As a vehicle owner, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about the inner workings of car brakes and their day-to-day functions. When they’re working properly, they slow down and stop your vehicle by turning kinetic energy (the movement of your wheels) into heat energy through friction generated by applying your brakes to the wheels. When they’re not working properly, they may produce a loud, high-pitched screeching sound as you depress the pedal, pull to the side, or be less responsive when pressed.
The skilled technicians at Kennedy Transmission have assembled this guide to help you identify when your vehicle is in need of car brake service. Continue reading for sure signs that it’s time to schedule an appointment.
The Essential Function of Brakes
In addition to saving your ears from the high-pitch screaming noise that comes with failing brakes, properly working brakes are essential to your safety when operating a vehicle. On a car or truck with well-functioning brakes, friction is used to press a brake pad against the rotating brake disc when the pedal is depressed. This contact allows your car to safely slow down and come to a stop.
Your vehicle’s brakes can last between 25,000 and 60,000 miles, although this number can vary based on your driving habits. A few factors that influence the life span of your brakes include:
- Driving habits. Slamming down on your brakes when you come to a light if someone pulls out in front of you requires a greater amount of force to stop. Driving slower and steadily pressing down the pedal to stop can help extend the life of your brake pads.
- Type of brake pads. Passenger vehicles have one of three types of brake pads: organic, ceramic, and semi-metallic. Each has different durability and life span. Consult with your mechanic during your next service to find the best option for your vehicle.
- Driving environment. Living in an area with many hills or lots of traffic that requires you to constantly start and stop moving will wear on your brake pads more quickly than in an environment with flat terrain.
- Transmission type. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, you can downshift gears to slow down rather than only relying on your car brakes. This can help extend the life of your brake pads but should not be done by drivers with automatic transmissions.
Signs of Worn Brakes
The signs of your vehicle’s brakes failing are quite obvious, especially in comparison to some issues that may go unnoticed for months. Thankfully, brake repair and brake pad replacement are pretty common services and if not complicated, can be taken care of in just a couple of hours. Car brake repair is crucial if you start experiencing any of the following while braking.
Squeaky or Screeching Brakes
One of the most obvious signs that your vehicle needs its brakes replaced is a squeaky or screeching sound when you depress the pedal. The noise comes from small metal shims that are built into your brake pads and provide a warning that they’re rubbing thin. Hearing these noises is an early indicator that your car is ready to be serviced.
Grinding Brake Sounds
If you ignore the squeaky sounds made by your brakes and continue to drive on them, your brake pads will wear down and produce a grinding noise instead. At this point, your brake pads have completely worn down and the metal calipers are rubbing against the metal of the rotors. This rubbing creates grooves and gouges on the rotor’s surface and if left unchecked, can cause damage that will require more than just a brake pad change. If you begin experiencing grinding when you press on the brakes, you’ll need to get your car serviced immediately.
Pulsating or Vibrating Brake Pedal
Another sign that requires immediate attention is a vibrating or pulsating feeling when pressing the brakes. This feeling is caused by uneven brake rotors and is caused by the brake pads being applied to the uneven surface. A warped rotor is most often caused by heat build-up that is caused by extreme or excessive use. Towing extra weight in the form of a boat or trailer and continually pressing on your brakes while traveling downhill is one example of behavior that can lead to a warped rotor.
Pulling to the Side While Braking
Your car’s brakes can wear unevenly, causing it to pull to one side or the other while braking. Most of the time this is due to a malfunctioning caliper in your braking system. The guide pins on each side of your brake caliper and function by guiding the proper angle for how the brake pad meets the rotor. Much like other abnormal brake behavior mentioned above, if you experience this while driving, your vehicle should be serviced immediately.
Service Your Brakes at Kennedy Transmission Today
From a check brakes light on your dashboard to grinding, squeaking, or pulling while you brake, there are a variety of signs that your vehicle is due for car brake service. Instead of waiting until it is too late and placing yourself in danger, contact the technicians at Kennedy Transmission if you begin experiencing any signs of brake failure. Visit us in Minneapolis, Plymouth, and surrounding areas for car brake repair so you can get back to smooth driving and peace of mind on the road. Find your nearest Kennedy Transmission location and contact us to schedule a service today.