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What your car brakes are trying to tell you

December 12, 2023

Your car's braking system is one of the most important safety features of your vehicle. If you pay close attention, you might notice that your car brakes are trying to tell you something important.

In this blog, we will explore the various messages your car brakes might be sending, from squeaky car brakes to how you can tell which brakes are bad. We'll also discuss how to determine if your brakes need replacing and what you can do to maintain your brakes properly.

The language of car brakes: what sound is that?

The noise your car brakes produce vary depending on the problem. The most common noises are:

  • Squeaky car brakes: squeaky sounds from car brakes are the most common, and can be caused by a variety of factors, including worn brake pads, glazes brake rotors or even something as simple as dust or debris caught between the brake pads
  • Grinding noises: if your car brakes make a grinding noise, it's time to take your vehicle in for a brake inspection. Grinding noises can be a sign of severely worn brake pads or damaged brake components
  • Pulsating brake pedal: if you think the brake pedal is vibrating or shaking rapidly when you apply the brakes, it usually means that the brake rotors are not even or smooth anymore. This can cause uneven braking and reduce your vehicle’s stopping power
  • Clicking sound: a clicking noise while braking could mean that the brake caliper is loose, or the brake pads are not properly installed. This requires an inspection and potential repair to ensure proper brake function
Parts of car brakes

In all cases, it’s important to pay attention to where the noise is coming from. If you hear the noise coming from the front of your car, it's likely that the front brake pads need to be replaced. If the noise is coming from the back of the car, it's likely that the rear brake pads need to be replaced.

Signs of bad car brakes: how to tell when brakes need replacing?

The most common signs that your brakes need replacing are:

  • Brake pad thickness: brake pads should be replaced when they are worn down to ¼ inch or less. You can visually inspect the brake pad thickness by looking through the wheel and checked for uneven wear, excessive rust or corrosion
  • Vibration or pulsation: if your brake pedal or steering wheel vibrates when you apply the brakes, it could be a sign that your brake rotors are warped and need replacing
  • Reduced stopping power: if you notice that it takes longer for your vehicle to come to a stop or that your brake pedal feels softer than usual, it may be time to replace your brakes
  • Brake warning light: your car’s dashboard will display a brake warning light if there is an issue with the braking system. This light typically indicates a problem with the brake fluid level, parking brake or brake components

Here’s a checklist that you can work through to make sure your car brakes are working as they should. If your vehicle has any of these signs, your brakes need replacing before you can pass your MOT test.

MOT car brakes checklist for drivers
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Still not sure? Download Caura and book a free brake check with your MOT. Our expert mechanics will conduct a free inspection and let you know if your brakes need replacing.

Top 5 car brake maintenance tips

To ensure the longevity and safety of your car brakes, follow these maintenance tips:

  1. Regular inspections: have your brakes inspected at least once a year or more frequently if you drive in heavy traffic or severe conditions. Regular inspections can help identify potential issues before they become significant problems
  2. Replace brake fluid: brake fluid should be replaced every two to three years, or according to your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations. This helps maintain the proper pressure within your braking system and prevents corrosion
  3. Keep an eye on the brake warning light: if this light comes on, have your brakes inspected as soon as possible to identify the issue and make necessary repairs
  4. Listen for unusual noises: pay attention to any unusual noises coming from your brakes, such as squeaky car brakes, grinding, or scraping sounds. These noises can indicate that your brakes need attention and potentially require replacement
  5. Check your tyres: worn or improperly inflated tyres can also affect your braking performance. Be sure to maintain the correct tyre pressure and replace your tyres when the tread depth is too low

By staying proactive with car brake maintenance and paying attention to any unusual noises or signs of wear, you can ensure that your car's braking system remains in optimal condition. This not only enhances your vehicle's safety but also helps you avoid costly repairs down the line.

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