Diagnosing Brake Problems

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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.

It’s fair to say that your brakes are the most important function of your vehicle.

When they’re working as they should, they keep you, your passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians safe.

But, brake problems are aplenty: squeaky, shaky, wobbling, grinding, spongy, bouncing, and pulling brakes are all relatively common in the auto world.

Many brake issues start off as quite minor and would be very easy for a professional to fix.

However, if these minor problems aren’t dealt with early, they can soon turn into bigger, more dangerous braking complications that can put you and others at risk on the road.

That’s where car brake maintenance comes in.

With regular checks and servicing you can keep your car running safely and effectively on the road.

How do you spot potential brake problems?

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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.

How long do brakes last?

There’s no one single answer for how long car brakes actually last. That’s because it is different for every driver depending on their driving style, where they drive, the weight the car carries, and a myriad of other factors.

You can extend the life of your brakes with regular servicing and brake maintenance. This keeps them working as best as they can and ensures any minor issues are resolved before they cause damage that requires replacement of bigger system components.

What are the common signs of brake problems?

When it comes to braking it’s particularly important to pay attention to any unfamiliar noises or changes in how the car handles or behaves on the road.

Some common signs of a brake problem include:

  • Pulling to one side when you brake. If you apply the brakes and the car veers to the left or right, it may indicate a brake issue.
  • If you have to apply more or less pressure to the brake pedal compared to normal.
  • The brakes grab with only a little pedal pressure.
  • Brakes that appear to stick.
  • Excessive squealing or other unfamiliar sounds when you apply brakes.
  • The pedal feels too high or low compared to normal when the brakes take effect.
  • Unusual vibrations when you apply the brakes.
  • The brake light is on.

If you ever notice any signs of bad brakes, get them checked by a professional immediately.

“In the case of an emergency, the difference of just a couple of metres can be the difference between life and death. For this reason, regular car brake maintenance is essential.”

How often should brakes be serviced?

Brakes are absolutely critical to road safety for you and others. In the case of an emergency, the difference of just a couple of metres can be the difference between life and death. For this reason, regular car brake maintenance is essential.

Your car's manufacturer will have specified recommended service intervals for your car. This is usually every 6 months or to a set number of kilometres.

Make sure you stick to this schedule 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.


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