You 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.
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.