Safe to say that good working brakes are of paramount importance on any vehicle. Few things are as disastrous as brakes that fail. And there is no good situation or location for brakes to not work. Keeping brakes functioning as they should is absolutely critical. People’s lives literally depend on it. Also, brakes that are not properly maintained can lead to problems elsewhere on a car—costly problems. Paying attention to your brakes and being attuned for signs that they are wearing out or need replacing should be front and center with every driver. Here are seven signs that it is likely time to get your car some new brakes.
7. The Vehicle is Pulling to One Side
One of the earliest signs that brake pads are wearing out and may need replacing is that your car will start pulling to the left or right while it’s being driven. To be sure, the vehicle could be veering to one side or another for reasons other than the brakes. However, brake pads that are wearing out is one of the main reasons for this occurrence. To check if the brake pads are the culprit, simply apply the brakes without turning the steering wheel. If the car pulls to the left or right, it is a sign that the current brake pads are wearing unevenly and need to be replaced. Do yourself a favor and head to your nearest garage.
6. The Brake Pedal Pulsates Under Your Foot
Another sure sign that new brakes are in your future is if you find the brake pedal pulsating under your foot when you press on it. This is a clear sign that new brake pads are needed as nearly nothing else will cause “pulsating brakes,” as they are known. The phrase “pulsating brakes” refers to the vibration, or constant grabbing, that is caused when a motorist applies pressure to their worn out brakes. The pulsating is usually caused by worn out brake pads or brake pads that have become warped due to excessive heat. Sometimes, pulsating brake pads can be fixed using a machine without the need to replace them. Although this is rare. More often than not, the brake pads will need to be replaced with new ones.
5. You Hear a Clicking or Rattling Noise
Another early warning sign that your brakes may not be in great shape is if you hear a clicking or rattling noise underneath your car. This typically happens when pressure is applied to the brakes. Every car manufacturer today installs a device that prevents brake pads from rattling when the brakes are depressed. That is, until the brake pads start to wear thin. When you hear a clicking or rattling noise when applying the brakes, it is meant to tell you that the current brake pads are in need of replacing. So don’t ignore that sound you hear under your car. It is trying to tell you something important.
4. The Brake Pads Look Too Thin
You don’t have to be a mechanic to see if your brake pads are too thin. There are visual clues that people can see with their naked eye to alert them that they need to purchase new brake pads. The best way to go about this is to look at your current brake pads through the spokes of the car wheel. The outside brake pad is visible as the material pressed against the metal rotor. If you happen to see less than a quarter inch of brake pad visible, then they are thin and need replacing. If in doubt about what you are seeing, you can also run your finger along the brake pad. It should be pretty apparent if a brake pad feels too thin to the touch. Of course, you can always consult a qualified mechanic for a second opinion.
3. You Hear a Loud Grinding Noise
There is a natural progression in terms of noises you hear when brake pads are wearing out. First is the clicking or rattling sound. Next you’ll likely hear a loud grinding noise. This can also sound like the growl from a wounded animal. If you hear this grinding or growling when you apply the brakes, it means that the brake pads are not only worn out but that more than the brake pads need replacing. This is because the grinding or growling sound is caused by the metal disc and metal caliper rubbing together. This only happens when the brake pad is completely toast. And the longer you drive with the disc and caliper grinding on each other, the more damage you will do to the entire brake system in your car. Regardless, once you hear the grinding sound, it means that, in addition to replacing the brake pads, you will also need to replace the rotors, or at least get them tuned by a licensed mechanic. The lesson here is that you should get your brake pads replaced before you hear a grinding or growling sound.
2. The Brake Pedal is Acting Temperamental
Brake pedals can be temperamental—especially as the pads wear out. A temperamental pedal usually takes one of two forms. Either a mushy pedal that needs to be pushed all the way down to the floor before it will engage the brakes and slow down the car, or a sticky pedal that grabs the brakes full on at the slightest touch. Neither of these scenarios is good. In fact, they can be downright dangerous. Any time you need to push a brake pedal to the floor to get your car to stop, it can be frightening and hazardous. This is a sure sign that you need to take your car to the garage right away and inquire about new brake pads. Ignore these signs of trouble at your own peril.
The third and final sound that you are likely to hear as your brake pads completely fail is a terrible, blood curdling screeching sound. This is the type of noise that will cause people in the grocery store parking lot to turn their heads and look at you like you’re insane. This sound, akin to nails on a chalk board, is made by a small metal shim that acts as an indicator to alert drivers that they need to replace the brake pads. Hearing that screeching noise is your car literally screaming at you that it is time to buy new brake pads. The more often you hear that screech, and the louder the sound is, the worse your brake pads are. It is not, as many people assume, a simple case of some rust on the brakes. Rust wears off brake pads as they are used. The high pitched screech is your worn out brake pads sending you a warning. We’d say listen to that sound, but you’ll have no choice but to hear it, as will people five blocks away.