Brake Problems and Diagnoses

Brake Problems and Diagnoses

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When it comes to brakes, there’s no room for faults. The brake system is by far the most important system when it comes to your safety. It is a secured system that works by pressure. When you step on the brake pedal, the sealed brake fluid traveling through the brake lines pushes the pistons in the brake calipers, which clamps the brake pads onto the brake rotors. Between the brake pedal and the brake rotors are various components which could fail, causing your brake system to operate improperly.

Whether you use your car as a daily driver or on the track, a good, working brake system is extremely important. Brake issues can come in the forms of bad brake feel, weak stopping power, squealing and grinding, or anything different that happens when you step on the brake pedal. The brake pads, fluid, and rotors should be replaced as part of the maintenance schedule. Brake pads’ average life lasts approximately 30,000 miles, though it will vary depending on your driving style. Brake fluid replacement intervals can vary from one manufacturer to another, so it’s best to check your owner’s manual for appropriate maintenance. However, the average brake fluid replacement interval is every two years. Brake rotors have twice the lifespan of brake pads, so replace them every second brake pad replacement. Be aware that when you wait too long to replace your brake pads, you could start wearing out your brake rotors. Always replace opposite brake components at the same time; don’t replace only one side. If you’re having any trouble with your brake system, then read on to learn how to diagnose the issue.

Spongy Brake Pedal

When you go to step on your brake pedal and feel like it travels too far before it begins to work effectively, you have a brake issue. A spongy brake pedal means you have a brake leak somewhere. The first thing you should do when you suspect a brake leak is check the brake fluid reservoir. If the reservoir is low on brake fluid, then you definitely have a brake leak. Use a flashlight to spot the leak. Start by the master cylinder, which is under the hood, in front of the driver’s side. If you can’t spot a leak there, go under the car and check the brake lines. Most leaks happen at the connections between the brake lines and the brake calipers, so check there. When you change a faulty brake line, you have to bleed your brake system to get rid of any air trapped in the system.

Squealing Noise

A lot of brake problems will come accompanied by noises. When you step on the brake pedal and you hear squealing noises, this could mean your brake pads are worn. Mildly worn brake pads will squeal only as the car comes to a complete stop; however, the more worn they get, the more squealing will occur as soon as you touch the brake pedal. The minimum legal thickness for brake pads is one millimeter, so if you are even close to that, do your rotors a favor and replace the pads at once. Raise your car and remove the wheels, then remove the two bolts on the back of your brake caliper. Remove the brake caliper and check the thickness of your current brake pads.

Grinding Noise

Grinding noises could mean you will need to spend a little more money than you would if your brake pads were the culprit. When you step on your brake pads and you hear a grinding noise, whether you are coming to a complete stop or driving at higher speeds, this could mean your brake rotors are worn. Check the brake rotors for any grooves, cracks, or rust. If you see any of these signs, you need to replace the rotors. Your rotors should last twice as long as your pads; however, if you have a bad habit of replacing your brake pads after they get completely worn, then you could ruin your rotors early.

Burning Smell

A burning smell could mean a lot of different things, and a lot of the time it is unrelated to your brake system. However, if the burning smell is accompanied by a squealing noise, then very likely your caliper’s pistons are stuck. The brake calipers don’t need to be replaced as part of your maintenance intervals; however, they do need to be replaced if they are faulty, which doesn’t happen too often. When your brake caliper’s pistons get stuck, your brake pads rub on your brake rotors even when you’re not stepping on the brake pedal. The friction caused by this issue creates the burning smell, and it also wears your pads and rotors much more quickly. Checking for this issue is rather simple; you just need to check the space between the brake pads and the brake rotors without stepping on the brake pedal. If they are touching each other, then you have a seized-up caliper’s pistons. When you replace your brake caliper, you will need to bleed the system afterwards.

Faulty Master Cylinder

A faulty master cylinder could be a pricier problem than a brake pad issue. A master cylinder can either start leaking or become faulty. Both can cause the same symptom, which is a spongy brake pedal and bad brake performance. If you feel like it takes more than usual to stop your car when you step on the brake pedal, and if you’ve ensured all your brake lines are tightly sealed, then your master cylinder is the issue. Check for leaks, as your problem could be a simple rubber seal, but if there are no leaks, then a new master cylinder should solve your problem.

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