While it may seem as though a vehicle's ability to get going is its most important quality, the stopping power is equally important, and drivers should know how to spot brake problems as early as possible. Not only will this lower the risk of accidents, but it will also help drivers save money on repairs. It is important to deal with automotive issues as they crop up, rather than putting off fixing minor issues that could result in more expensive repairs later on. Checking for brake problems doesn't take long and diligence can save your life and your car.
The feel of the brake pedals can be indicative of a few different issues. With the car running and in park, activate the parking brake and then apply steady pressure to the brakes. Older vehicles that do not have power brakes do not need to be running for this test. Does the compression have a spongy, bouncy quality to it? This could be a sign that the brake lines have air in them. If the pedal slowly inches toward the floor of the car, this could mean that there is an issue with the master cylinder.
It is important to test your brakes when the car is in motion as well. Drive a short distance, stopping a few times, and take note of how much effort you have to make to bring the vehicle to a stop. You should never need to push the pedal all the way down to bring the car to a complete stop. Healthy brakes should stop a few inches from the floor.
Other signs to look for include pulling to one side when braking, which could indicate a brake fluid leak or a stuck caliper, and a shaking steering wheel. For vehicles with disc brakes, this could mean that the brakes need to be replaced.
To prevent unnecessary wear on healthy brakes, avoid stopping short and slamming on the brakes, which can wear down brake pads faster than usual. The heat generated by this type of stopping can cause brake pads and shoes to harden over time, which will render them ineffective.
You should also keep an eye on brake fluid levels. The reservoir is often located toward the back of the engine, and there should be a line to mark the appropriate level. If it is low, you can add more. Be sure to check the level again in a few days. If it is low again, this could indicate that there is a leak in the brake lines, which could render the brakes useless if not addressed right away.