There are certain parts of car maintenance that you can usually afford to ignore. A scratch on your door, or a gas cap flap that’s a bit stiff whenever you open it, can wait to be repaired. Then, there are other things which are far more urgent. If your brakes are starting to show signs of damage and wear, then you need to jump on them right away. Here are some common signs that it’s time to get your brakes looked at.
Squeaking, Squealing and Grinding
If you squeeze the brakes, and immediately hear a horrible, piercing sound coming from the car’s axles, then this may be a sign of your brake pads wearing out. That god-awful screech you hear when you apply the brakes could be the steel of the brakes making contact with the rotor. Another common sign that your brakes have seen better days is a low grinding sound, which you’ll also feel vibrating through the pedal. Sometimes, this is simply a stone or some gravel caught in the calliper, which is easily fixed. However, it may also be caused by the brake pads wearing through, and the metal brakes grinding against the rotors, creating grooves in them. This is much more serious and expensive to fix.
Wobbling, Vibration and Scraping
If you apply the brakes, and the steering wheel immediately begins to shake and vibrate, this can be the warning signs of an off-centre rotor. If you weren’t already aware, brake rotors are the large discs which sit on the inside of the wheels. Pressing the brake pedal causes the pads to hug the rotors and slow them down. Over the countless wheel revolutions that a car goes through in its life, it’s pretty common for the two parts to damage one another, and the rotor to undergo slight variations. Rust can also develop on particularly old rotors, causing them to become unbalanced. Fixing this issue certainly isn’t something that you can do yourself, so if you’re experiencing a wobbling steering wheel when braking, it may be time to start looking for some local brake repairs. Make sure you find a reputable auto shop to take it to, as the re-alignment needs to be done to precise specifications. I’m talking a thousandth of an inch here!
If you start to notice your brake pedal becoming more lax when you step on it, or sinking all the way to the floor, then it’s in urgent need of attention. This issue usually means a problem with the master cylinder, or air or moisture getting trapped in the braking system. With most cars with power brakes, the pedal should stop dead 1 to 1 and a half inches from the floor. With manual ones, it should stop at just over 3 inches. If you’ve recently bought a used car, and you’re a little uncertain about its condition, then it may be worth paying more attention to the resistance your brake pedals are giving.
If you’re noticing any of these issues with your brakes, get yourself to a mechanic straight away!
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