Do you ever find yourself wondering when is best to replace your brakes? What are the symptoms of bad brake rotors? How do I tell if it is the front or the rear brakes? When should I finally take it in to a shop? There are many signs of brake problems that could help one decide that enough is enough. For example, you may hear noises when the brake pedal is depressed (pushed down), the brake pedal may start to be able to be pressed fully down to the floor of the vehicle, or you may even feel a pulsation in the brake pedal when stepping on it.

What are the components of the brakes on your vehicle you may ask? On your brakes there is the rotor (which is the big circular piece you see underneath the tire) and the brake pads (which is the smaller piece that sits on top of that brake rotor). When you step on your brake pedal the pads come together squeezing the rotor causing the rotor (and tire) to stop rotation and stop your vehicle. When the brake pads are worn, to the point they should be replaced, the metal brace holding the brake pads starts to rub on the rotor. When the brakes get worn to that point, and the metal starts to rub, you will normally hear a chirp or a soft squeal. At this point when it is chirping or squealing you will be able to still have enough brake left to get to a shop safely.

If the noises you hear are ignored, over time the sound will progress into a grinding noise. This is when the brakes need to be taken care of right away. This means that the brake pads are completely worn away and the metal part of the brakes is grinding entirely against the rotor. At this point, with the brakes being metal on metal, the brakes will not be able to stop your vehicle well. The rotor can also be damaged in this process, which may cause the rotor to have to be fully replaced or resurfaced by a technician.

Another noticeable problem with the brakes on the vehicle would be feeling a pulsation in the pedal. The rotor at this point is not in perfect alignment meaning it pushes the brake pads unevenly as you apply brakes. The misalignment can be caused by the rotor, the hub, or even both.  If this keeps going on over time the rotor may start wearing unevenly. This would cause the pulsation to be even more noticeable.  The uneven wear of the brake pad and rotor means less contact for the brake pads on the brake rotor when braking and will reduce the braking power.

The braking system is one of the biggest safety items on the vehicle that you have driving for yourself as well as other motorist’s on the road. If the braking system is not functioning properly, accidents will happen and cause harm to yourself and/or others. If you have any of these symptoms occurring with your vehicle currently, or in the future, please take the matter seriously. The ideal thing would be to maintain your brake system to keep it in tip-top condition rather than fixing it when safety issues occur. Therefore, brake inspections should be regularly performed to monitor the brake system’s health and keep you safe on the road.