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How Can You Tell if Your Brakes Are Failing?

Brake failure is the vehicle nightmare many drivers always hope will never happen to them. While brakes sometimes go slowly, they can fail instantly too. Here’s a guide on how to tell if your brakes are failing.

Because your brakes play such an integral role in how your vehicle handles, when your brakes begin to fail you’ll notice. One way or another, they’ll act differently. Here are some of the indicators you might notice when you apply the brakes:

1. Your brakes are squealing

That grinding, squealing sound of metal on metal is what comes to mind when most drivers think of failing brakes. If you do hear that metal-to-metal screeching, it means your brakes are completely worn.

If you have regular vehicle maintenance performed at your local Kal Tire, worn brake pads would be detected and replaced long before they got to that stage. Brake pads are designed to wear over time and need to be replaced every so often.

Note that it is possible for your brakes to fail and not make those ear-scratching sounds.

2. Your brake pedal has fallen

One of the sure-fire signs your brakes are failing is a falling brake pedal. On any given day when your brakes are in good condition, your brake pedal will sit at the same height. Because you’re used to that height, you’ll notice when your brake pedal falls to the floor.

A falling brake pedal means your brakes are out of adjustment, and it could be a sign there’s air in your system or a mechanical failure.

3. You have to hit the brakes harder

If any one brake or axle is not performing the way it’s supposed to, you’ll have to push harder on your pedal to stop your vehicle

4. Your brake pedal is vibrating

Sometimes when brakes aren’t working, you’ll notice the pedal shudders and it’s often accompanied by a chattering sound as well as a steering wheel shaking back and forth. This is not to be confused with the response of your anti-lock brake system (ABS), which briefly reacts in a similar way after hard braking. If it was the ABS, its dashboard symbol (often yellow) should illuminate.

The key difference is that chattering sound, which usually indicates warped rotors. When brake pads clamp on rotors, the brakes stop the vehicle. If the rotors are warped, for various reasons, brake pads can’t clamp them as easily.

5. You feel a pull to the left or right

If you’re applying the brakes and you notice a pull to the left or right, it could mean one of the vehicle’s calipers or wheel cylinders are seized. That can cause the other side to do all the work, and the tire that’s braking harder will pull to that side.

6. Hydraulic failure

Usually, if your vehicle has a hydraulic failure you’ll see its red dashboard symbol—an image of brakes or the word ‘brakes.’ Hydraulic failures usually will be accompanied by low brake pedal.

What should you do if you think your brakes are failing?

If you’re noticing just a slight vibration on your brake pedal when you apply the brakes, bring your vehicle into a Kal Tire store near you as soon as you get a chance. In the meantime, if you happen to notice your brake fluid is low, only used an approved brake fluid in the master cylinder.

If your pedal goes to the floor instantly or it’s taking enormous effort to brake, it’s not safe to be driving your vehicle. Safely pull over to an area with ample room and have your vehicle towed to your local Kal Tire for brake service. From brake pads and shoes to ABS sensors and calipers, we offer full brake service to get you safely back on the road.