you’re hearing a high-pitch squeak as you apply your brakes, it is probably because the brake pads are wearing thin. Brakes today have indicators built-in on brake pads that make shrill, squeaking sounds at a certain point. This is your notice that you need either a brake inspection or a brake repair. 
  • Grinding: Okay, what if you can’t get your car in the shop when that squeaking sound starts, what happens? You’ll start to hear a grinding, growling sound. What is the grinding noise when I brake? The brake pads have worn down further. If you wait much longer to get a brake repair job, the caliper and rotors will get damaged, and that brake repair job is going to be expensive! 
  • Responsiveness Reduced: Not only will brakes that are wearing out begin making noise, they also won’t be as responsive, meaning they aren’t going to stop as quickly as they have been. If you’ve noticed you’re having to start stopping sooner than before, or you’re pressing harder on the brake pedal, you need a brake repair service pronto! It may not be the brake pads, it could be the hydraulic lines where the brake fluid flows, or your car could be low on brake fluid. Regardless, if they aren’t working as they should, have them checked. 
  • Pulling: If your brakes are pulling to one side when you press on them, this is an indicator that you need to have them checked. Typically, this will be because the brake pads on one side of your car have worn differently than the other side. It could be the hydraulic lines too. Regardless of the reason, a brake inspection is needed now. 
  • Vibrations: A car will vibrate from time to time as the pistons move up and down rapidly inside the engine. That is not a bad vibration. Regarding the brakes on your car, the vibration is not good. It could be as simple as the front-end needing an alignment, or the tires needing to be balanced. It can also be worn-out pads or rotors. Take your car to get a brake inspection. 

Why is my car shaking when I brake?

As you drive your car, the brake pads accumulate dirt, dust, oil, and more and this can cause the brakes to vibrate when the pedal is pressed. If the rotors are wearing out or the pads are getting thin, excessive heat builds up and warps the rotors, resulting in vibration. A brake job will stop this shaking as the pads are replaced, possibly the rotors. 

How long do brakes typically last?

The average lifespan is 30,000 miles, and with each oil change brake pads are inspected to check for wear.

It isn’t possible to put an exact number on the lifespan of brakes. The average will typically be from 25,000 up to 65,000 miles, with some exceptions up to 80,000 miles. With proper maintenance and as little abuse as possible, 40,000 miles would be the number if you were to give an exact number.

For a safe and legal break job, you must either resurface or replace brake rotors along with pads at the same time. Nowadays most manufacturers only allow 1.5 millimeters to 2 millimeters from new until the replacement of rotors is required. Also, when you resurface the rotors, on average it takes around 15 feet more to stop. With how many people are driving distracted, 15 feet can be the difference between hitting somebody or not, if you have to stop quickly or unexpectedly. This is why we only replace the rotors with the pads at every brake job.

What causes brakes to malfunction?

The three most common issues for malfunctioning brakes are: 

  • Loss of brake fluid. Each time you push on the brake pedal, fluid transfers to the brake disks. If a leak develops in the lines or at the disk, your brakes will malfunction. 
  • The brake cylinder fails. The brake cylinder is a crucial part of a car’s braking system. This is where the brake fluid gets compressed; if the cylinder is bad, your brakes won’t stop. 
  • The brake booster goes bad. This part of the brake system takes the force pressing on the pedal generates and amplifies it. When the brake booster goes bad, the force you push onto the pedal will not produce.

Should you replace all your brake pads at once?

You don’t need to replace all brake pads at once, just the wheels that are bad, two at a time.

What are the symptoms of a bad brake line?

The brake lines are the pipe for the brake system. They are what helps works the hydraulic pressure, taking brake fluid from the master cylinder and sending it to the wheels. Most brake lines are steel because of the high pressure they are put under. There are three things that are telling you that your car needs a brake repair job:

  • Brake fluid leaking: This is the common indicator your brakes are going out. Over time, even though they are made from steel, they can get damaged and wear out, getting a small hole in them and start leaking. A professional brake repair job is needed. 
  • Warning Light: Like the check engine light, never ignore the brake warning light. This is telling you that something is right with the braking system, and you need to get your car to a brake repair shop quickly. 
  • Corrosion: When your brake lines become corroded, this usually means the lines are getting weak and starting to leak or it could be from exposure to the elements. Either way, your brakes need to be inspected. 

What happens when a brake caliper goes bad?

When brake calipers go bad, they will either freeze up or stick. When this happens, you’ll start hearing noises from the damaged part. Ignore getting a brake repair job for too long, the brakes could lock up and keep the wheels from turning. 

What happens if your brake rotors are bad?

When the brake rotors go bad, it can get dangerous driving. Not only is braking delayed, but the handling is affected and that can cause an accident. Once you have a brake repair where the rotors are replaced, your car will handle better. 

close-up of brakes being repaired

In Closing

The brake system on a car requires regular routine maintenance and service. Each year as you get your car inspected, they will also inspect the brakes. As the driver, if you notice any of the things we’ve discussed, take your car to a shop as soon as possible for a professional brake repair job.