Your brakes are the most important safety system of your car. They allow you to control the speed of your vehicle, bring it safely to a halt, and the brake pedal is the first pedal you will hit in an emergency.
Like any other system in your car, they need to be regularly maintained and inspected to make sure they are working correctly and effectively, for the safety of you and other road users.
Your annual MOT or Service are both opportunities for a qualified technician to assess the condition of your brakes, however you should always be on the lookout for warning signs that tell you your brakes aren’t in excellent condition.
Signs your car brakes aren’t working properly
Your brakes don’t stop your car as well as they used to: This could be due to a number of reasons: your brake pads and discs could be old and worn causing them to grip less well, the brake fluid could be old and has absorbed moisture – reducing its effectiveness, or the hydraulic system could be losing fluid and pressure.
A grinding sound: If you hear a grinding noise when you brake, it could mean your brake pads or discs need replacing. Brake pads include a metal wear indicator that make a noise when it contacts the brake disc. When your pads are worn to this extent, it is likely you will need to replace the discs too.
A squealing noise: You may also notice a squealing sound when you brake, if the car has been parked in the rain or standing water for long periods of time. This can cause a build-up of rust on the discs, but don’t worry, it should quickly wear off when you’re back on the road.
Leaks on the inner wheels: Your braking system is complex. If there are worn seals, loose connections or split hoses in the system, air and fluid can leak out, making your brakes less effective. Look out for fluid on the inner wheels, or on the ground where you regularly park your car. Brake fluid is normally clear, with a slight odour.
Pulling to the left or right: Your car should track straight and true when you brake, if it doesn’t, it could be a serious problem when you brake hard in an emergency situation. If your brakes are worn more on one side than the other, pulling to one side may occur. Another potential cause may be a sticking brake caliper.
Vibration: If you notice vibrations through your steering wheel or brake pedal as you slow down, get your brakes checked. A vibrating brake pedal is a sign that your brake discs are warped.
Brake pedal sinks to the floor: If you have to press the pedal a long way down before the car starts to slow, this could be due to your brake system leaking which is very serious.
Warning light: If your dashboard is displaying the brake warning light, get your car checked immediately. This is likely an indication that the brake hydraulic system has failed, and must be addressed as soon as possible to avoid a serious accident.
Sticking handbrake: If you feel resistance when you take the handbrake off and try to pull away, your handbrake could be sticking on. Make sure you get it checked by an expert as driving with the handbrake stuck on can cause your brakes to heat up which will wear your brakes and cause damage.