April 29

Give Me A Brake FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions: About Brakes

Why is my car pulling to one side when I press my brake pedal?

This is a phenomenon that can happen when one of your calipers is grabbing onto a rotor too soon. This brake caliper may be leaking brake fluid or have a seized slide pin. Other reasons may include one side having more brake pad material than the other or a pinched or leaking brake hose. A brake inspection would be recommended to find the correct repair.  

Why is my car shaking, vibrating, or pulsating when I press my brake pedal?

This can happen when the brake rotors are “warped”. Some technicians will describe the rotors as uneven or wavy. You can’t usually spot this on the rotor itself just by how they look. The warpage is typically unrecognizable. You can measure the high and low points of the brake rotor by using a measurement known as “run out”. This is done by using a special gauge that places a needle on the surface of the rotor and then turning the rotor so that the needle touches the rotor all the way around. See example video: How to Properly Measure Rotor Runout  

Do I need to replace both rotors if only one of the rotors is bad?

In order for your brakes to work as they are designed to, you will need to replace your rotors in pairs. There are two rotors per axle. If only one of the rotors is replaced, you risk stopping lopsided or pulling to one side or the other.

Do I need to replace my brake pads in pairs?

When purchasing brake pads from a parts supplier, they come in the box as a pair. The new material on the brake pad is typically 8 to 12 millimeters thick, depending on the application. If you choose to replace only one side with new brake pads and leave the other side alone, you will then have different measurements of thickness. For example, one side would have 4 millimeters and the other side would have 10 millimeters of thickness. This would create a lopsided braking event or pulling action in one direction or the other. This could be very dangerous, especially if the road conditions are slippery.

Why is my car’s brake pedal buzzing or making a humming noise when I press it?

In most vehicle braking systems, there is a safety feature called ABS or Anti-Lock Brakes. This feature has been required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in new cars since September 2012. This ABS system takes a regular solid brake pattern and makes the brake pads pulsate very quickly so that the wheels don’t lock up. When your wheels lock up and you are sliding, you have little to no control of your vehicle. See example video: How ABS (Anti-Lock Brakes) Work

If you feel that your brake pedal is buzzing or making a humming noise and you’re not on slippery ground, then you may have a problem with your ABS system. There are a few components that make up the ABS system, including: ABS Hydraulic Control Unit, Wheel Speed Sensors, and the Electronic Control Unit (ECU). The brake system uses these “add on” ABS components to allow for better control and stopping distance. If you are experiencing this buzzing or little vibrations felt down at your brake pedal and you're on dry ground, you should schedule an inspection on your anti-lock brake system.

What does it mean when my brake pedal is soft or presses all the way to the floor?

This can be very dangerous! You may be able to stop a little, but your pedal goes to the floor and your vehicle takes longer to come to a complete stop. This is normally due to low or leaking brake fluid. This may even be due to the brake pads being completely worn down to the metal backing. With a soft brake pedal or low brake pedal, the most common issues are: leaking brake caliper, leaking wheel cylinder, leaking brake hose or brake line, and mentioned before, brake pads that are completely worn down to the metal backing. In some cases, there may be air in the brake lines. The air should be “bled out” to get the brake pedal back to normal.  

What is the difference between disc style and drum style brakes?

Drum style brakes were common prior to the 1980’s. Vehicle’s used to have drum style brakes on the front and the rear axle. Nowadays, vehicles typically have all four wheels with disc style brakes. The difference is in the mechanics. Drum style brakes use two horseshoe style “shoes” at each wheel that expand to an outer surface inside of a capped drum using a spring mechanism to adjust how hard the brake shoes are engaged. With the disc style brake system, there is a rotating disc rotor that has two outer pads that straddle the disc inside of a caliper and are pressed together around the outside of the disc to slow the disc down. See images below.

Disc Style Brakes

Drum Style Brakes

How long should my brakes last?

A very common question asked is the length of time you can expect out of a set of new brakes. The answer varies depending on the driver and on the vehicle manufacturer. How often do you use your brakes? Do you drive to work in stop and go traffic? Do you go home in stop and go traffic? Do you have an electric vehicle that uses regenerative braking? Do you commute to work early in the morning on the interstate before traffic gets busy? The average mileage we see is between 40,000 miles and 80,000 miles.

How much do brakes cost to replace?

The cost varies from vehicle to vehicle and it really depends on the situation of the brake concern. There are so many factors that come into play when fixing brake issues. Is there a rock stuck in the brake pads? Are the calipers leaking? Can the calipers be lubricated? Is the brake fluid leaking? I could go on and on, but the key in asking these questions is to get you thinking a little. A brake inspection would be recommended to find the exact issue you are experiencing. Once the exact issue is found by a technician, then a proper cost estimate can be given.

Funny sounds that your brakes make

Have you ever called your auto repair shop and explained to them the odd noise your brakes are making? If you have, you've probably described one of these common brake noises. 

  • Squeeeeeeeeak Squeeeeeeeeeak
  • Scraaaaape Scraaaaaape
  • Scrrrrrrrrrrrrratch Scrrrrrrrrrrrratch
  • Griiiiiiiiiiind
  • Tap Tap Tap Tap Tap Tap
  • Clink Clink Clink Clink Clink

If you're vehicle is making any of these noises it's time to call your favorite auto repair shop. Don't worry you don't have to replicate the noise yourself. You can just bring it in and have your trusted technician listen to it for you! 

Brake Video Giving Visual Of Brake Components

- Jordan M.


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