While we like to focus on the gas pedal-with things like 0-60 times, fuel efficiency, etc-your brakes are just as important during your trips to the store and cruising on the highway. That means you definitely should not ignore potential signs of brake issues.
We’ve teamed up with the experts at Advance Auto Parts to give you a rundown of everything you need to know about brakes: what type of break is best, different types of brake pad replacement, as well as when to take your brakes in for service.
Brake issues to look out for
There are a few tell-tale signs that something is wrong:
- A brake pedal that feels “mushy”
- A “check brakes” or “check brake fluid” warning light
- A brake pedal that goes all the way to the floor when pressed
- A grinding noise when braking
- Squeaking sounds when braking
- Vibrations when braking
Overall, there are many potential problems when you experience these symptoms. But if you are experiencing the “mushy” brakes or have a brake pedal going all the way down to the floor, you may have: a leak in the brake system, low brake fluid levels, dirty brake fluid, or air in the brake fluid. If you do have a leak, make sure you get it fixed as soon as possible.
Grinding and clunking noises – may indicate missing or loose hardware, or even damaged or missing parts in the suspension system
Brakes that squeak or squeal – usually need new brake pads. In fact, engineers design brake pads to squeal at the end of their lifecycle. This is called a “wear indicator” and means the brake pads are about to wear out completely. With worn-out pads, the brakes will damage the rest of the system by grinding metal against metal. If you experience vibrations when braking, it may mean:
- Bad brake pads (see above)
- A bad brake disc
- Worn out front suspension
Drums, brake pads, or rotors?
When getting your brakes fixed, the mechanic may mention drums or rotors. This is dependent on one of two types of brake systems:
Drum brakes: the brake shoes come in contact with the drum to slow the car
Disc brakes: where the brake pads and shoes come in contact with a rotor to slow the car down
Drums and rotors wear down the same as brake pads and shoes. When a mechanic puts on new pads or shoes, there must be a smooth and even surface for them to grip or the brakes will not function properly. Luckily, the drums and rotors may not require complete replacement. Drums and rotors can be “turned” or resurfaced if they are not badly worn. And resurfacing the drums or rotors is a common practice and is safe when done according to the specifications.
Let your budget and your driving expectations help you make this decision. And, know that the higher-priced brake pads will just about always offer better performance through better stopping power, longer pad life, lower noise and less dust.
Drivers should never ignore brake issues and should address them as soon as they come up. Plus, mechanics can typically perform most brake repairs the same day.