When your car’s brakes are acting up, you want to repair them as soon as possible; otherwise, you may risk having the brakes fail altogether while on the road. If you put off brake repairs because you assume they’ll be too expensive, remember that your safety is at risk when you drive with bad brakes and that putting off repairs can result in more expensive fixes the longer you wait. Note a few things that might be wrong with your car’s brakes so you can know what you might expect by way of those eventual repair bills.
Shuddering or uneven stopping
If you apply the brake pedal and it seems to shudder and shake under your foot or you feel a shimmy from the wheels, this might actually mean that your car’s tyres need an alignment and balancing. If the wheels are not aligned, the brakes don’t grip them evenly and they shudder and shake. However, shuddering and uneven stopping can also be the fault of air in the brake lines. Air in the lines interrupts the flow of brake fluid, and brake fluid builds up pressure in the brakes. When fluid doesn’t flow evenly, that pressure is uneven; the wheels then shimmy slightly and the brake pedal may shudder. A mechanic can usually bleed the brake lines and refill them to address this.
Grinding and squealing
Grinding and squealing are common when your brake pads are worn down and need replacing, as you may hear metal-to-metal contact of the pads against the rotors. However, when the rotors are worn down, the pads need to squeeze too tight to grip that thin material and this causes them to squeal; the pads may be fine but the rotors need changing in this case. Also, when the car is low on brake fluid, the pads are not being lubricated and they may overheat as they squeeze the rotors, and this causes them to grind or squeal.
A soft pedal means that you need to virtually stand on the brake pedal for it to “catch” and stop the car. This may be a problem with the pedal itself, but it might also mean that the car is low on brake fluid and not enough pressure is being built up in the brake lines, as mentioned above. Try pumping the pedal and note if it seems firmer; this forces more fluid into the lines and if this causes the brakes to “catch,” then you know the problem is not the pedal but more likely a leak in the brake lines.