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The brakes on your car work hard every time you go out for a spin, enabling you to stop safely and efficiently so you can get from point A to point B in one piece. However, brakes, like many other systems in your vehicle, will require periodic maintenance to ensure that they are operating as intended.

How Do Brakes Work?

When you press the brake pedal, the force from your foot transfers some of the hydraulic fluid (which is incompressible) from the system into your brake calipers. This force, which is amplified by the brake booster, forces the brake pads to clamp down on the rotors. The friction slows the rotation of the rotors, which in turn slows your vehicle.

This is a very high-level view, but even from this height, you can see that many sensitive moving parts must all work together to slow your vehicle. The process also produces a lot of friction and heat, which will wear down your pads and potentially your rotors, requiring service.

brake rotor on car

Six Signs of Brake Problems

Brake issues can present in a number of ways. Here are some of the more common, noticeable symptoms indicating your braking system is not functioning as it should.

Your Brake Light Is On

The brake light can alert you of issues you might not notice right away. A brake light can come on for many reasons – for example, if the parking brake is engaged, which does not necessarily signify a problem – but it can also come on if your fluid is low or there’s a problem with your anti-lock braking system (ABS).

An illuminated brake light isn’t always indicative of a serious issue. However, if it comes on, be sure to get your car looked at.

Your Car Is Leaking Brake Fluid

If your car runs out of brake fluid frequently, it’s leaking somewhere in the system. Depending on where the leak is, you might notice a stream of drops trailing from behind one of your wheels. A leak is a significant problem because your brakes will not be effective when low on fluid. Stop driving right away if your vehicle is leaking fluid and bring your car in for service.

Squeaking, Squealing, Grinding, or Rumbling While Braking

Another telltale sign of brake issues is sound or vibration when you apply the brakes. If your car squeaks, squeals, grinds, rumbles, or makes any other odd sounds when you press the brake pedal, it can indicate your pads have worn down. Pad wear is normal, and replacing them is part of regular maintenance. 

Pulling to the Side When Braking

Another sign that your brakes are wearing down is your car pulling to one side or the other when you press the pedal. Pulling to one side can be caused by uneven pad wear, a stuck caliper, or issues with the hydraulic system. 

The Brakes Feel Soft or Spongy

Vehicles that have not had their brake pads serviced for a long time will lose the ability to stop efficiently. You might notice this in the form of your car simply seeming to lag when you try to stop it, but you can sometimes also feel it through the brake pedal itself. This could be a sign of worn-out brakes. Any time your brakes feel less effective, it’s important to get them looked at to ensure you can stop safely. 

Vibration in the Steering Wheel

Finally, if you apply the brakes and they have started to wear, you may feel your steering wheel shaking back and forth. A shaking steering wheel can be caused by several issues, but if you notice the shaking only while applying the brakes, they are likely to blame. Worn rotors or sticking calipers can result in uneven pressure being applied to the front brakes. This condition will cause the steering wheel to shimmy or shake when you press the pedal. 

Brake Service at Borst Automotive!

Scheduling a brake repair or replacement is easy at Borst Automotive. You can make appointments easily online before coming into one of our repair shops. We have four locations conveniently dispersed throughout the state of Arizona, staffed by our friendly and helpful teams of ASE-certified technicians.

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, make an appointment to have your vehicle checked out. Bring your car or truck to one of our auto repair shops in Mesa, Tucson, or Phoenix for a brake inspection to determine the cause of your problems. Visit our location pages to find the shop nearest you and give us a call to get started.