We're Answering Your Brake Repair Questions
November 16th, 2015
At Chabill’s Tire & Auto Service in Baton Rouge, LA, we do a lot of brake service on customers’ vehicles. Not surprisingly, we also get a lot of questions about brake repair, so we’d like to clear a few of them up here.
My brakes are making a pretty loud squeal when I step on them. Do I need brake service?
Not necessarily. Sometimes brake squeal is coming from a simple vibration between the brake rotor and the pads. In these cases, there are aerosol products and other compounds that can quiet brake squeal.
What kind of noises do worn brakes make, then?
Most brake pads are designed with a wear indicator that protrudes from behind the brake pad’s backing plate. This tab will drag along the rotor when the pads are at a certain minimum thickness, setting up a pretty loud metallic screech. Sometimes the squeal mentioned above can also indicate worn brakes, if it’s accompanied by a noticeable drop in braking performance. The sound that you really don’t want to hear, though, is a loud metallic grinding sound. That means that your pads are worn down to the steel backing plates, and the mounting rivets are digging grooves into the smooth steel surface of the rotors. In this case, your car is no longer safe to drive and you should seek brake service right away.
What are some other signs of worn brakes?
The most obvious sign is a brake pedal that travels almost all the way to the floor before the brakes engage, of course. Others include:
- Wobble or shimmy while braking
- Pull to one side while braking
- Vibration or “pulsing” that can be felt through the brake pedal while braking
What does “ABS” mean?
All newer cars are fitted with antilock braking systems (ABS). With ABS, sensors monitor the speed of each wheel and send that information back to a processor. They take these readings hundreds of times per second; if a wheel is starting to turn slower and seems like it could be on the verge of locking up, the processor will regulate braking pressure through a series of valves and pumps. ABS greatly improves braking control and performance, especially in wet weather.
Does ABS need maintenance too?
Modern ABS systems are generally pretty trouble-free, but components can fail at times. In many cases, an illuminated dashboard ABS lamp means that the ABS processor needs to be reset.
One thing is for sure – the longer you put off brake service, the more it’s going to cost you. If left unattended, your brake issues can end up damaging the rotors and causing more problems…not to mention putting your safety at risk.
Posted in: Auto Repair 101