Regarding your vehicle’s most important safety mechanism, letting issues slide until that system no longer functions properly is a recipe for disaster. Brakes are often overlooked and taken for granted once a significant problem arises. The following are the top 10 warning signs that your vehicle needs brake service.
- Spongy brake pedal: A soft, spongy feel in the brake pedal is a sure sign of a problem in the hydraulic system. It can be caused by issues such as air in the lines, failing calipers or wheel cylinders, or a weak flex line. Your brake pedal should be firm, and the brakes should feel solid and be applied gradually.
- Hard brake pedal: There are two types of power assists—vacuum and hydraulic. If the brake pedal is hard to push, the problem is most likely in the power assist mechanism.
- Fluid leaks: Brake fluid varies from clear to rusty orange, depending on age and condition. It is very thin and slippery, with a slight odour. Wet inner tires are a telltale sign of caliper/wheel cylinder leaks. Any sign of leaking brake fluid is terrible and must be repaired immediately.
- Grinding noises: If you hear noises when you hit the brake pedal, you likely have a mechanical issue with the braking system. Grinding is a metal-on-metal sound that means the brake pads/shoes are worn out, and the base metal grins on the rotor or drum. Bring your vehicle to us for a brake service as soon as possible to avoid driving in unsafe conditions and causing further damage.
- Pulling left or right: Worn rotors can result in the vehicle pulling to one side when the brakes are pressed. This is because the brakes are grabbing harder on one side.
As you press the brake pedal, both sides of the brake system are applied equally. If there is an issue with one side, then your vehicle will pull to one side as you brake.
- Longer braking time/distance: If your vehicle is taking longer to stop than normal, then you are experiencing brake fade. If the fade becomes permanent, replacing the pads and/or rotors is the only solution.
- Vibrations: When brakes have been heated up too much, the rotors can develop hot spots, which, when cooled, contract more than the rest of the rotor. Once this occurs, every application of the brakes sends pulses through the brake pedal or steering wheel. These vibrations can also be a sign of poor steering alignment, so you should schedule a brake service appointment to get the problem checked out.
- Drag under acceleration: A dragging brake shoe on the drum can lead to reduced performance in all aspects—acceleration, cruising, and braking. If you let off the gas (after reaching 55 km/h or so) and the vehicle slows down much faster than it normally does, this is a sure sign of a braking issue. Road grime buildup and faulty caliper/wheel cylinders are typically the cause.
- Odd smell: Overheated brakes not only smell bad, but they’re also a dangerous situation. If you smell a funky burning odour when you hit the brakes, you have a problem. This symptom is a component of brake fade, discussed above.
- Warning lights: Anytime the brake warning light comes on, you need to pay attention. There are two brake lights—the main system and the ABS system. ABS components can fail and allow the rest of the system to function normally, but the main brake warning light signals that the vehicle has most likely experienced a failure in the hydraulic system and needs to be serviced immediately.
The braking system is the number one safety mechanism on your vehicle. Fixing a brake failure after ignoring the warning signs will cost you much more than conducting proper maintenance. Pay attention to potential problems—it’ll be easier on your wallet and may even save your life. Stop by or give us a call any time you’d like to book an appointment!
Heritage Dr SE. Location:
8304 Fairmount Dr, SE
Calgary, AB, T2J 7B4
Chinook SW Location:
203, 58 Ave. SW
Calgary, T2H 0A5