6 Signs Your Brakes Need Repairs

by | Dec 16, 2020 | advice, Car maintenance, safety

Winter Breaks Brakes in Cache Valley

The Cache Valley winter can be really harsh on your car’s brakes. Whether it’s corrosion from the road salt, freezing fluids damaging the pumps, there are lots of problems winter creates for the brake system. If the brakes go bad, you’re in serious trouble, so the best way to avoid trouble is to catch the problem before they break and get the fixed. But how can you do that? Well, there are signs to watch for.

The Signs Your Brakes Are Going Bad

1. The Brake Light Comes On

brake light flashing, warning of problems with the car's brakesCars have all kinds of sensors in them to detect incoming problems. One of the sensors is for your brakes. If there is a problem with your brakes, a light will turn on to warn you. If you see the break, or ABS warning light come on, you could have a problem on your hands. It could also mean that the car’s parking brake is engaged, so try releasing that first and see if the light turns off. If it’s still on, take your car to a mechanic at ASAP.

While the brake lights are good at warning you, the system doesn’t always detect a problem before other warning signs, so there are more signs to watch out for.

2. Grinding, Squealing, or Other Unusual Sounds

Your car isn’t supposed to make strange noises. If you’re hearing any sounds out of the ordinary – sounds your car didn’t make when you first took it off the lot – you have a problem. In the case of brakes, the sounds will be grinding, screeching, or squealing when you apply the brakes. You might also hear these noises while driving at slow speeds. Squealing sounds indicate that the brake pads have worn out and need to be replaced. Grinding might mean a bit of gravel is stuck in caliper unit, or it might mean your car is running low on lubrication. It could also mean that your brake pads have completely worn away and now raw metal is scraping against your wheels. None of these are good things, but we can easily fix them if you bring it in right away.

3. Leaking Fluids

Fluid leaks are never a good thing. Your brakes are powered by cylinders that use hydraulic pressure to move the car’s parts. Over time, natural wear and tear and cause the brake fluid reservoir to crack. If that happens, each time you press down on the brake pedal, the pressure is going to cause some of the fluid to leak out. It will also drip out naturally over time. Leave it long enough, and you won’t have enough fluid for your brakes to work. If you notice a puddle or stain from car fluids under your car, you should have it checked out immediately. Don’t wait for something to stop working first.

4. A Burning Smell

Just as strange sounds are a bad sign, strange smells should also be taken very seriously. A lot of burning smells will come from overheating engine, but a sharp, chemical smell when braking is most likely the sign of a stuck brake or clutch. If you smell such an odor, pull over immediately and check your parking brake to make sure it’s fully released. If it’s sticking, the friction can heat the brake fluid to boiling, which causes brake failure. Do you see smoke coming from a wheel?  There might be a stuck caliper, and continued driving is unsafe. Take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible. Call one up and see if it might be necessary to get a tow truck to help. Not doing so might put you in serious danger.

5. Loose or Soft Brake Pedal

If there seems to be some resistance in your brake pedal, or if you have to push it all the way down to get the brakes to activate, that’s a problem. Generally, cars with power brakes should stop when they get 1 to 1.5 inches from the floor. For manual brakes, this should be around 3 inches. If they don’t, there could be moisture or air in the system, or it might be a problem with the master cylinder. Take care of this right away.

6. The Car Pulls To One Side

This is usually a problem with the alignment, but it could also be a brake problem. If the car drifts to one side when you slow down or stop, then it could be a problem with the brake hose or caliper. This problem is causing it to apply uneven pressure to your wheels, unbalancing the stops. With one wheel turning faster than the other, the car drifts in that direction. For obvious reasons, you should get this checked out ASAP.

Mechanic working on a truckDon’t Ignore The Warning Signs

The worst thing you can do is ignore the warning signs. If you experience any of these problems, you need to check in with a mechanic right away. Any of these issues can mean your brakes are about to go bad. Even if they don’t completely break, they will make your braking system less effective. Since we’re coming up on winter, with it’s slushy, icy roads, you don’t want your car to have any other problems stopping. If you’ve been having any problems like this, or if it’s been a while since you’ve had your brakes checked, check in with us (link to contact page). Catching problems early is the key to avoiding expensive repair bills. Or worse, expensive hospital bills.


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