The Top Warning Signs You Need New Brakes

The Top Warning Signs You Need New Brakes

Like many parts in your vehicle, brake pads wear down and will eventually need to be replaced. There are many factors that can influence how often you’ll need to replace your brake pads, but generally, they should be replaced every 25,000 to 65,000 miles; rotors should typically be replaced between 30,000 and 70,000 miles. 

If you’re proactive about brake replacement and follow your manufacturer’s recommendations, you shouldn’t experience too many issues with your brakes over the life of your vehicle; more than likely, you’ll notice minor symptoms that signal your brake pads are nearing the end of their road life. However, if you’re not sure when your brakes were last replaced, here are some common warning signs to watch for. 

Visible Wear 

Just as it’s a good idea to check your fluid levels from time to time, doing a visual inspection of your brakes can help you keep on top of replacement intervals. Although it may not be easy to do on every vehicle, you can do a visual inspection at home. Look through the spokes of the wheels, and you should be able to see your brake pads sitting against the rotors. Brand-new brakes have 12 mm of friction material; if the material is worn down to 3-4 mm, it’s time to replace them. 

Drips or Puddles Under Your Vehicle

Another way you can keep an eye on your brake system is to take a look under your car. If you see drips or a small puddle after your vehicle has been parked for awhile, you may have a brake fluid leak. Take note of the color and consistency; brake fluid will be colorless and have a consistency that’s similar to vegetable oil. Fluid leaks can reduce your brake’s performance or even cause complete failure, so it’s best to schedule an appointment ASAP. 

High-Pitched Screeching Noises

Hearing a high-pitched screeching noise when you hit the brake pedal can be alarming, but don’t panic—it’s a sign that your brake pads are worn and need to be replaced soon. Brake pads are built with a “wear indicator,” a small piece of metal that rubs against the rotors when the brake pad lining gets low. Once you start hearing that noise, it’s time to schedule an appointment for a replacement. 

Screeching with New Brake Pads

If you’ve just replaced your brake pads and hear screeching, that’s a different situation. This often happens due to heavy braking, which can make the surface of the rotors overheat and become smooth and shiny, a condition known as rotor glazing. Rotor glazing makes it harder for the brake pads to grip the rotor’s surface and stop your car effectively. Check your rotors; if you see blue marks or dark rings on them, you may need to have them replaced. 

Grinding Noises 

If you didn’t notice the noises coming from the wear indicator, it can lead to an even worse sound: a heavy metal-on-metal grinding noise. Your brake pads have likely worn down completely and the metal that once held the friction material is bare and rubbing against your rotor. This can cause a significant amount of rotor damage in a short time—even worse, it’s a safety hazard. The metal from both parts can overheat and meld together, causing your brakes to stick. Don’t wait; this issue should be addressed immediately.

Vibrations When Braking

If your brake system is in good condition, you shouldn’t notice any unusual vibrations when you push the brake pedal. If you do feel any vibrations while braking (especially if they stop when you release the brake pedal) it’s likely because your brake pads are worn or your rotors are damaged. Schedule an appointment to have your brakes inspected and serviced. 

Poor Braking Response

We’ve all had times when we needed to stop quickly; if you notice your brakes don’t seem to stop your car fast enough or have a generally poor response when you hit the pedal, you may have a brake fluid leak. It’s also possible that you may have glazed the brakes, especially if you were braking for long distances without coming to a complete stop. Just as with glazed rotors, excessive exposure to heat reduces the friction needed to stop your vehicle quickly. 

Overly Responsive or Unresponsive Brakes

If your brakes suddenly stop the car with the slightest touch, it might mean your rotors have worn unevenly—or you may need to change the brake fluid. On the other hand, if you find yourself pressing the pedal almost to the floor before the brakes work, that’s also a concern. It could be a sign that there’s air in the brake fluid, low fluid levels, thin brake pads, or a problem in the hydraulic system. In either case, it’s a clear sign that your car needs servicing. 

Pulling to One Side

If your car pulls to one side when you hit the brakes, it’s generally a sign that your brake lining is wearing unevenly or that the brake fluid has been contaminated. You’ll either need to have your brakes adjusted or have the brake fluid flushed and replaced. 

The Consequences of Driving With Worn Brakes

It probably goes without saying, but your braking system is one of the most significant safety features in your vehicle. While not every issue on this list needs to be dealt with immediately, ignoring brake issues can lead to significant problems over time, including:

  1. Slow Response Time: As the brake pads wear down, they become less effective at slowing your vehicle, which increases the time it takes to stop. This can put you at a higher risk of getting into an accident, especially in heavy traffic or slick conditions. 
  2. Tire Damage: Slower response times can cause more frequent hard braking, which can wear down the tread on your tires faster. Harsh braking can also cause uneven wear. 
  3. Additional Damage: Excessively worn brake pads can damage the rotors and potentially harm the entire braking system. If you wait too long to replace your brake pads, you’ll likely have to deal with more extensive (and expensive!) repairs in the future. 

To keep your brake system in good shape, drive responsibly and make sure to have maintenance performed at the recommended intervals. Brake pad and rotor replacement, brake fluid changes, and inspections are always more cost-effective than getting repairs! If your vehicle is due for any maintenance or repairs, Signal Garage Auto Care is here to help. Contact us today at one of our three convenient locations in St. Paul or West St. Paul!

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