7 Signs of Bad Brakes and What Causes it?

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signs of bad brakes

Your car’s brakes are one of the most important safety features. If they aren’t working properly, you could have a serious accident.

That’s why it’s important to be able to spot the signs of bad brakes. This article will discuss seven signs that your brakes may need to be replaced. We’ll also talk about what causes bad brakes and how you can prevent them from happening.

Brake warning light, soft brake pedal, vibration when braking, the car pulling to one side, squeaking or grinding noise when brakes are applied, and a burning smell from the brakes. These are all signs that your brakes need to be inspected or repaired.

How Does Car Braking System Work?

Before we get into the signs of bad brakes, let’s briefly discuss how a car’s braking system works. The braking system in a vehicle is made up of several parts that work together to generate the braking force that slows the vehicle down.

The system’s main components are brake pads, rotors, brake caliper, fluid lines, hoses, discs, drums, and master cylinders. Each of these parts has a specific function in the system, and they all work together to create the braking force.

There are two main types of brakes-disc brakes and drum brakes. Disc brakes have pads that grip the brake rotors, while drum brakes have shoes that press against the brake drums.

When you press the brake pedal, fluid is forced through the lines and into the brake calipers or wheel cylinders. This pressure causes the pads or shoes to clamp down on the rotors or rear drum brakes, slow down, or stop the wheels from turning.

The master cylinder contains a piston that is connected to the brake pedal. When you push the pedal, the piston in the master cylinder moves and pressurizes the fluid in the lines.

This pressure is transmitted to the calipers or wheel cylinders, which then apply pressure to the pads or shoes. The pads or shoes then grip the rotors or drums, slowing down or stopping the wheels from turning.

Disc brakes are more common on newer cars, while drum brakes are more common on older cars. Disc brakes are generally more effective than drum brakes because they provide better cooling and don’t fade easily.

Disc brakes also tend to be less affected by contamination than drum brakes. However, disc brakes can lead to more expensive brake repairs than drum brakes, so it’s important to know how both braking systems work to decide which type of brake system is right for your car.

What are the Signs of Bad Brakes?

Now that we’ve discussed how the braking system works let’s get into the signs of bad brakes. These are seven signs that your brakes may need to be replaced:

  1. Brake Warning Light
  2. Brake Pedal Going to Floor
  3. Low Brake Fluid Level
  4. Steering Wheel Pulling to One Side
  5. Grinding Sound From Brake Rotor
  6. Vibration While Braking
  7. Burning Smell From Worn Brake Pads

Let’s try and understand each one of these signs in detail:

1. Brake Warning Light:

Next time you’re driving, look at your car’s dashboard. You’ll probably see a light that looks like an exclamation point inside a circle. That’s the brake warning light, which lets you know when there’s a problem with your brakes.

When the brake light comes on, it can mean several things. It could be a sign that your brake pads are worn and need to be replaced, or it could be a sign that there’s something wrong with the hydraulic system.

It could also be a sign that the parking brake is engaged or indicate a problem with the anti-lock braking system. If you see the brake warning light come on, it’s important to have your brakes checked as soon as possible by a qualified mechanic.

2. Brake Pedal Going to Floor:

One common brake issue is a spongy or soft brake pedal. Your brake pedal goes to the floor due to this. Several things can cause this, but the most likely culprit is a leak in the hydraulic system.

When fluid leaks out, it reduces the overall pressure in the system, making it harder for the brakes to engage. In addition, air bubbles can form in the fluid, reducing its effectiveness.

If you notice that your brake pedal is feeling softer than usual, get it checked. Left unchecked, a leaking hydraulic system can lead to complete brake failure.

3. Leaking Brake Fluid:

Of all the fluids in your car, brake fluid is one of the most important. It helps to transfer the force from your foot on the pedal to the brakes themselves.

Plus, it also helps to keep the brakes cool. When you press the brake pedal, hydraulic fluid is sent to the brakes, resulting in the wheels slowing down or stopping.

If your car has a brake fluid leak, there isn’t enough fluid available to apply the brakes properly. This can result in longer stopping distances, reduced braking power, or even complete failure of the brakes.

A brake fluid leak can also cause damage to other parts of the braking system, so it’s important to have it repaired as soon as possible.

There are several reasons why brake fluid might leak, including a worn seal or piston in the master cylinder, a sticking caliper, or a crack in the brake line. Regardless of the cause, a brake fluid leak is always serious and should be addressed by a qualified mechanic.

4. Steering Wheel Pulling to One Side:

Have you ever been driving along and had your steering wheel start pulling to one side? If so, getting your car checked out as soon as possible is a good idea.

Steering wheel pulling is usually a sign of bad brakes. When the brake pads wear down, they cause the calipers to misalign. The brake pads apply uneven pressure to the rotors, making the steering wheel pull to one side.

In addition, worn-out brake pads can cause vibrations in the steering wheel. So, if you’re experiencing any steering wheel problems, it’s a good idea to get your car brakes checked out by a professional.

5. Grinding Sound From Brake Rotor:

Grinding, squeaking, or squealing sounds indicate that your brakes need repair. If you ignore these warning signs, you could end up stranded on the side of the road with a broken-down car. Worse yet, you could get into an accident.

In most cases, the noise is caused by worn-out brake pads. As the pads wear down, they rub against the rotors, causing a high-pitched squealing sound.

If the problem is not addressed, the pads will eventually wear away completely, exposing the metal calipers. This can cause a loud grinding noise as you brake. In some cases, brake noise can also be caused by a build-up of road debris on the pads or rotors.

6. Vibration While Braking:

When you step on the brakes, your car should slow down smoothly. However, if your brakes are bad, it can cause your vehicle to vibrate.

There are a few different reasons why this might happen. First, if your brake pads are worn out, they may not be able to grip the brake rotor properly.

This can cause the rotor to vibrate, which will be felt in the steering wheel or seat. Additionally, if the brake rotors are warped, they can cause vibration.

Warped rotors can occur due to excessive heat, so if you’ve been driving hard or downhill for a long time, they may be the reason for the vibration. Finally, if there is any build-up on the brake pads or rotors, it can also cause vibration.

7. Burning Smell From Worn Brake Pads:

Have you ever had the experience of stepping on the brakes and smelling something burning? If so, you’re not alone.

Many people have encountered this problem at one time or another. So what causes this burning smell? In most cases, it is simply the result of your brakes getting too hot.

Brakes work by creating friction, and friction generates heat. When your brakes are used excessively or when they are first installed, they can get quite hot.

This can cause the pads to break down and release chemicals that produce a burning smell. In most cases, this is nothing to worry about and will eventually go away on its own.

However, if the burning smell persists or is accompanied by smoke or sparks, it is important to keep checking brake pad wear indicators and get brake pads replaced.

What are the Causes of Bad Brakes?

There are a few different reasons why your brakes might go bad. Let’s find out:

1. Improper Maintenance:

Not everyone is aware of the importance of taking care of their brakes. When brakes are not properly maintained, it can lead to several problems. For example, brake pads can wear down prematurely, causing the brakes to become less effective.

In addition, brake fluid can become dirty or contaminated, leading to reduced performance and increased wear on components. If you want to avoid these problems, it is important to have your brakes checked and serviced regularly

2. Driving in Stop-and-Go Traffic:

Have you ever been stuck in stop-and-go traffic, your foot heavy on the brake pedal? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a recent study, nearly two-thirds of American drivers have experienced this frustrating scenario.

And it turns out; there may be a good reason for all that braking. You see, repeated stop-and-go driving can lead to bad car brakes.

The main reason for this is heat. Every time you hit the brakes, friction occurs, and that friction generates heat. When constantly stopping and starting in traffic, that heat can damage your brake pads and rotor.

3. Car Sitting For Too Long:

When a car sits for too long, the brake pads can start to rust, and the rotors can warp. This can lead to reduced braking power and an increased risk of accidents. If you’re going to let your car sit for more than a few days, it’s important to take steps to avoid brake repair.

One way is to consider investing in a quality set of brake covers. These are designed to protect the pads and rotors from moisture and corrosion, and they can help extend the life of your brakes.

4. Contaminated Brake Fluid:

Brake fluid can become contaminated over time, leading to several problems. First, contaminated fluid may cause your brakes to feel spongy or unresponsive.

Additionally, it can cause premature wear on brake components, leading to expensive repairs down the road. Finally, contaminated fluid may cause your brakes to fail, putting you and your passengers at risk.

5. Leaking or Faulty Calipers:

Leaking or faulty calipers can lead to bad car brakes in several ways. First, if the caliper is leaking fluid, it will not be able to generate the necessary force to stop the wheel from turning.

Second, a faulty caliper may stick in the “on” position, constantly applying pressure to the brake pad and causing premature wear. Finally, a caliper that is not properly mounted can rub against the brake rotor, creating friction and heat that can damage the rotor.

6. Improper Wheel Alignment:

If your car’s wheels are not properly aligned, it can lead to several problems – one of which is premature wear on your brakes. When your wheels are out of alignment, your car tends to pull to one side.

This puts extra strain on your brakes, as they have to work harder to keep the car going straight. Over time, this can cause the brake pads to wear down prematurely.

7. Worn Out Suspension Parts:

One of the most important functions of the suspension is to absorb shock and keep the tires in contact with the road.

Over time, however, suspension components can wear out, causing the shocks to lose effectiveness. This can lead to several problems, including bad brakes.

When the shocks are worn out, they can’t absorb impact as effectively, which means that more of the force is transmitted to the brake system.

This can put extra strain on the brakes and cause them to wear out faster. Additionally, worn-out shocks can cause the tires to lose contact with the road, making it harder to stop or turn quickly.

8. Air in the Brake Lines:

One potential problem that can lead to bad brakes is air in the brake lines. This can happen if there’s a leak in the system somewhere.

When the air gets into the lines, it can compress when the brakes are applied, which makes it harder for the brakes to work effectively. In extreme cases, this can even lead to brake failure.

9. Cracked or Broken Brake Hose:

Cracked or broken brake hoses can cause a loss of brake fluid and hydraulic pressure. This can make it difficult for your brakes to keep gripping the rotor or drum, making it harder for you to stop.

Additionally, brake fluid leaks can lead to corrosion on your brake components, eventually leading to failure. Even if the hose doesn’t leak, damaged hoses can restrict the flow of brake fluid, leading to reduced braking power.

10. Bad Driving Habits:

Several driving habits can contribute to brake problems. For example, slamming the brakes hard can cause the brake pads to wear out more quickly. In addition, riding the brakes while driving downhill can overheat the brakes and cause them to malfunction.

If you find yourself having to brake frequently, it’s important to take steps to correct the problem. Otherwise, you may be putting unnecessary strain on your brakes, leading to expensive repairs down the road.

How Do You Prevent Brakes From Going Bad?

One of the most important safety features of your car is the brakes. It is essential to regularly check your brakes and make sure they are in good working order. There are a few different ways to prevent your brakes from going bad.

  • First, your brakes can be serviced at regular intervals according to your car’s maintenance schedule. This will help identify potential problems early on and prevent them from becoming serious.
  • Additionally, you can avoid excessive wear on your brakes by driving sensibly and avoiding hard braking whenever possible.
  • Finally, you can make sure your brake fluid is topped up regularly. This will help to ensure that your brakes are always operating at their best.

Following these simple tips can help keep your brakes in good condition and avoid costly repairs down the road.

Brakes Replacement Cost

If your brake pads start to wear thin, it’s time to replace them. However, your mechanic can tell you whether or not your brake pads need to be replaced and can give you an estimate of the cost.

Brake pads typically range in cost from $130-$300 per axle, and brake rotor replacement can cost anywhere from $100-$200, depending on the make and model of your car.

So, while replacing your brakes can be expensive, it’s worth it for your safety and your car’s longevity. Do yourself a favor and get your brakes checked regularly!


Knowing when to replace your car brakes is important for your safety and wallet. While most newer cars have sensors that will let you know when your brakes need to be serviced, there are still a lot of older vehicles on the road that don’t have this feature.

This is where knowledge of signs of bad brakes comes in handy. If you know what to look for, you can replace your brakes before they cause any major damage.

If you’re unsure about anything, always err on the side of caution and take your car to a professional. They’ll be able to tell you for sure whether or not your brakes need to be replaced and can even give you an estimate of the cost.

Don’t wait until it’s too late – get your brakes checked today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to drive with bad brakes?

If your brakes are making strange noises or you have to press the pedal down further than usual, it’s time to get them checked out. Driving with bad brakes can be extremely dangerous, as you may not be able to stop in time if an emergency arises.

Not to mention, bad brakes can also lead to accidents. If you’re involved in a collision, the other driver may try to sue you for damages if they can prove that your brakes were faulty.

So, while it may be tempting to put off getting your brakes fixed, it’s really not worth the risk. Play it safe and take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Is it legal to drive with bad brakes?

Many people are surprised to learn that driving with bad brakes is not illegal. However, this does not mean that it is a good idea! Driving with brakes that are not in good condition can be extremely dangerous.

After all, brakes allow you to slow down and stop your car, so if they are not working properly, it can be very difficult to avoid accidents. In addition, driving with bad brakes can also lead to significant wear and tear on your car’s tires and suspension.

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