Studies found that brake problems are major factors in 15% of crashes due to vehicle failure. Moreover, faulty brakes are a primary contributor to rear-end collisions.
Granted, that percentage does seem small. However, keep in mind that every year, six million motor vehicle accidents occur in the US. So, that 15% is still a lot when multiplied to the number of yearly collisions.
With that said, it’s vital to keep your brakes in perfect working condition at all times. This means replacing them as needed.
The big question now is, how do you know when you need new brakes in the first place?
We’ll tell you all about it below, so be sure to read on.
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How Do You Know When You Need New Brakes?
Mileage is a good indicator: for small cars, a brake replacement is often a good idea every 25,000 to 45,000 miles. If you have a large truck, then it’s best to have a mechanic inspect it once you’ve reached about 20,000 to 30,000 miles.
The above are just general guidelines, though, as brakes can wear faster based on how you use them. For instance, if you tend to do sudden rather than gradual stops, you can expect hastened wear. Driving on uninflated tires can also affect the lifespan of your brakes.
With that said, let’s take a look at the other tangible signs that often indicate the need for new brakes.
1. Car Wobbles When Braking
Inside your car’s wheels are big discs called “brake rotors.” When you step on your brake pedal, the brake pads clamp down on these discs. The pads “hug” the rotors, which in turn, makes the wheels stop spinning.
Over time and countless wheel revolutions, the rotor’s surface can develop slight variations. In many cases, rust also forms on the discs and can also affect its thickness.
The tiniest variation in disc thickness, however, can lead to your car wobbling when you brake. You may also feel some shaking or vibrations coming from the steering wheel.
Moreover, rotor surface unevenness may result in the disc hitting one of your brake pads. This can then lead to a portion of the pad material transferring onto the rotor. This can also cause your car to wobble whenever you brake.
Don’t let your wobbly ride stay shaky any longer, as your braking system as you may already need new rotors. It’s best to have an auto repair in Columbus, Ohio look at your braking system ASAP.
2. Squeaks or Squeals That Disappear When You Brake
If you hear these sounds whenever you’re foot is off the brake pedal, it may signal worn brake pads. The noises are often a “warning” generated by the wear indicator built into your brake pads. The indicator, in turn, is a small metal tab or steel spring attached to the end of the disc pad.
The wear indicator can produce these braking noses as it grinds against the brake disc. However, it usually only does so when the brake pads have become so worn. Without sufficient padding, the metal tab or spring is then free to scrape away at the brake disc.
In any case, if you hear these noises and they disappear when you put on the brakes, take that as a cue that you need new pads. Bring your ride to a Columbus auto repair shop so you can have your worn pads replaced right away. Otherwise, the indicator will start scraping at and damaging the rotor itself.
3. Brake Pedal Goes All the Way Down
In many cases, brake problems can take the form of a pedal that feels too soft or too loose. So much so that even if you only step lightly on it, the pedal goes all the way down to the floor.
A loss of brake fluid is one of the most common causes of such faulty brakes. This one is pretty easy to diagnose yourself: take a look at the brake fluid reservoir. If there’s not a lot in it, then that’s most likely the reason your brake pedal has gone soft.
Another way to diagnose brake fluid losses is to check for leaks. You can do this by laying out a few towels in the spot where you usually park.
If you have a leak in the brake line, the cloth will end up with yellowish spots. If you have dirty brake fluid, however, the marks would be more brown or dark brown. In either case, the substance should be oily and slippery, and it may also smell like fish oil.
In this case, your damaged brake line warrants immediate repairs.
Do note that engine problems can also give rise to motor/engine fluid leaks. Clean engine oil is amber, but it’s thicker than brake fluid. Over time though, used engine fluid can also turn brown and even black.
Transmission problems can also cause fluid leaks that may look like brake fluid. When clean, transmission fluid is usually red, but it can turn reddish-brown when dirty.
4. Car Drifts Slightly to One Side When Braking
The front brake pads of your ride naturally wear faster than the rear ones. This happens due to the forward momentum that occurs whenever your vehicle moves. This quantity of motion, in turn, places more strain on the front brakes, hence, the faster wearing.
The problem is if a brake pad on one side wears out faster than the one on the other side. For instance, the left (as in the driver’s side) brake pad may thin out quicker than the right (passenger’s side) pad. In this case, your car will likely pull slightly to either side when you step on the brake pedal.
Should this symptom occur, it’s best to bring your ride to a mechanic as soon as possible. Otherwise, the faulty brakes may place extra stress on the steering rack. It may also affect other parts, such as the steering knuckles and even the wheel bearings.
One thing to note is that uneven tire pressure or improper inflation can also cause this issue. Underinflated tires are very common, with as many as 80% of motorists driving with such tires.
At the same time, issues with your brakes may also be the culprit behind tire pressure problems. So, that’s another reason to bring your car in for service.
Don’t Risk Breaking Your Brakes
There you have it, the ultimate guide that answers your question, “how do you know when you need new brakes?” If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, don’t delay bringing your ride to a Columbus auto shop for some TLC. This way, an expert can diagnose your brakes and see if you only need repairs or if you already require new ones.
Did you do some troubleshooting but still unsure if your car woes are due to faulty brakes? If so, then know that our team here at ATL Columbus is ready to help! Ring us up or drop us a line and we’ll be happy to get your ride fixed ASAP.