What Are Some Signs Your Vehicle’s Brakes Are Failing?

chevrolet traverse having wheels swapped

All the parts of your vehicle have been carefully engineered to work in concert, ensuring that you can get from one place to another with efficiency and ease. And while it’s hard to place one of your vehicle’s systems as more important than another, it probably goes without saying: your brakes are some of the most important parts. Your brakes are the critical system that allows your vehicle to stop, keeping you safe. That’s why we’ve gathered a list of signs to look out for when it comes to your brakes, so that you can hit the road confidently every time you get behind the wheel.

Signs Your Brakes Aren’t Working Properly

There are four critical signs that your brakes aren’t working properly, and they are all relatively easy to notice. Because brakes are so critical to your safety (and the safety of others), these aren’t issues you should ignore until they escalate. If you experience any of the following signs, please pull over and contact your preferred vehicle service provider immediately.

A Vibrating Steering Wheel

If your steering wheel starts to shake or vibrate when you press on the brake pedal, there is almost certainly something wrong with your brakes. At worst, ignoring this problem can lead to the loss of your ability to brake. At best, ignoring it will result in a serious repair bill down the road.

A Soft, or Mushy, Brake Pedal

Your brakes should be responsive, and you shouldn’t have to press harder than normal if everything is working properly. However, a brake that feels soft or mushy is indicative that your brakes need some attention; this could be worn brake shoes, a brake fluid leak, or some other issue and should be addressed immediately.

Noisy Brakes

If your brakes make a surplus of noise—whether that’s a screech, a squeal, or a grinding sound—your brakes likely need to be replaced. Modern brakes use what’s called a caliper to clamp down on the rotor, slowing the vehicle and bringing it to a stop. When these parts are rubbing or grinding, creating noise, it’s a clear sign they need to be replaced.

A Burning Smell

You probably never want to smell something burning in your vehicle, but this is doubly true of your brakes. If your vehicle is producing a burning smell, especially if it’s coming from the wheel area, the metal parts of the brakes are likely touching in a way they weren’t meant to do. That, or they’re becoming incredibly hot, which will reduce their efficacy. This is one of those situations where you definitely need to pull over as quickly and safely as you can. 

This isn’t meant to scare you; brake failure is relatively rare—and it becomes even more rare when you take good care of your vehicle, like following the recommended service intervals. Not only that, but your vehicle likely has an onboard diagnostic system that will alert you—usually via a warning light on your dash—that there is a problem. Please don’t ignore this message, because your safety and the safety of other people on the road will be in jeopardy. If you have any questions about brakes, or simply want to have an experienced professional take a look to make sure yours are operating properly, simply stop by Calgary’s Jack Carter Chevrolet GMC and let one of our certified service technicians take a look!