Category Archives: brake replacement

When does my car need new brakes?

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car mechanic working on car with bad brakesWinter roads can be hazardous enough even in the best of situations.  Trying to drive a car with failing brakes on icy roads can be like trying to stop on a skating rink.  That’s why a car owner needs to be on alert watching (and listening!) for signs they need new brakes—before they’re skating down the road with brakes that don’t work.

A soft pedal

One of our friends had a scary experience with this sign of failing brakes.  She tried to stop at a stop sign…and didn’t.  Instead, the pedal of her van went to the floor and she went right through the intersection.  Luckily, she wasn’t hurt, but it is a valuable lesson for all car owners.  If your pedal feels soft, or goes down to the floor when you press it, it’s time to head to your local mechanic for new brakes.

Pulling to the right or left when braking

You may not think much of this sign of failing brakes; it can mean that your car needs an alignment.  A car that pulls to the left or right can also be caused by uneven worn pads, a broken brake hose, or a stuck brake caliper.  For a diagnosis, and an end to that annoying pull, schedule an appointment to stay straight on the road.

Vibrations

If you feel a vibration in your steering wheel when braking, there are a few different reasons your car could be vibrating.  One of those reasons is an unevenly worn brake rotor in the front or rear; your mechanic can tell you exactly which it the problem is.

High pitched squealing & strange sounds

Do people stare when you hit the brakes?  Worn brakes can make a squealing sound when it’s time for replacement.  The squealing is a built-in warning sign so you can head to the mechanic before your brakes are ready for replacements.  Remember, not all brakes make a squealing.  Some brakes are built to make a chattering or grinding sound when worn—not sounds you want to hear too long before you head in for a brake replacement.

When does my car need new brakes?

worn brake pades & rotorsYou may not realize your car brakes are there most of the time—they’re just part of driving, right?—until suddenly they’re not. That’s why it’s so important to watch for the warning signs that your car needs new brakes BEFORE you need them. Brake pads, rotors and drums wear down, leaving you with nothing to stop your vehicle at an intersection or when pulling into the garage.

Unfortunately, when it comes to brakes, there’s no set number of miles or amount of time that means it’s time to take your car into the mechanic for brake replacement. Brakes are not like oil changes; there are no 3,000 miles or 3 month standard to use. Cars that drive daily in rush hour traffic are going to need brakes a LOT sooner than cars with commutes on country highways. It’s up to you to keep on the lookout for signs that your car needs new brakes:

A pedal that goes to the floor

If your pedal feels softer than normal, or goes close to the floor, it’s time to get your brakes checked. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic and have them check the brakes to see if they are ready for replacement.

Pulling to the right or left when braking

Does your steering wheel pull to the side when braking? Unevenly worn pads, a broken brake hose, or a stuck brake caliper can cause your car to pull to the right or left when braking.

Vibrations

Does your brake pedal vibrate when you push it down? If it feels like your anti-lock brakes are engaging all the time, it’s time to get your car brakes checked.

High pitched squealing & strange sounds

Some brakes have a built-in warning sign: a squealing sound that happens when your brake pads wear down. Not all brakes have this system; other sounds include a chattering or grinding.

Once you know (or suspect) it’s time to change your brake pads, schedule an appointment with your mechanic. Don’t wait until it’s too late, and your brakes are so worn that you get in a car accident. Or ask your mechanic to check your brakes during your regular tire rotation appointments; they can easily inspect your brakes when your wheels are off. They’ll make sure your brakes are there when you need them, so you never have to find out what it’s like when you don’t have them.

5 Signs You Need New Brakes on Your Car

worn brake pades & rotorsEvery car has a different braking system for stopping—a different set up with brake pads, calipers, rotors, drums, etc. No matter what kind of braking system your car uses, the one key thing you need to know about your car’s braking system is that it’s important—really, really important. That’s why you shouldn’t mess around when your car shows signs that it’s time to schedule an appointment and get those brake pads, rotors or any other part of your braking system replaced:

  1. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, your brake pads are wearing down and are letting you know it by squealing. The squealing sound is actually a warning indicator built in by the manufacturer just to let you know that it’s time to get them replaced. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.
  2. Grinding or growling. A grinding noise that goes away when you press the brakes signals trouble. If your brakes are grinding, the pads are worn all the way down, meaning that metal is rubbing on metal. Said simply, you have no more brake pad to stop your car. Don’t hesitate. Contact your mechanic and set up an appointment as soon as possible.
  3. It takes longer to stop. Are your brakes not as responsive as they used to be? Does it seem like it took longer to stop? If your car is not stopping quickly, your pedal goes to the floor or feels softer than it used to, schedule an appointment to get your brakes checked.
  4. Your car pulls to one side. If your car pulls to one side when braking, this does not mean your brakes are necessarily the culprit. There are other car problems, such as a vehicle that needs an alignment, which could be the cause. Schedule an appointment with your mechanic to get a diagnosis and a cure. A car in need of brakes or an alignment is a car that needs attention.
  5. A pulsating brake pedal. Does your brake pedal vibrate when you touch it? Are you getting a weird pulsating sensation from your brake pedal? Contact your mechanic to find out if your brake rotors are warped and need to be replaced.

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast amount of mileage or time that you can use to determine when you need to get your brakes replaced. The life of your brakes is dependent upon driving style and road conditions. Be vigilant. When your car gives you any of these signals or leaks brake fluid, schedule an appointment. If your brake warning light comes on, CALL FOR A TOW. Do not drive your car to the mechanic. You don’t want your brakes to fail, and jeopardize your safety, and the safety of your passengers or end up in a ditch. Your car brakes are that important.

Spring Car Maintenance

engineWinter is hard on a car. That’s why it’s your job as a responsible car owner to take spring as an opportunity to get your car inspected and ready for the next hard season for your car, summer (yes, it will come someday Wisconsin, be patient). Spring is the time to get your faithful tires checked after a hard winter of driving, your car aligned after sliding into a pole, and to get other important components of your car checked, corrected and ready for summer:

Alignment. Hard winter driving can knock your car’s alignment off, causing your tires to wear unevenly and need replacement prematurely. If your car pulls to the left or right, your steering wheel does not stay straight when driving or your tires wear unevenly, your car needs an alignment. A car with alignment issues wears through tires faster and has more costs due to undue wear on suspension parts.

Tire wear. Have an experienced mechanic check your tires to see that they wear evenly, and the amount of tread wear left. If the tire wear is low, your tires need to be replaced. If your tires are wearing unevenly, your car needs an alignment to prevent future breakdowns from undue wear on suspension parts.

Battery. Believe it or not, the Wisconsin heat is harder on batteries than winter cold. If your batteries are low from hard starts during winter, or shows one of these other signs of a dying battery, the summer heat is about to leave you stranded from a low battery.

Brakes. If your brakes are making any of these noises, it’s time to replace the pads or rotors that you need to safely stop. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet, but just as often your brakes are worn and in need of replacement. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.

Air filter. A clogged air filter can affect the performance of your car. While an air filter is not something that needs to be necessarily replaced at every spring car maintenance check (though it may need to depending on your driving conditions), an air filter should be inspected regularly.

Don’t forget to check your windshield wipers and headlights so you have optimal visibility. Call or email for an appointment today to have a mechanic inspect those two key parts of your car, and get the rest of your spring car maintenance done before Wisconsin’s spring showers and summer thunderstorms hit. Remember, April showers may bring May flowers, and also car breakdowns and accidents if you car doesn’t get the annual spring car maintenance and inspections it needs.

Don’t Ignore those Common Car Sounds & Noises: Thumps, Bumps & Clunks

engineYou don’t want anyone to drive your baby, but if you can’t hear those common car noises (the thunks, clunk and bumps!) it’s time to let someone else take the wheel. Fact is, those common car noises can cost you thousands of dollars if not repaired quickly. A small “clunk” from the front of your car can cost you thousands of dollars in suspension parts if you don’t get your car to the shop, not to mention the inconvenience of waiting for your car and finding rides while your car gets fixed.

Let’s face it: we Wisconsinites need our cars, and we need our cars quick. So if you want to keep your cars going, minimize time in the shop, and save money, it’s time to turn down the radio and listen for these common car noises:

  • Thumps, clicks or clunks in the front. Ball joints, CV joints and other suspension parts are most commonly the problem—and problems that can get bigger fast. When broken, suspension parts have a tendency to damage other parts because they rub or knock against each other. The result: more than one part that needs to be repaired, a longer repair appointment and a bigger bill.
  • Squealing from around your tires. It sounds like a howling cat. Or a squeaking bird. Or a grinding wheel. Could it be…your brakes? It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck. Don’t let your pads wear too low either.  If you wait too long to replace your pads and they get too thin, they can damage the rotors and cost you more.
  • Squealing from under your hood. While there are a lot of culprits that could be the problem, the most common problem is a worn serpentine belt. Schedule an appointment and have the technician check for fraying or damage to this important belt, which charges your battery, is vital for circulating coolant and runs your car’s accessories. A car with a broken serpentine belt is a car heading for disaster—for the driver and their pocketbook. Not only is the car hard to steer with a broken belt, but the engine is on the road to overheating—and thousands of dollars of repairs. Compare that cost versus the low cost of replacement, usually a $100 dollars or less, and you’re clearly saving a mountain of money by getting your car into the auto shop early.
  • Rough starting noise. You’ve probably heard it before: the rar-rar-rar that your car makes when you turn the key. If your car doesn’t start up right away, schedule an appointment to get your car battery check. It may be dying—and there are three clear signs that you can look for. In this case, a dying battery is not going to cost you more money in repairs, but it does cost you money when you are stranded and can’t get to work.

If you hear (or don’t hear) any of these noises, don’t procrastinate. Make an appointment to get that car problem checked right away, before it causes more problems (and costs more money).