How do Brakes Work?Brakes for cars, trucks, and SUVs are either a drum or a disc. While drums have been the go-to for many decades, the disc is starting to become more popular. This is because they are better at eliminating heat that is created from braking. Heat is the enemy of good braking, which is why disc brakes are placed on the front of the car where the bulk of the braking load goes. If you were to look at the braking system today, you would see that most vehicles have disc brakes in the front. However, the drums have not been forgotten altogether. Some manufacturers still have them in the rear.
Why do Brakes Fail?It isn’t typical for brakes to suddenly fail. Most of the time brakes wear out over time due to a few causes:
- The friction material on the shoes or pads wears down.
- The rotors are worn from the friction of the pads.
- While calipers don’t wear out, over time, the pistons can freeze in the cylinders and require replacement.
Brake Noises and Warning SignsWhen brakes wear, they can get pretty noisy. Any time you begin to hear your vehicle start to make strange noises, it is time to get it checked. Especially if you believe you hear those noises from your brakes. These are some noises and warning signs to look out for when it comes to your brakes:
- Grinding, squealing, or clicking
- Soft or spongy brake pedal
- Pulsating, vibrating, or shuddering
- Pulling to one side while braking
- Excessive drag
- Increased distance needed to stop
Troubleshooting Common Brake Symptoms
If you hear what sounds like metal on metal, then it usually means that the friction material on your brake pads is gone. That means that there isn’t much braking material left, and you will start to tear up your braking system. Chances are both your brake pads and rotors will have to be replaced. It is essential to get your brakes fixed immediately to keep from damaging your braking system.
Most disc brakes are designed to have a wear indicator that will let you know when they are thin. Depending on the brakes, they will either squeal while you are driving or when the brakes are applied. When you hear this, it is time to get new brakes.
This can happen if the clip that holds the pads in place comes loose or breaks.
Soft or Spongy Brake Pedal
This will usually mean there is air in the braking system. Having air in the braking system can cause brakes to feel soft or mushy and cause the pedal to go further towards the floor. Brake fluid will help add resistance as you press the brake pedal to stop.
Pulsating or Vibrating Pedal
This typically means there are uneven spots in the rotors. The pulsating could also be caused by the antilock braking system (ABS) operating normally.
Pulls to One Side
If your vehicle is pulling to one side, then this can mean that one of your calipers is freezing or is “hung up.” It can also mean that there is a brake fluid leak in one of the calipers. Either way, it means that one of your calipers is having trouble and needs immediate service.
If you hear something that sounds like a pump running after you brake, then that can be the ABS pump. This could be caused by one of the wheel speed sensors not working, which causes your vehicle’s computer to think the wheel is locked up. In addition to this, if you see your ABS warning light come up on your dash, it is time to get it checked. This light always means bad news, so to stay safe, bring your vehicle in.
Drag When Accelerating
A drag can happen when you forget to disengage the emergency brake. If this isn’t the case, then it could be corrosion on the emergency brake that causes it to be engaged even though it has been released.
Not all brake noises mean you need an immediate brake job. There are some that are normal such as squeaking from humidity or from sitting overnight. Or there could be a little rust on the rotors that is being rubbed away by the brakes. Either way, these squeaks typically disappear and aren’t much of a problem. If it goes away after applying the brakes a couple of times, then you’re good.