Brakes are one of the most often repairs required on a vehicle that is often driven.  But how do you know when they need to be repaired or taken in for inspection? Here are some warning signs that your brakes need inspection:

Warning signs your brakes need an inspection

1. Pulling If the car veers to either side when you brake this may be an indication of an issue with your car’s braking system. The caliper may be stuck, and the car is veering in that direction when you brake.

The brake pads may have worn unevenly, causing the car to veer to the right or left when braking. It is also possible that a brake hose has collapsed.

Other non-braking system causes that may cause the car to veer when braking, so you should take your car in for a brake and all-around inspection if this is occurring.

2. Lack of response If you apply the brake pedal and there is no response from the brakes, you may have a leak, a broken line, or you may require brake fluid. First, check the brake fluid. If adding brake fluid does not correct the problem, or if the brake fluid is leaking, have the car towed to your mechanic. Do not drive it any further.

3. Hard brake pedal If the brake pedal is hard or if you have difficulty stopping the car when applying the brake pedal, there may be an issue with the vacuum system, or you could have a brake line obstruction. This can lead to total brake failure. Your car should be inspected before being driven any further.

4. Soft brake pedal If the brake pedal feels soft, or mushy, you may have a problem with the hydraulic system.  Thes issues could be related to air in the line, an actual air leak, or a brake fluid leak.  Look under the car to see if anything is leaking from underneath the car.  Brake fluid has the viscosity and consistency of cooking oil and is clear.

5. Brake warning lights The dashboard check engine and other warning and check lights should all illuminate when you turn on the car.  If none of the lights come on, there is an issue with the dashboard light, and this should be checked and addressed. If, after a few seconds, any of the lights relating to the braking system are still on, it is an indication that there is a problem. If you are capable of doing some basic brake checks yourself, then do so.

If it is the emergency brake light, make sure it has been released. If you see that it has been released but either still feels like it is grabbing, or the light does not go off, then take the car in for inspection immediately.

Depending on the year and make of your car, there may be a variety of different types of brake warning lights. If the ABS light comes on, there may be an issue with the system itself, or the fuse may need to be changed.

The brake warning light can signify a variety of different issues with the brakes. If it stays on, be sure to take it into the mechanic as soon as possible.

6. Grinding or other noises Grinding or other noises that occur when you brake can be a sign that there may be debris between the brake pads, or the brakes may be worn and in need of replacement. Grinding or other noises are an indication that it’s time to take the car in for a brake inspection.

7. Vibration Assuming that you don’t have anti-lock brakes or they are otherwise not properly engaged, you should not feel a vibration when braking. Vibrations when braking can a sign of warped rotors. Warped rotors will press somewhat unevenly on the brakes when you press the pedal, causing a vibration.

Rotors warp from the heat of excessive or forceful application. For example, high speed driving with frequent fast hard stops, or steep downhill driving. It is possible that your wheels may be out of alignment. Wheel misalignment can cause severe and uneven tire wear, and pulling while driving and braking. This is something that should be addressed as soon as possible in order to prevent further more expensive repairs down the road.

Usual causes of brake problems

1. Cheap brake pads Using cheap brake pads should only be done in an absolute emergency. They have a short wear life and may damage your rotors.

2. Driver habit Many people drive with their foot on both pedals or will leave their foot to rest on the brake pedal slightly. This causes pressure on the brake pedal, which does engage the brakes, even though slightly.  This can cause rotor warping and brake wear.

3. Unusual rotor wear Rotor warping from high-speed fast braking or prolonged lower speed braking, riding the brakes, can cause rotor warping.  This rotor warping will cause the brakes to wear very aggressively.

4. Caliper pins The pins will wear and degrade over time.  This causes the pin to slide abnormally and force the brake pad to wear unnaturally.  This will cause the brake pads to wear at a faster rate and may cause other issues with the braking system.

Being able to bring your car to a fast and full stop, the engagement of the braking system is one of the major safety systems of your car. If you notice any of the above or have any concerns about your car, take it in to be inspected. Better to be safe than sorry.