min read

Brake Troubleshooting Guide: 4 Common Issues and How to Fix Them

Published on
June 27, 2024

Your brakes are among the most critical safety components in any vehicle. Most importantly, they are vital to you and your loved ones safety. You need well-maintained brakes because they are essential for controlling your vehicle. This is especially true in emergencies or when driving on rough roads.

By not knowing how to troubleshoot your brakes, brake failure can have devastating consequences. Without the ability to slow down or stop, even a minor incident can quickly escalate into a severe collision, putting lives at risk. Bad brakes can also lead to longer stopping distances. This raises the risk of rear-end collisions with people or other vehicles.

Brake problems compromise a vehicle's control and balance significantly. They make it harder to navigate turns or sudden maneuvers. This increased risk can be particularly dangerous at higher speeds or in inclement weather conditions.

Regular brake maintenance is essential. So is quick attention to any issues. They are crucial for keeping everyone on the road safe. By making brake health a priority, drivers can have peace of mind. Their vehicle's most critical safety system will work properly. This will let them to drive with confidence and cut the risk of accidents.

4 Common Brake Issues and Their Causes

Brakes Are Not Working Well

This issue can have many causes. These include a bad power booster, vacuum hose leak, bad check valve, collapsed vacuum hose, seized caliper, or extremely worn brake pads. If your brakes are not working as effectively as they should, it's crucial to address the problem immediately to ensure your safety on the road.

Soft or Spongy Brake Pedal

A soft or spongy brake pedal can be an indication of air in the brake lines, low brake fluid, worn brake pads, or a faulty master cylinder. When you press the brake pedal, it should feel firm and responsive. If it feels spongy or goes all the way to the floor, it's a sign of a problem that needs to be addressed.

Hard Brake Pedal

Yet, problems with the power brake booster, blocked brake lines, or issues with the brake caliper can cause a hard brake pedal. A hard pedal can make it difficult to apply enough brake pressure, which can be dangerous in emergency situations.

Brakes Dragging or Hanging Up

Your brakes are dragging or hanging up. This could be due to a seized caliper, a faulty brake hose, or misadjusted brake shoes. This issue wears down brake components and can cause complete brake failure.

Finding the root cause of your brake issues is essential. It ensures your safety and the life of your vehicle's brakes. If you notice any of these problems, have your brakes repaired soon by us here at D&R Automotive.

Diagnosing Your Brake Noises

One of the most common indicators of brake issues is unusual noises coming from the brake system. Different noises mean different things. Understanding them can help you find and fix the problems.

Squealing Brakes

A high-pitched squealing noise is often the first sign of worn brake pads. As the pads wear down, a small metal tab in the pad contacts the rotor. This contact creates a squealing sound to tell you that the pads need replacement. Glazed or overheated rotors can also cause squealing noises.

Grinding Brakes

A grinding or growling noise when applying the brakes shows that the brake pads are worn out. The metal backing plate is rubbing against the rotor or drum. This metal-on-metal contact can harm the rotors or drums. It causes costly damage if left unaddressed.

Clunks, Rattles, and Vibrations

Other noises, such as clunks, rattles, or vibrations, can indicate various issues within the brake system. A rattling noise may signify loose brake components, such as caliper brackets or worn-out hardware. Clunking noises could mean a stuck caliper. Vibrations felt through the brake pedal or steering wheel may be from warped rotors or brake hardware issues.

It's important to fix these unusual brake noises quickly. They can show a safety risk and lead to pricier repairs if ignored. If you hear any concerning noises from your brake system, have our technicians here at D&R Automotive inspect and diagnose the issue. This will prevent more damage and keep you safe on the road.

Your Most Common Brake Warning Signs

The brake system in your vehicle gives vital safety features. Address any warnings promptly. Two signs show your brakes need attention. They are the brake warning light and a shaky steering wheel when braking.

Brake Warning Light

The brake warning light on your dashboard is a crucial indicator that should never be ignored. This light can turn on for many reasons. These include low brake fluid, issues with the anti-lock braking system (ABS), or worn brake pads. Low brake fluid can lead to brake failure, posing a severe safety risk. If the brake warning light comes on, it's essential to have your vehicle inspected by a professional as soon as possible.

Shaky Steering Wheel When Braking

If you experience a shaky or pulsating steering wheel when applying the brakes, it could be a sign of warped brake rotors or uneven brake pad wear. Warped rotors cause vibrations. They affect braking, leading to longer stops and safety hazards. Uneven brake pad wear can also contribute to steering wheel shakes, as the braking force may not be evenly distributed.

Ignoring these warnings can have big consequences. They include less braking power, longer stopping distances, and possible brake failure. Addressing these issues promptly is crucial for your safety and the safety of others on the road.

You need to inspect your brakes often. Fix any warning signs. This is key to keeping good braking and ensuring your vehicle's safety. If you notice any concerning signs, have your brakes inspected by us here at D&R Automotive in Jonesboro, AR.

Your Five Preliminary Brake Troubleshooting Steps

Before getting help, vehicle owners can take several basic troubleshooting steps. These steps can help them find potential brake issues. These steps can help you determine the severity of the problem and whether it's required.

Check the Brake Fluid Level.

One of the first things to inspect is the brake fluid level in the master cylinder reservoir. Low brake fluid can cause a soft or spongy brake pedal, as well as reduced braking performance. Locate the reservoir, which is typically located near the firewall or on the driver's side of the engine compartment. Check the fluid level and top it up if necessary, using the recommended brake fluid type specified in your vehicle's owner's manual.

Inspect Brake Pads and Rotors

Worn-out brake pads and damaged rotors are common causes of brake issues. To inspect the pads, you'll need to remove the wheels and examine the thickness of the brake pad material. Most pads have a wear indicator that will produce a squealing noise when they need replacement. Inspect rotors for too much wear, grooves, or warping. These can cause vibrations or pulsations when braking.

Check for Leaks and Loose Components

Brake fluid leaks can lead to reduced braking performance and potential brake failure. Inspect the brake lines, calipers, and other components for any signs of leakage, such as wetness or fluid residue. Also, check for loose or damaged components. These include brake hoses, calipers, and mounting hardware. They can cause brake noises or uneven braking.

Test Brake Pedal Feeling

While the engine is running, press the brake pedal and observe its feel. A firm, responsive pedal indicates a properly functioning brake system. However, if the pedal feels spongy or goes all the way to the floor, this may mean there is air in the brake lines. It could also indicate a failing master cylinder or other issues. These problems require our professional attention. So, it's key to contact us to get a quote or book an appointment with us soon after you have tested the brake pedal.

Listen for Unusual Noises

Pay close attention to any unusual noises coming from the brake system, such as squealing, grinding, or rattling. These noises can provide valuable clues about the nature of the brake problem. For example, a grinding noise may mean that the brake pads are worn down to the backing plate. A squealing noise can signify that the pads need replacement.

These steps can find possible brake issues. But, note that some problems may need special tools and expertise to fix. If you are unsure how bad the issue is or uncomfortable doing any of these steps, reach out to us for our professional brake repair service.

The Cost of Brake Repair and Maintenance

Maintaining your vehicle's brakes is crucial for safety and can ultimately save you money in the long run. While the cost of brake repair and maintenance may seem daunting, it's essential to prioritize this aspect of your vehicle's upkeep. The expenses associated with brake work can vary significantly depending on several factors.

One of the primary factors influencing the cost is the extent of the repair or maintenance required. Replacing brake pads is a simple task. It can cost $100 to $300 per axle based on brake pad cost information from AAA. But, replacing rotors or calipers is more complex. This can cost $300 to $800 per axle. You may need to replace the whole braking system. This includes parts like the master cylinder or brake lines. The cost can go up to $1,000 or more.

The type of vehicle you own also plays a role in determining the cost. Luxury or high-performance vehicles often need special brake parts. These parts can cost more than those for standard cars. Also, the age and mileage of your vehicle can impact the cost. Older vehicles may need more extensive repairs or replacements.

Labor costs can also contribute significantly to the overall expense. Most reputable repair shops may charge between $80 and $150 per hour for labor, and complex brake jobs can take several hours to complete. But, it's important to remember that skimping on labor or using bad parts can endanger you. It can also lead to more expensive repairs later.

The upfront brake repair costs may seem high. But, neglecting these vital services can have severe consequences. Worn-out brakes can increase your stopping distance, putting you and others at risk on the road. Additionally, failing to address brake issues promptly can lead to more extensive and expensive repairs in the future.

By prioritizing regular brake inspections. And by fixing any issues promptly. You can avoid costly breakdowns and keep your vehicle safe. NuBrakes recommends having your brakes inspected at least once a year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. We agree because this is a proactive approach which can help find problems early. It allows for cheaper maintenance and stops bigger issues from forming.

Investing in good brake repair and maintenance services is key. Get them from a local reputable automotive shop in Jonesboro, AR like D&R Automotive. It can save you money. It can also give you peace of mind. You'll know that your vehicle's brakes are in top condition. The upfront costs may seem high. But, the need for reliable brakes is very important. Neglecting this crucial system can be far more costly and dangerous.

Preventive Brake Maintenance

You must do preventive maintenance. It is crucial for ensuring the long life and best performance of your vehicle's brakes. Regular inspections and timely part replacements can help avoid costly repairs. They also ensure your safety on the road. Here are some recommended preventive maintenance practices for your brakes:

Regular Brake Inspections

It's advisable to have your brakes inspected by a professional mechanic at least once a year or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. During these inspections, the technician will check the brake pads, rotors, and calipers for wear and tear. They will also check other parts. The goal is to ensure they meet the manufacturer's specifications.

Brake Fluid Flushes

Brake fluid is hygroscopic. It absorbs moisture over time. This moisture can cause corrosion and reduced braking. Most manufacturers recommend a complete brake fluid flush every two to three years or 24,000 to 36,000 miles. Fresh brake fluid helps maintain the system's integrity and ensures consistent braking performance.

Brake Pad and Rotor Replacements

Brake pads are designed to wear down over time, and their replacement is a regular maintenance requirement. Most manufacturers recommend replacing brake pads when they reach a minimum thickness. This thickness is typically around 3-4 mm. Neglecting to replace worn pads can lead to damage to the rotors and other components, resulting in more expensive repairs.

Brake rotors may also need replacement. This happens if they become very worn or get grooves or other imperfections. Rotors should be inspected during brake pad replacements and replaced if necessary.

Follow the Manufacturer's Guidelines

You must follow your vehicle maker's maintenance schedule. It includes brake inspections, fluid flushes, and part replacements. These guidelines are based on extensive testing and designed to ensure optimal performance and safety.

Mileage-Based Replacements

You should follow manufacturer recommendations. It's also good to replace brake pads and rotors based on mileage. Most mechanics suggest replacing brake pads every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. They say to replace rotors every 60,000 to 70,000 miles. The exact mileage depends on your driving habits and conditions.

Follow these maintenance practices. They will help ensure the long life and reliability of your vehicle's brakes. This will make you safer on the road.

When to Seek Professional Help from D&R Automotive

As you should know by now, brakes are critical for safety. Attempting complex repairs without proper knowledge and equipment can be dangerous. It can also hurt your vehicle's braking performance.

Ignoring brake problems can be very bad. They can cause longer stopping distances, loss of control, and accidents. Even small issues, like a soft brake pedal or squeaking noises, should be fixed fast. They may signal bigger problems.

It's generally recommended to seek professional help if you encounter any of the following situations:

1. Persistent or Worsening Issues: If the brake issues continue or get worse despite your efforts, it's time to ask a mechanic for help. Continuing to drive with faulty brakes can be hazardous and may lead to further damage or costly repairs.

2. Complex Repairs: Brake repairs can be complex. They include tasks like replacing brake calipers, resurfacing rotors, and bleeding brake lines. These tasks need specialized tools and expertise. Trying these repairs without training and equipment can lead to improper installation. It can also cause more damage and create safety risks.

3. Brake Warning Lights: Your vehicle's brake warning light stays on after you add brake fluid or do basic maintenance. This means a serious issue requires professional diagnosis and repair.

4. Unusual Noises or Vibrations: Some brake noises may mean pads or rotors are worn. But, other noises or vibrations could signal worse problems. These include warped rotors, stuck calipers, or issues with the brake system.

5. Lack of Confidence or Expertise: If you feel unsure or lack the knowledge and tools to diagnose and fix the brake issue well, it's best to get professional help. Brakes are a critical safety component, and improper repairs can have severe consequences.

By working with qualified mechanics at a reputable brake repair shop like D&R Automotive, you can ensure that your vehicle's brakes are inspected, diagnosed, and repaired correctly.

At D&R Automotive, we are a trusted and experienced automotive repair shop located at 2500 King Street in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Our team has highly skilled, ASE-certified technicians. We specialize in top-notch brake repair and replacement. We work on all makes and models of vehicles.

We understand the critical role that brakes play in ensuring your safety on the road. That's why we take a careful approach to every brake job. We use only the best parts and follow strict industry standards. Our technicians have extensive knowledge and experience in diagnosing and resolving even the most complex brake issues, ensuring that your vehicle's braking system is operating at peak performance.

Whether you require routine brake pad replacements, rotor resurfacing, or a complete brake system overhaul, you can trust D&R Automotive to deliver exceptional service and outstanding results. Our high-tech facility has the latest diagnostic tools and equipment. They ensure accurate assessments and fast repairs.

Don't risk your safety. Schedule a brake inspection with us today. You can call (870) 555-1234 or visit our D&R Automotive website.

Timely brake maintenance is an investment in your peace of mind and the longevity of your vehicle. Trust the local experts at D&R Automotive to keep you safe on the roads of Jonesboro, AR and surrounding area.

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