- Car Care & Maintenance
What your vehicle brakes can tell you
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This is what happens when your brakes don't work right
Find out what your brakes are telling you
If you drive, you may know that after times your brakes may make a noise, feel weird, or just make you think "uh...what was that?" Well here is some useful information on what your brakes may be telling you.
First lets learn how brakes work. Brakes work by converting friction into stopping power. You push on the brakes, the brake fluid goes through the brake lines and push the brake calipers to push the brake pads onto your rotors or drums and causes them to stop. It's just like running something between your hands, if you hold it loose or not at all, it moves feely, but the more pressure you put on it, the more it slows down and eventually stops. So that's how brakes work.
Now that you know how they work, lets talk about what happens if there is a problem with your brakes. If you have a leak of fluid in your braking system then air gets into your brake system and cause the brakes to feel mushy because air can be compressed unlike fluid. It's what Bernoulli was talking about when he was saying how fluid can move things by applying pressure to it because it doesn't loose any force. So if you have air in the system then the brakes won't apply the the same pressure your foot does. Also if your brake pads don't have enough material then they will take longer to respond beceause it takes a longer time for the pads to hit the rotor or drum. So that's what happens if there is a problem.
So now its time to talk about what your brakes tell you when something is wrong. Often times brakes make noises to tell you what's wrong, here are the noises and what they usually mean.
-Grinding or scratching is often times meaning that all the brake material is gone and now the metal plate that holds the pad is rubbing against the rotor. This is very bad because now you have no braking material and the two pieces of metal rubbing against each other can melt and cause your brakes to stick. You now have to pay for new brake pads and rotors/drums because the damage to them can't be repaired. To avoid this you should replaced your brakes when the material is 3mm or lower on pads. and 1mm on shoes.
-Loud screeching or high pitch noises often times mean that your rotors are glazed. Glazing is caused by excessive braking and the rotors get too hot and become burned. You can tell this has happened because the rotors will have a dark ring or blue marks on them. To fix this the best thing to do is create a new rotor surface by machining your rotors at a local shop. This creates a new surface and the noise should go away. To avoid this happening at all don't go really fast and then slam on the brakes. This causes a lot of friction which turns to heat and causes the burn on the rotor. It can also cause the rotors to warp which can lead to vibrations.
-Vibration while braking often times means your rotors or drums have been warped. This is caused by heat making them lose their shape. If your rotors or drums are too thin they will warp and need to be replaced. But if it's just because they got too hot and warped then all that needs to be done is that they need to be resurfaced by a local shop. To know whether or not the vibration is coming from the front or back you can drive down the freeway and push the brakes until you feel the vibration, if you feel the vibration in the steering while then its the front because it's transfering through the front wheels into the steering into the steering wheel. If you want to check the back then you can apply the parking brake while driving slightly and you will feel the vibration in the car and not just the steering wheel.
-Brake Pull is when your vehicle pulls to one direction when you brake. This can be caused by your brake caliper not applying the brakes evenly with the other usually as a result of a fluid leak in the caliper. To know which side it is, you'll just have to look at the brake caliper and see which one is leaking, this usually should be done by a professional. To fix this you will have to replace the caliper and bleed the brakes of all the air in the system. There is no real cause for this besides just normal wear.
So there are the most common problems with brakes besides normal wear. So next time your driving and you hit the brakes and they start talking to you, you'll have a better idea of what the problem is. Be sure to consult a professional before trying anything yourself because if done incorrectly, you might cause an accident which will result in injury or death.