Brakes are one of the most important safety components in any vehicle. Automobiles use disc brakes meaning when you step on your brake pedal, your brake pads press against the brake rotor creating friction. This causes your vehicle to slow down or come to a complete stop.
Brake pads are used frequently and eventually get worn out. The best thing you can do to ensure the safety of you and your passengers as well as other drivers is to make sure your braking system is regularly checked.
Let’s take a look at some of the common symptoms of failing brake pads.
Bad Brake Symptoms to Watch Out For
1. Squeaking, Grinding, Squealing Noise
If you step on the brake pedal and hear squealing sounds, it’s likely that your brake pads are bad. Brake pads eventually get worn out with age and start accumulating a lot of dust on the rotor.
As the dust continues to accumulate they will start squealing whenever you press on the brake pedal.
Brake pads are made of a friction material on a backing plate. The friction material creates the dust and without any material the backing plate will create a scraping sound similar to a squeak.
2. Slow Response
If your brake pads are too worn out, they cannot create enough friction with the rotors to slow down your vehicle quickly.
Simply put, your brakes will respond very slowly whenever you step on the brake pedal. This can lead to a serious accident if you are attempting to brake quickly but have to wait for your braking system to catch up due to lag time.
3. Wear Indicator
This feature is relatively new in high end vehicles. An indicator light lets you know when it’s time to get your brake pads changed.
In order to achieve this, there are two possible sensors:
The first is a small sensor found inside the friction material. When this sensor comes into contact with the brake rotor it creates a signal that turns the light on.
The second is a position sensor that monitors how much the pads have to move before the brakes are applied.
4. Pedal Feels Squishy/Spongy
If you step on the brake pedal and it feels squishy like a sponge, then it likely means that your brake pads are worn out. You will still be able to apply the brakes, but you will need to apply more pressure than normal on the brake pedal.
5. Burning Smell When Driving
A sharp, chemical odor experienced after hard braking repeatedly on steep roads is a sign of overheated brakes. If you experience this, pull over at a safe location, check the parking brake to ensure that it is completely released and let your brakes cool off.
If you fail to allow your brakes to cool, the brake fluid may heat up to boiling point, which may lead to brake failure. If you see any smoke coming from a wheel, it could be a stuck brake caliper and it’s likely unsafe to keep driving without repairs.
6. Swerving to the Side When Braking
If your vehicle swerves or pulls to one side when you press on the brake pedal then it means that uneven force is being applied on one side of the brakes. It could be uneven brake pads, a faulty caliper, or even issues with the brake fluid hoses.
Vehicles pulling to one side can also be a symptom of other issues in your vehicle not related to brakes at all, such as wheel alignment or tire pressure among many other things. Whatever the case, it is an issue that should be addressed by a competent Mechanic.
Does your foot feel like it is pulsating or vibrating when you press down on the brake pedal? The vibration could be either due to bad brake rotors or bad brake pads since the vibration is caused by the brake pad touching the rotor. If one of them is either damaged or worn, it will cause this feeling to occur in the pedal.
Brakes are one of the most parts of your vehicle’s safety system and it is never advisable to ignore any potential problems.
If you suspect that you have bad brakes, you need to speak with your mechanic and schedule a time to get the braking system inspected. The longer you put it off the greater risk you put yourself in and the higher your repair bill.
- Brake indicators image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BrakePadWearIndicators.svg