Of all the preventative maintenance your car needs, brake service is one of the most important (and unfortunately, also one of the most overlooked). The brakes endure huge amounts of heat and stress in stopping several tons of steel every time we drive, and they typically hold up remarkably well - but they don't last forever. Many people take their brakes for granted and don't notice they need work until they are completely worn out and doing damage to the wheels - or even worse, when they fail completely.
However, if you simply pay attention, your vehicle will usually give you a few clues that it's time for a visit to your local auto repair technician to check the brakes. Here are some common symptoms to look for.
Brakes squeal or screech when you apply them.
Most vehicles are designed with a mechanism that causes a high-pitched squeal/screech when the brake pads are getting too low. This is usually the first and most obvious sign that it's time for brake service. If you take the car in to the auto repair shop right away when you hear this noise, you can often keep your costs down by replacing only the brake pads.
Brakes grind or growl when you apply them.
If you hear a grinding noise when the brakes are applied, it typically means the brake pads are completely worn down, and the calipers are making direct contact with the drums or rotors. In this case, your mechanic will probably have to replace the rotors along with the brake pads.
Car "pulls" to one side when you apply the brakes.
When the brakes aren't working properly, you may feel the car pulling or lurching to one side or the other when you're applying the brakes. Sometimes this is caused by impurities in the brake fluid line; other times, it is because of uneven wear on the brake pads, causing the car to pull in the direction where the pads are least worn. Regardless of the exact cause, it's time to have the brakes looked at.
Brake pedal has lots of "give."
If you've ever had a new set of brakes put on the car, you'll notice an immediate response when you step on the brake pedal. When the pads are worn down, the opposite is true - you have to push the pedal down further before the car slows down. A more serious symptom is when the brake pedal gives unexpectedly when you're trying to stop, which is usually a sign of low brake fluid or air in the line. This can become a safety issue, so don't wait to have the brakes checked out.
Car vibrates/shakes when you apply the brakes.
If you feel shaking, vibrating or rapid-fire "thuds" when stepping on the brake, it frequently points to one or more warped rotors. The vibrations are caused by the brake pads alternately catching and releasing as the wheels spin. This reduces the effectiveness of your brakes, so it isn't something you should allow to continue.
For reliable auto repairs, engine diagnostics and more, David's Auto Repair is known in Vancouver, WA for providing high-quality work at affordable prices (with online special offers available for additional savings). For questions on brake service and any other repair issues.