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Diagnosing Brake Problems

Your car's brakes are vital to safety. There can be no compromise when it comes to your ability to stop your car when it is in motion. In an emergency situation, the difference of a few metres can be vital. It is, therefore, extremely important that you have your brakes serviced regularly, and parts replaced and adjusted if required.

What are brakes and how do they work?

Brakes are mechanical devices that apply pressure to the wheel assembly of your car, creating friction, and therefore retarding motion. Brakes are especially subject to wear and tear because creating friction, in turn makes heat. Any working part subjected to intense heat over a period of time will suffer considerable deterioration. Most car brakes fall into two categories, drum and disc brakes. In both cases brakes pads' or shoes' are forced against a disc or drum, attached to the wheel assembly. By applying pressure they create friction, and in turn slow the vehicle's movement.

How do you spot potential brake problems?

All drivers should practise some awareness of their vehicles. When you drive you should always be aware of things like unfamiliar noises and any changes to how the car handles or behaves on the road. In terms of brakes there are several things to look out for, which may indicate problems. They include:

  • Pulling to one side or another when you brake. If you apply the brakes and the car veers to the left or right, it may indicate a brake issue.
  • Do you have to apply more or less pressure to the brake pedal, compared to normal?
  • Do the brakes grab' with only a little pedal pressure?
  • Brakes that appear to stick, hot wheels or an apparent loss of engine power may be another sign.
  • Excessive squealing or other unfamiliar sounds when you apply brakes.
  • Is the pedal too high or too low, compared to normal, when the brakes take effect?
  • Unusual vibrations when you apply the brakes is another sure sign.
  • If your car has a brake light and it lights up, make sure you seek a mechanic's advice immediately.

In short, if there is anything different to normal in the way your car feels, handles or sounds when you apply the brakes, get an expert to take a look straight away.

When do you get your brakes serviced?

Your car's manufacturer will have specified recommended service intervals for your car. Make sure you stick to them and ensure you only get work done by a suitably qualified mechanic. Always make sure your brakes are checked and a full report given. Regular adjustment can save you money and optimise safety. The peace of mind that comes with effective brakes is worth the time, effort and minimal expense of regular servicing.