How to tell if my brakes are bad?

Brakes are the most important safety component of your car. If you have ever experienced brake failure or fading while driving, then you know how frightening it can be. Without a doubt, avoiding collision in such a situation can be an impossible mission. Although having dozens of parts, the brake system in your car operates at a simple principle. When you press the brake pedal, a pressure created in the master cylinder causes calipers to press the brake pads against the rotor. The resulting friction slows down your car. On most cars today, brake systems have two separate hydraulic circuits, with two wheels on each circuit. A pressure loss in one circuit will not affect another one, and you will still be able to stop the car, despite reduced braking power.

All brake components wear out with time. Still, loss of brake functions caused by the pads or rotors wear is a gradual process. So, you have plenty of time to replace worn brake parts before it impairs the stopping ability. Master cylinder failure, on the other hand, will cause a sudden and unexpected loss of stopping power. However, master cylinders and hydraulic systems on modern vehicles are very reliable and can last the life of the car. You should do a brake inspection at least once a year. You can pair the brake inspection with oil changes or tire rotation. However, check the brakes at once if you notice pulsing, vibrating, or pulling to one side when braking. Same goes if you hear screeching or grinding noises when you press the brake. Any of these symptoms are a sign of worn or damaged brakes.

The first thing to check is brake pads. These are made from fibrous material that wears away each time you apply your brakes. Most brake pads have wear indicators or squealers. These metal parts make a high pitched sound, warning you about worn brake pads. When this happens, inspect your brakes right away, because they will continue to wear with every stop. If not replaced, worn brake pads can damage other brake components, such as brake rotors. However, not all brake pads have wear indicators, and that is you should check your brakes at least once a year. Worn out brake pads will produce screeching and grinding noises while braking.

Much like brake pads, worn out brake rotors can make noises. When braking, brake pad comes in contact with the rotor surface, which causes them both to wear down. And although the pads wear out a lot faster, the rotor also loses material. Still, there are several signs that will show that your rotors need replacing. One of them is a vibration and shaking when braking, at speeds higher than 50 mph. In most cases, warped rotor causes this. Another thing to check is if the rotor thickness is above minimum. You can do this with a vernier caliper, measuring on the flat surface and not up on the rust ridge. As for the minimum thickness value, you can find it engraved into the rotor itself.