Frequently Asked Questions:
How do I know if I need new brakes?
The most common indicators are:
- Unusual noises coming from the vehicle while braking, or while driving that cease when braking.
- Vibrating steering wheel when braking.
- Vehicle pulling to one side while braking.
- Brakes feeling soft or mushy.
- Brake warning or ABS light on.
- The brakes fail inspection.
Why does my car make a squealing or grinding noise while braking?
Squealing while braking could indicate an inferior quality brake pad, or it could indicate the beginning of a deeper issue in the braking system. Proper diagnostics performed by an experienced technician is the only way to determine what the problem is.
If the vehicle is making a grinding noise while braking, it likely indicates that the lining is completely gone and the brakes are rubbing metal to metal. In this instance, the brake pads must be replaced immediately.
Why does my car make a squealing noise while driving that stops when braking?
Some brake pads come equipped with squealer tabs that, when the brake pads are low, make a squealing noise while driving that ceases while braking. This is an indication that brake pads are low and need to be replaced.
Why does my vehicle steering wheel shake or vibrate when braking?
Problems with the rotors are typically what causes your steering wheel to vibrate, meaning your rotors are either worn or warped. When you apply the brake, the worn or warped surface of the rotor strikes against the brake pads causing a vibration in the suspension that is then felt in the steering wheel. In this situation, replacing the brake pads and rotors is usually the correct course of action.
Why does my vehicle pull to one side while braking?
Usually this indicates a defective caliper or a seized caliper slide, causing the brake pads to wear unevenly. When brake pads wear unevenly, by definition more pressure is applied to one side of the vehicle while braking than the other, causing the vehicle to pull in that direction. In addition to replacing the brake pads and rotors, a caliper and/or caliper slide replacement may also be necessary.
Why do my brakes feel soft or mushy?
Brake fluid is hydroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture. Over time brake fluid will take on a certain amount of water moisture. While brake fluid is not compressible, water is, so the presence of water in the fluid will make the overall fluid composition more compressible, resulting in a soft or mushy feeling when braking. In this case, a simple brake fluid exchange may solve the problem.
In more extreme cases, this could also indicate a swollen brake hose or problem with the master cylinder. In these cases, more extensive diagnostic work will be necessary to determine and solve the problem.
Why is my brake warning light on?
The brake warning light could simply mean that the emergency brake is on. If you’ve verified that the emergency brake is not on, the next most likely explanation is that the brake fluid is low. This could be due to simple wear on the brake pads over time, or it could be due to a leak somewhere in the braking system. Diagnostic work will usually be necessary to pinpoint the exact problem.
The antilock braking system (ABS) is a complex, computer-controlled system. When the vehicle’s ABS light comes on, it indicates that this system has been deactivated due to a malfunction. Computer diagnostics will be necessary to locate the problem and recommend the proper repairs.
When do brakes fail inspection?
Brake lining is measured in 32nds of an inch. A typical new brake pad will have 10 to 11 / 32nds of an inch of lining. Over time, the brake lining wears down due to use. When the brake lining wears down to 2 / 32nds in any given area of the pad, the brakes will fail PA State Inspection. Assuming this is the only failing issue with the brakes, replacing the brake pads will get the brakes to pass.
Should I replace my brakes early as a preventative maintenance item?
When brake pads are at or below 4 / 32nds at the time of inspection, technicians, for the sake of safety, will often recommend replacing the pads now as it is unlikely they will make it to the following year’s inspection.
Brake rotors are steel discs that are attached to the wheel that the brake pads clamp against during braking action to slow the vehicle down.
Do I need my brake rotors replaced?
PA State Inspection does require rotors to be replaced when they get too thin or too scored (covered in grooves due to wear). However, we strongly recommend replacing the brake rotors whenever the brake pads are changed. When brake pads are replaced without replacing the rotors, you end up with a new, even surface on the pads rubbing up against an old, uneven surface on the rotors, leaving the vehicle more open to pedal pulsation, brake squeal, and shorter brake life.
Brake fluid is the conduit through which the force from your foot is transferred to the brake calipers to make them squeeze the brake pads against the rotors and slow the vehicle down. In other words, when you push down on the brake pedal, it is pushing the brake fluid through the brake line, which then forces the brakes into action.
Do I need my brake fluid exchanged?
As mentioned before, brake fluid is hydroscopic, which means that over time it accumulates water moisture, hampering the fluid’s ability to perform its intended purpose. The most immediate noticeable benefit of replacing the brake fluid is a stronger, firmer feeling when pressing the brake pedal. Since it is often a few years between brake replacements (more than enough time for moisture to accumulate), it usually makes sense to replace the brake fluid while replacing the brakes.
In essence, a brake caliper is a special type of clamp that squeezes the brake pads against the rotor attached to the wheel, slowing the vehicle down.
In most cases, no. Calipers are generally only replaced when there is a specific problem that requires it, and are not typically part of a brake replacement package.
When the brake pedal is depressed, brake fluid is pushed through a channel down to the caliper putting the brake action into motion. For most of this journey this channel is a steel brake line designed for durability. But for the last portion of the journey, the channel needs to be flexible to accommodate movement of the wheel. For this portion, a rubber hose is used instead. This is what is referred to as a brake hose.
Do I need my brake hoses replaced?
Since they are made of rubber, eventually they will crack. PA Sate Inspection rules state that once these hoses crack deep enough to show the core within, they must be replaced. However, unless there is visible cracking, the brake hoses are not typically replaced as part of a normal brake replacement package.
Brake hoses should also be replaced in the rare event that a caliper is being replaced.