They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to your brakes, this is definitely true. Whether disc or drum, these devices are responsible for stopping thousands of pounds of swiftly moving metal every time you step on the brake pedal. As a result, they always inevitably wear out--it's only a matter of time. To avoid expensive brake service costs, it helps to know the following warning signs.
1. Strange Sounds
Because they absorb a tremendous amount of energy, it is not uncommon for brakes to occasionally make some noise. But when the device consistently squeaks, squeals, or grinds, it may need to be adjusted or replaced. Of particular concern are grinding sounds, since they often indicate that the brake pads are worn down and need to be switched out as soon as possible. Failure to do so could result in irreparable damage to the rotors, which are far more expensive than the pads.
2. Bad Vibrations
If your pedal, steering wheel, or entire vehicle vibrates or shakes when you try to stop, your rotors may be warped and require replacement. Alternately, it may be possible to have them resurfaced, which can cut brake service costs considerably.
3. Sinking Pedal
If your foot brake does not feel firm when applied or if it starts to sink to the floor when you come to a full stop, odds are there's a fluid leak that's depriving your hydraulics system of the pressure needed to maintain proper operation. There's also a chance that your master cylinder is worn out or leaking and may need to be replaced. Either way, the problem requires immediate attention from a brake service professional.
If your vehicle noticeably pulls to either side when you come to a stop, it's often an indication that the stopping device is misaligned. The good news is that this problem is relatively easy and inexpensive to correct. The device must simply be adjusted by a brake service professional. But if you make the mistake of ignoring the issue, it will almost certainly result in uneven wear that may adversely affect the operation of your automobile and lead to more costly future repairs.
5. Unpleasant Odors
A burning smell that emanates from your brakes can occur under extreme driving conditions when you ride them particularly hard, such as down a steep, winding hill. But when you notice that malodorous scent during regular driving, there could be a serious problem. More often than not, the issue is a seized caliper piston that is causing the stopping device to drag. Immediate brake service is needed to correct the hitch before permanent damage is done.
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