How to spot failing brakes

How to spot failing brakes 14th November 2014

Brakes are probably something that the vast majority of us take for granted. For the most part, they are efficient and will always work, but when they don't, it can have a devastating effect. 

For those on rural roads, brakes will often be needed to slow you from speeds of up to 60mph, while those driving in cities will use their brakes more frequently on stop-start busy roads. 

Failing brakes may only contribute to 0.7 per cent of all fatalities, according to official figures, but when they don't work properly, they can be a huge factor in things like minor bumps, particularly in the city, which leads to insurance claims, time off the road and other inconveniences. 

The problem with brake failure is that it can be hard to diagnose. We can't physically see them easily, so to know when there is an issue can be difficult. But there are other ways to diagnose issues. We look at some of the best ways to detect failure and have your brakes changed

  • Don't ignore warning signs. If you have an ABS system, problems can easily be spotted, because the warning light on the dash will come on to indicate something needs to be fixed. Don't ignore these, as they can be a sign that the wiring has malfunctioned, and this can lead to the brakes not working properly.
  • Listen. Most of us will listen to music when we're driving, but you should always make sure you can hear the noises your car is making, so don't have it too loud. If you hear a grinding or squeaking when you brake, it's likely that your brake pads have worn away and need replaced immediately. Other tell-tale signs of problems include clicking (spring problems) and pulsating (warped rotor or drum), and these should be checked by an expert as soon as possible. 
  • Feel the wheel. If your car shakes or pulls to one side when you are braking, it can mean that your brake pads are worn unevenly, or that you have a leak of fluid. Never ignore these signs, which are the most common, and make sure you get to a garage as soon as you can. 
  • Acceleration. It might seem somewhat backward to suggest that acceleration problems can be indicative of brake failure, but it does happen. If you're pulling away and the car seems sluggish or like it's dragging, it may be the case that your brakes are locked on. 
  • Know your car. When you've been driving a car for a while, you really get a feel for how it should drive. Anything out of the norm can mean issues that need sorting, and with brakes, signs include spongy or light brakes (suggesting air on the brakes) or an increased stopping distance, which can be an early indicator that brakes are worn and need to be changed as soon as possible. 

Posted by Danielle Barge