How do you detect brake problems in a car? Our guide outlines the basics of brake technology, the problems that arise — and what to do about them.
Thanks to modern braking systems, a slight movement of the foot is enough to bring a 2-ton car to a standstill. Of course, this requires many components that can wear out or break. The brakes are one of the most important parts of your car, because honestly: How would you stop in a controlled manner without the brakes?
If a component causes problems, it usually affects the entire brake system and, in the worst case, leads to brake failure. Knowing how the brakes work makes it easier to assess and detect brake problems in a car, allowing you to understand what can cause a mistake and how to deal with it.
This is how the hydraulics work
The mere pressure on the brake pedal would not be nearly enough to bring a modern car to a standstill. In order to build up the necessary power, hydraulic systems are required that increase the movement of the pedal. A special brake fluid is used to ensure that the pressure is evenly transmitted to the brakes on each wheel. It should be changed at regular intervals. We recommend changing the brake fluid approximately every 2 years.
The difference between disc brakes and drum brakes
With small cars in particular, it is still very common for both types of brakes to be installed. Disc brakes are mostly used on the front axle and drum brakes on the rear axle. With disc brakes , 2 brake pads are pressed against the brake disc, which rotates with the wheel. The advantage of disc brakes is that they can be dosed very well and can withstand high loads.
Drum brakes consist of a brake drum rotating with the wheel, inside which there are the so-called brake shoes. When you press the brake pedal, these brake shoes are pressed against the inside of the brake drum and the wheel is therefore braked. Despite the differences between the two systems, both do their job. These can brake your car – if necessary, to a standstill. The braking effect always depends on how hard you press the brake pedal.
How to detect brake problems in a car
Is there a leak in the braking system?
A surprisingly common defect is that there is a leak in the braking system. You can identify this problem relatively easily from the behavior of the brakes. If the braking distance becomes longer, it is very likely that brake fluid will be lost. If there is a leak in the brake system, brake fluid is inevitable. Without the right amount of brake fluid, the system cannot build up enough pressure to work properly. In the worst case, the system is completely empty and no longer functions. If there is a leak, there are different ways to notice it:
- Has your car’s brake light come on? This can be a sign of a leak in the braking system. But it may also be that your brake pads are worn out. In modern cars there are often separate warning lights for the wear of the brake system and the lack of brake fluid.
- Even if your car pulls to one side when braking, it can be a sign of a leak in the braking system.
- If the brake pedal is harder to press than usual or if it reacts strangely when pressed, this is often due to air getting into the brake system. A cause for this could also be a leak.
It is also possible when you detect brake problems in a car that you discover your brake pads are worn out. If there is no longer any remaining covering, you should clearly notice that the braking effect diminishes when you press the brake pedal. Then you should have the brake pads replaced at the latest. Squeaking noises when braking are usually a sign that your brake pads need to be replaced.
If your brakes do not work properly, you are not only endangering yourself, but also other road users. It is therefore extremely important that any problems are resolved immediately.
Unfortunately, there are many reasons why our cars don’t work properly and the brakes are no exception. Because the brakes under the car are near the wheels, they are much more exposed to the environment than other important parts of the car. In addition, the brakes are one of the most important parts of driving safety, which is why you should always maintain them well and have them checked regularly.
Many things can cause the brakes to fail
Especially in the winter months, when the roads are wet, the brakes are more susceptible to moisture and dirt. If you find a problem with your brakes, take your car to a workshop to fix the problem. Try to describe the problem as precisely as possible. This makes troubleshooting and repair much easier. We have listed the most common features and causes of brake failure so you can check what the problem might be.
Worn brake pads
If your brake pads have become too thin, the brakes will no longer react as strongly when you step on the brake pedal. If your brakes squeak , it’s probably because you need to have your brake pads replaced. You can either do it yourself or take your car to the workshop, where a professional mechanic will take care of it.
How much does it cost to have the brake pads replaced?
If you drive with heavily worn brake pads for a long time, this can lead to grooves in the brake discs, which worsens the braking ability even further. As soon as these grooves have formed in the brake discs, there is no longer any purpose in replacing the brake pads, because the brake discs wear the pads much faster than usual. However, if only the brake pads have to be changed, this is much cheaper than having to have the complete brakes changed.
Low brake fluid level
The brakes can also be impaired if there is not enough brake fluid in the reservoir. If you can press the brake pedal all the way down but the car doesn’t slow down, it could be because there is not enough brake fluid. Fortunately, this problem can be solved very easily. Simply fill the brake fluid up to the maximum in the container provided. Make sure that no other objects or substances get into the container, otherwise the brake fluid will be contaminated.
However, we do not recommend simply refilling the brake fluid if you are not sure when the fluid was last changed. Because if the fluid is always refilled, the brake fluid in the lines may be older than that in the reservoir. This is so important because the quality of the brake fluid also has an impact on the braking effect. If you have only topped up with fluid in the past year, you should have the brake fluid completely changed.
Brake Fluid Contamination
Another common problem that can affect the brakes is contamination of the brake fluid. If water or dust gets into the brake fluid, the brakes may not work properly. This is because the properties of the brake fluid are changed and it no longer withstands the high pressure. If you change the brake fluid yourselfor if you want to check the level, you must then screw the cap back onto the brake fluid reservoir so that no foreign matter can enter. Water is particularly dangerous because it can freeze in the brakes. If this happens, the brakes run the risk of tearing, which then entails an expensive repair.
How much does a brake fluid change cost?
Changing the brake fluid in a workshop only takes about 45 minutes, but in addition to the work involved, there is also the cost of the fluid. In addition to changing the fluid, the environmentally friendly disposal of the old brake fluid is also included in the price. You can find the exact cost of your vehicle on Autobutler. Simply enter your repair request and we will send you 3 offers from workshops in your area that you can compare and choose the best one.
Rusted brake discs
Since the brake discs are made of metal, they are particularly susceptible if they are wet for a long time. Because if metal gets wet, it can rust, which is unfortunately also the case with the brake discs. Rust can damage the brake discs or cause them to stick. If you have the impression that your brakes are not loosening or pulling in one direction, it can mean that only one of the brake discs is defective. You can easily tell if the disc is OK by removing the wheel and looking at it. If you detect disc-rust brake problems in a car and have the confidence to change the brake disc yourself, you should exchange them before you drive next time. If you are not confident in the repair, you should take the car to a workshop where a professional mechanic will do the repair.
How much does a brake disc change cost?
Normally, the brake pads are also replaced when the brake discs are replaced, since both should ideally wear out at the same time. The replacement of the brake discs and brake pads is also called the replacement of the entire brake and you should plan for it from around at least $350 per axle, that is, either for the change at the front or the change at the rear. However, the price for changing the brake is heavily dependent on the vehicle, which is why it is difficult to make a general statement about the price of the change. It is therefore worthwhile to compare the offers of the workshops with one another and to get an overview of the prices and the services included.
Mud on the caliper
If you drive through wet mud, you run the risk of the mud sticking to the caliper. This can seriously affect the functionality of the brakes, as the dirt reduces the distance between the brake caliper and the brake pad. When driving, it feels like the car is constantly braking and you have little control over the speed of the car. The dirt puts more pressure on the brake pads, causing them to break due to overheating and overuse. If you drove through a muddy puddle, you should test your brakes. This removes liquid sludge so that there are no lumps that can damage the brakes.
How much does it cost to change the brake caliper?
Changing the brake caliper usually also includes bleeding and then filling the brake system, which is why the price for a change depends on various factors. The vehicle model and the number of brake cylinders in particular are crucial in order to be able to estimate the cost. Especially when it comes to expensive repairs, many vehicle owners are considering whether they should go to a workshop or do the repair themselves. Especially when working on safety-relevant components, such as the brake system, you should always drive to a professional workshop to have this work carried out properly.
Defective brake booster
The brake booster creates a vacuum in the brake system, which puts the brake pedal under pressure. This allows you to apply a lot more force to the brakes. If there is a vacuum problem or the system is leaking, you will no longer have full braking power. To fix this problem, you need to take your car to a workshop so that a mechanic can find and repair the leak.
Clogging of the brake lines
If something gets into the brake fluid, this can clog the brake lines. This prevents the liquid from flowing where it is needed. It is therefore extremely important that no foreign objects get into the brake fluid. Always close the lid of the brake fluid reservoir after you have filled up the brake fluid.