Many drivers take their vehicle's braking system for granted despite its crucial importance. It's important to remember that any car's brakes will inevitably lose their effectiveness, and not acting in due time may lead to severe consequences. You can prevent that by understanding how the system works and the early signs of wear and tear to look out for.

How Your Vehicle's Brakes Work

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You can better understand what can go wrong with your braking system if you first discover how it functions. Modern vehicles have separate brakes for each wheel and a hydraulic system connecting them to the pedal inside your car. After hitting the pedal, a special piston activates a cylinder, which pushes hydraulic fluid into the system.

A dedicated network of brake lines and hoses takes the fluid to each of the four wheels and pushes the brake pads against the brake discs to create friction and reduce the car's speed. As the vehicle is heavy and travels at relatively high speeds, it takes considerable force to slow it down. This force gradually degrades your brake pads, discs, and other components, making them less effective.

Common Signs You May Have Braking System Issues

As your brakes slowly deteriorate over time, you may not notice them losing their power. There are signs you can look out for that indicate braking issues. You should have your vehicle serviced by experienced technicians whenever you encounter any of them. Some common symptoms are:

Your Vehicle Takes Longer Than Usual To Slow Down

The first sign is obvious, but many drivers need to realize it. Although your braking distance depends on many factors, such as tire quality and road conditions, your braking system still plays a decisive role. If your car requires longer braking distances than it used to, it's essential to visit a mechanic, as this could indicate a flaw. You should check your brakes regularly, even if you don't sense an apparent issue. Their degradation may be too slow to notice.

Your Brake Light Comes On

Modern vehicles alert you when they detect an issue with your braking system. If you see the brake light appear, you should drive slower and more carefully than usual and take your car to a garage as soon as possible. Although the light being on may simply remind you that it's time for your regular maintenance check, it's better to be safe than sorry. Some vehicles have a single dashboard light for the braking system and the parking brake being on, so make sure that the latter is off first.

Squeaking and Other High-Pitched Noises

If you hear a high-pitched noise when hitting the brakes, it may be time to replace your brake pads. The sound is due to a unique indicator that emits a high-pitch warning when the brake pads are wearing out. You should hit the brake a few times to ensure the noises aren't from a small pebble or debris caught between the brake pads and rotors. If that’s the cause, dislodging the debris through braking should solve the problem.

The Car Drifts to One Side When Braking

Another common sign that it's time to check your system is the car drifting to the left or the right when you brake while driving in a straight line. This is usually an issue affecting one of the front wheel brakes, which isn't functioning as it should. This causes the vehicle to turn in the direction of the front wheel brake, which is still working correctly. 

The same thing may happen to one of your rear brakes, but you may not notice it. That’s why checking your brakes occasionally is essential, even if you don't see any clear signs of malfunction.

You Smell Burning

If you're driving and smell burning, it may come from your overheated brakes. As this may be an urgent issue that could lead to brake failure, you should stop immediately and let your brakes cool down. There could be a locked brake caliper causing smoke to come from the affected wheel. However, if you've been driving aggressively in the minutes leading up to it, you may smell burning even if your braking system is working correctly. Regular vehicles aren't designed for repeated aggressive braking.

Vibrations or Wobbling When Braking

Suppose you sense vibrations or shaking in your steering wheel while braking. It could indicate that one of your brake rotors is uneven. The rotors, also called brake discs, are vital in slowing your vehicle down and may wear out at different rates. Even a tiny vibration is likely to get gradually worse if left unchecked. Although this may not cause an immediate loss in braking power, it's still crucial to resolving it as quickly as possible, as it may evolve and cause braking failure.

Your Brake Pedal Is Soft

A well-functioning brake pedal is usually firm. If you feel that it's starting to go soft or if you can push it all the way down without much effort, it may be a sign that you need to check your brakes. A common reason for this is the presence of air or moisture in the system. Other potential causes are also issues with your master cylinder or brake lines. Whatever the problem, it's usually not safe to keep driving, and you should take your vehicle to a certified mechanic as soon as possible. 

Regardless of the vehicle, you drive and how good of a driver, having a perfectly functioning braking system is essential for safety and peace of mind. Besides keeping you safe, taking your car to a mechanic as soon as you notice any of these signs can help reduce your costs, as they will likely be easier to repair. Schedule a visit to Apple Honda of York and have our experienced technicians look at your braking system.
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