There are few items on your car more critical than your brakes, so routine service is essential to ensure that your vehicle is safe to drive. While you should never ignore any braking problem, certain symptoms indicate that a critical failure is imminent or has already happened. When you notice these problems on your car, it's time to schedule an appointment with a friendly local mechanic as soon as possible. In some cases, these problems may be so severe that it is imperative to immediately pull over and have your car towed safely to a shop.
Soft Pedal Feel
Has your brake pedal suddenly gone mushy? Does it flop down to the floor when you press on it? Your car's braking system relies on hydraulic pressure to transmit the force from your feet into stopping action at your wheels. When your pedal feels unusually soft, it is indicative of an issue with your hydraulic braking fluid. A spongy feeling pedal usually indicates air in the brake lines, and a bleeding procedure can often solve this. If this is the extent of your symptoms (and your car still seems to stop well), then it is usually safe to drive your vehicle to a shop.
On the other hand, it is never safe to drive a car when the brake pedal falls to the floor or there no longer seems to be any resistance. If this happens, immediately pull over and call for a tow. A total lack of resistance almost always means that you are losing brake fluid and that there is no longer sufficient pressure in one or both of your brake circuits. At this point, your brakes may cease to function entirely at any time.
Loud, Metallic Grinding
Grinding that is audible from inside the vehicle when using the brakes is the result of metal-on-metal contact with the brake rotors. In most cases, this means that your brake caliper is now in direct contact with the rotor disc. Although there may be other causes, this is usually the result of brake pads that have become too worn. In other words, you can expect to hear grinding once you no longer hear the telltale squeal of the brake wear indicator. When your brakes grind, the damage is already being done to the brake discs. The longer you ignore grinding brakes, the more worn your rotors will become, so you should get them repaired today. If left for long enough, your rotors will eventually become too scored to resurface, and they will require replacement.
Pulling While Braking
If your car pulls to one side while braking, then the most likely culprit is a stuck caliper. A stuck caliper can no longer fully retract its piston, leaving the brake pad material in contact with the rotor. You may also notice grinding as a result of the constant contact, but this is often only audible at low speeds. Once you begin to accelerate, the rotational speed of the discs overcomes the friction and the grinding is no longer discernible. While not as immediately dangerous as a lack of hydraulic pressure, it is still essential to fix a stuck caliper as quickly as possible. Not only can it make your car more difficult to control, but it will reduce your braking performance and eventually wear out both your brake pads and your rotor.
For more information, contact a company like Buettner Tire & Auto.