5 Warning Signs That Your Brakes Need Work

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Failure to prepare is to prepare to fail. Very few things are as important to maintaining safe vehicle operation as regular vehicle maintenance inspections. Even so, there are times when a strange noise, an abnormal odor, or an odd vibration will demand that we remove the wheels and take a look at the working components we count on to bring ourselves and our families safely to a  stop at the end of our  trip. By providing you with these helpful tips, I am attempting to point you in the correct direction as you begin making your own diagnosis. This diagnosis does not begin in the service bay but in the driver’s seat. I believe that I can say, with a great degree of certainty, that my diagnosis is made 99-percent of the time while driving the vehicle, before entering the service bay and removing the wheels.

There are basically two types of brake squeal. The first, is designed as a pad-wear warning device, and occurs only when the driver releases the brake pedal. This type or squeal is simple to repair; after all it means that your car is working great, and typically involves replacing only a set of brake pads to repair. The second type of squeak or squeal is more complicated and occurs whenever the brakes are applied. It is caused from overheated stopping surfaces which have become pitted, cracked, or otherwise irregular (not smooth) and now must continue to make contact with one-another during extended periods of braking, thus causing an annoying squeal.

Fortunately, there are preventative steps that can be taken to help ensure that the second type of squeal occurs only near the end of the pad-wear cycle, as intended.

In the Beginning… the foundation for a quiet brake job is laid during brake replacement. Today’s world of aftermarket brake parts, that includes brakes and ventilated rotors, offers us some of the quietest and most efficient braking systems to date. Whether you choose to equip with high-performance parts or stick to factory hardware, your success rate is determined upon how you begin your brake job.

Bottom Line — beginning with flat, smooth stopping surfaces is essential for brake longevity and silence. Just because your brakes are squealing does not mean that they are unsafe. If your pads are squealing only when the pedal is depressed, then the odds of pad or rotor replacement necessity is much greater than when squealing is heard only during braking.

Grinding noises, or roaring noises, are another cause of concern among drivers and driving enthusiasts. These types of noises can be heard anytime that the vehicle is moving but are likely more accentuated at certain speeds. Roaring noises which seem to exude from the brake pad/rotor area whenever the brakes are depressed are likely caused by faulty brake pads or rotors. Noises that are heard when driving, that is without the brake pedal depressed, will most likely result in faulty wheel bearings or uneven tire wear.

S.M. Darby

S.M. Darby

I am a freelance author with over 25 years of experience as a professional, ASE certified automotive technician and shop owner, muscle car enthusiast, avid street racer, and classic car restoration specialist.

1 comment

  1. I noticed that my car has been making a really weird humming noise. It usually makes that noise when I brake, so I was wondering if it could be my brake pads. Now that I’ve read some of the different warning signs, I can see that I may need to have them changed after all. I really should take a look at them to see if they’re worn down at all first though. Thanks for the information!

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