Fewer components in a vehicle are more important to your safety than your brakes. Even brakes that have reduced performance can be dangerous to drive on. Drivers have expectations for their brakes and when they fail or under deliver, even if only slightly, this can be the difference between stopping an inch before the car in front of you and driving straight through the trunk. The difference between properly and improperly functioning brakes may only be 6 -12 inches of stopping distance. But how many times have those extra 6-12 inches helped you to avoid a pedestrian, animal, bicyclist, another vehicle, or any other object?
That said, we put a tremendous amount of faith into our brakes every time we drive. We rely and expect that they are going to perform as they are intended. But brakes don’t last forever and if you begin to notice anything funny with your braking system, it is highly advised you have them inspected and serviced immediately. Failure to do so can only result in one of two scenarios; you will either damage your braking system further and possibly other components as well, or you will have an increased chance of being involved in an accident Neither of those two scenarios bode well for a driver, so let’s go over a few things which everyone should know about their braking system.
The most obvious sign that your brakes are failing will be indicated by their lack of performance. You’ll notice immediately your vehicle takes a longer time to stop or slow down. You may also notice a vibrating sensation as well when the brakes are applied. If brake pads are old or worn down, they may not be evenly applied to your brake disc or drum, and this will result in your vehicle sort of stuttering as the brakes are applied. You may also have to apply more pressure to the brakes to receive the expected outcome. If you think your brakes performance has decreased, you should have them inspected immediately. Don’t dismiss this warning sign as that is exactly what it is.
People can mistakenly believe their brakes are having issues based on any odd noises they might make. However, that is not always necessarily the case. Many factors contribute to the sounds your brakes make, not all of which are bad. New low-quality brakes tend to make squeaking and squealing sounds more often than higher quality ones based on the materials used in their production. But even high-quality brakes will make odd sounds as well, and time may be needed for them to simply be broken in. After a while of driving on new breaks, most sounds should dissipate and go away. If they don’t, you should have them inspected.
Dirt and grime can also find its way in between your brake pads and cause strange noises. If your brakes performance hasn’t changed and weird noises are heard, you may have a couple of pebbles or bits of dirt lodged in. Eventually these should work their way out over time, but to speed up the process you can pump your brakes to knock them out faster. Typically this helps to get rid of anything that is stuck in between your brakes, whether it is dirt, grime, moisture, or even ice.
Now when you hear what sounds like metal on metal, especially bad grinding sounds, this is where concern should be raised. If it actually sounds serious, it probably is. Generally you will feel and notice this right away and if you do, immediate action should be taken to have them inspected. When it comes down to it, most noises are actually harmless. But if one sounds serious, it’s a safer bet to have your brakes inspected rather than wait to see if the sound goes away.
Every person has at least once smelled the brakes of the driver in front of them burning out while going downhill. This smell is due to their overuse and isn’t great overall for your brakes lifespan. If through normal use, city or highway driving, and upon reaching your destination you smell your brakes are burning, this is not a good sign. What is the reason they are being overused if you were not using them excessively?
Often times new brake pads may sit just a little too close to the disc or drum and slightly rub up against it when the brakes are not actually applied. The burning smell will occur for a limited time, as once the excess pad has worn down it will no longer be rubbing. But if the smell persists, or is occurring on older brakes, something is wrong. Either the brakes are old and worn out, damaged, not properly secured, or even improperly installed. If you notice the persistent smell of your brakes burning up, make sure you have them inspected and repaired if need be.
The typical lifespan of brake pads is dependent upon a wide range of variables: Personal driving style, road conditions, driving speed, whether conditions, quality of pad material, and much more. Most mechanics and manufacturers however have loosely agreed that the mileage range for brakes is between 30,000-70,000 miles. Again, your brakes are one of the most important safety components on your vehicle. So relying solely on those mileage numbers is not advised as it all depends on individual use. Rather, you should rely on how your vehicle handles and performs.
If you notice decreased performance, persistent and odd noises, or burning smells, be sure to have your vehicle looked at by a professional. Many people will drive on the same set of brake pads until they literally become metal on metal, at which point you’ve already waited far too long. Brake pads themselves rather inexpensive, and make such an enormous difference that it doesn’t make sense to wait it out. You’ll only be causing yourself more of a problem in the future, and in a worst case scenario, you may even cause an accident. So do yourself a favor, and make sure you take care of your brakes. Because in the end, your brakes take care of you.
At AAMCO Colorado, we want you to enjoy driving as much as possible. More importantly though we want you to be safe on the road. If you live in Colorado and need a Transmission Service, Radiator Repair, Brake Repair, or any other Auto Repair, please contact your local AAMCO Colorado Location to schedule an appointment. Also be sure to see how we can help winterize your vehicle!