Know the Signs & Stay Ahead of Brake Problems

  • Aug 22,2016
Worn brake rotor, pad, and caliper with wheel and tire removed Worn brake rotor, pad, and caliper with wheel and tire removed

Brake Problem Symptoms

Why is it important to get my brakes inspected at the first sign of a symptom?

When your car starts creating abnormal sounds, feelings or smells, start investigating the issue sooner rather than letting the condition worsen. Waiting will only lead to more expensive parts wearing out and requiring replacement. For example, rotors start to warp and become damaged when completely worn brake pads and shoes exceed their lifespan, shortening the life of healthy parts due to the metal on metal grinding that occurs.

What sounds, noises, and sensations indicate I need brake repairs?

Pay attention. Sounds, smells and sensations signal brake problems:

  • Screeching, grinding, squealing, rubbing, and other eardrum-piercing noises are common indicators that your brake pads & shoes require inspection. This should be addressed before worn pads cause damage to other parts, which could result in more expensive repairs.
  • Vibration and pulsation in the pedal or your steering wheel. If this is a familiar feeling, your brake system is telling you something. Wait any longer, and your rotors might get warped from the metal on metal rubbing, potentially costing you a lot more in repair. Stop in as soon as possible if you are experiencing this unpleasant problem.
  • Pressing down farther to complete braking functions. This symptom is not as prevalent as it used to be, but if you’re pressing down farther than usual on your brake pedal to stop your car, requiring more pressure and time to perform the same stopping function, you have entered the first stage and sign of brake pad wear. Don’t play around with your brake pedal, you can only press so far before you’re in a frightening, "I have no brakes" predicament.
  • That pungent burning smell near your tires is screaming "help!" If you’re detecting noxious odors emitting from your tires, stop what you’re doing and please call or visit your local Firestone Complete Auto Care. Unfamiliar and pungent smells, such as what you’re experiencing, are not normal and could have dangerous consequences if you continue to drive under these unsafe conditions. Your best solution is our brake inspection to see what part of your braking system has been compromised while driving with this smelly symptom.
  • Brake warning light. If your brake warning light comes on visit us as soon as possible and ask us to perform a free brake inspection.

What other warning signs can I look for if I think my brakes are wearing out?

There are many nuances to every car’s braking system, so we’d rather not overload you with worst case scenarios and model specific warning signs. We wouldn’t want you to go through the trouble — or worry — of diagnosing a symptom that is rare and hard to detect on your own.

If you have questions about your braking system that weren’t described in the previous questions, please call your local Firestone Complete Auto Care to schedule a brake inspection. Once an inspection is done we’ll diagnose the problem and provide an estimate for repairs.

Locate your local Firestone Complete Auto Care

How can I ensure my rotors last longer?

First, we’d like to praise you for your foresight and great wisdom in your pursuit to protect your ride. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s discuss the dos and don’ts of successful braking.

  • Do… reduce the stop and go grind. The more city driving, the more stop and go, the quicker the brakes wear down. Simple as that. This type of driving can wear brake pads down faster, which can warp rotors more quickly. If you constantly drive like this, take your car in for at least one brake inspection a year to check for problems.
  • Do not… join the Brake Riders Brigade. Know someone with their foot riding the brake, even when no braking is necessary? Don’t we all. Riding your brake is the sure-fire way to wear your pads and warp your rotors from the excessive heat generated, especially at high speeds.
  • Do… cruise with the pace of traffic. Obeying speed limits with conservative driving pays off by preserving the life of your brake parts. So don’t tailgate, leave enough room to decelerate and you’ll be all set. Doing so will generate less heat, friction and wear. It’s a win-win for both the pads and the rotors.
  • Do not… champion your aggressive habits. Aggressive driving leads to last-minute braking. The result? Excessive heat cooking your rotors. Continue driving this way and you’ll continue to pay more for the brake damage that ensues. Think about how you can avoid this driving scenario and you just might save more than just your brakes.
  • Do… empty your trunk of any heavy junk. Overloading your vehicle with things you don’t need — such as that heavy portable grill—can greatly impact brake life due to the extra weight you’re adding to your vehicle. Take stock of what’s in your trunk. Remove what you don’t need. This should improve your stopping power and eliminate the added stress and weight you’re placing on your rotors and other braking parts.

Can you tell me the life expectancy of the rotors, brakes, pads, calipers, etc. you install?

Life expectancy is universal in all walks of life. Just as health and habits can affect the length of your own life, driving habits will determine the life expectancy of your brake parts.

  • The hard parts are built for endurance. Rotors and calipers can last for years if you follow the recommended maintenance. But beware: letting your brake pads wear down completely will only damage your rotors more quickly and lead to more expensive repairs.
  • Time is on your side. Calipers are usually designed for the long haul, but their biggest enemies are heat and corrosion. Improper maintenance can create caliper corrosion and leaks caused by constant stop and go, worn pads and metal on metal grinding. Road salt and weather can lead to corrosion as well. So schedule an annual brake inspection, and we’ll provide a clearer picture of their current condition. See your vehicle’s owner’s manual for recommended maintenance.
  • It’s all a balancing act. If your suspension system’s shocks and struts are off balance, you’ve probably noticed a significant shift in your ride’s weight distribution. You’ll be able to gauge this if you can feel the front end nosedive after you brake. The distance it takes to stop is also longer, causing your front brakes to wear out faster.
  • The Pulling Effect: If your car pulls to the left or right when applying your brakes, this may indicate your brakes or suspension are functioning poorly and are in need of inspection.

Experiencing any of these braking symptoms? We have the cure. Find your brake hero.

Up Next

Find Store

Find a Different Location

Stores Near You

Do you want to change your Preferred Store?