How To Tell if a Car’s Brakes Need to Be Replaced

Published on May 21, 2024 at 5:18 pm in Car Accidents.

How To Tell if a Car's Brakes Need to Be Replaced

If you research the different factors that contribute to car accidents, you’ll find car maintenance issues on that list.

Some reports suggest that there are, on average, around 45,000 crashes across the nation that are attributable to this. Other estimates show that as much as 20% of all auto accidents that occur in our country are caused by a lack of roadworthiness. While most of these wrecks appear to be attributable to tire issues, there are undoubtedly some that can be blamed on brake issues.

Most of us aren’t mechanics and know very little about the inner workings of our vehicles to understand if something’s wrong with them.

So, the focus of this article will be on how to tell if a car’s brakes need to be replaced. We’re hopeful that this knowledge will minimize your chances of becoming involved in a crash.

A Primer on Your Vehicle’s Braking System

Before we delve into a discussion about how to tell if your brakes need replacing, we feel it important to explain how, although often referred to as if it’s a singular part on your vehicle, that’s not the case, according to the Universal Technical Institute.

As the header above suggests, there’s a whole braking system that comprises multiple parts, each of which works in tandem to actually help your car slow down and ultimately stop.

The various components that comprise your braking system include the following (plus others):

  • Brake pads
  • Calipers
  • Brake fluid and the reservoir that holds it
  • Rotors
  • Brake drums
  • Sensors
  • Pistons
  • Brakes lines
  • Master cylinders
  • A brake pedal
  • Seals

We bring this up simply to guide you in understanding that some of the reasonings we may provide in the next section, even if ruled out, may still mean that you have a potentially hazardous vehicle on your hands.

That’s why you need to take any changes in sounds, operation, etc., as a sign to get your automobile to a mechanic for a checkup.

Signs To Look for That May Indicate Your Brakes Are Failing

Two unmistakable indicators that there may be a braking system issue are if your vehicle has a brake fluid or brake pad icon illuminated on its dashboard or if you notice that your car doesn’t slow or stop as quickly as it once did.

However, different situations, like a faulty sensor or computer reset issue, may be to blame for the light coming on without there being any actual problem with your brakes. Additionally, poor quality, wet or icy roads, encountering an oil slick, and limited tread life left on your tires may make it more challenging to slow your vehicle but have nothing to do with your brakes needing servicing.

Indicator issues or delayed or no braking aside, if you hear any of the following when you press your foot on the brake pedal, it may indicate that you are having trouble with this system and need to have it checked out:

  • A high-pitch shrilling or screeching noise, even after replacing the pads
  • A grinding sound
  • Certain ways the brake pedal may feel or act when you press on it, such as the following examples, may also be cause for alarm:
    • A lack (or over-responsiveness)
    • Pulsating or vibrating

In terms of “feels,” another issue that may let you know that your brakes are quickly failing is if your car tends to veer in one direction when you’re operating it.

While most motorists would assume this indicates that they need a tire alignment, in some cases, it could be that the vehicle is navigating in one direction because the brakes have already failed on one side, leading the vehicle to swing out as it slows on the other.

Sounds and the way things feel aside, while you cannot see every component of your braking system when standing alongside your vehicle with the tire still in place, if you look through your wheel’s spokes, you can generally see your brake pads and assess their thickness. Any brake pad that appears to be 1/4 of an inch or less thick probably needs to be replaced.

If you are unsure about its thickness or see an accumulation of brake dust inside the wheel well, you’ll want to have that looked at right away.

Factors That Impact How Long Different Braking System Components Last

Different parts that play a role in helping an automobile brake last varying amounts of time. Here are some examples of the longevities of these different braking components:

  • Brake pads: They generally last anywhere from 30,000 to as much as 100,000 miles; however, some mechanics discourage motorists from waiting until these are nearing the end of their lifetime to replace them for optimal braking performance. Some auto shops suggest having them reassessed at the 10,000-20,000 mile point is a good choice.
  • Calipers: These are quite durable and generally last 10 years or up to 100,000 miles.
  • Brake fluid: Most mechanics recommend having this fluid level topped off each time you have an oil change performed. Some auto shops recommend having a brake fluid flush as often as every two years or at each 30,000-mile interval.
  • Rotors: These should generally be switched out every 50,000-70,000 miles to ensure they’re performing as they should.

While there are general timelines different braking components should last, a factor like how often a motorist travels in stop-and-go city traffic versus on an interstate, where there should be very little slowing or stopping, may impact their longevity.

Types of Auto Accidents Caused by Brake Problems

Here at Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, we’ve represented clients who’ve been hurt in the following accidents in Jackson and other parts of Mississippi, the causes of which we’ve been able to trace back to brake issues:

  • Rear-end crashes
  • T-bone collisions (intersection wrecks)
  • Sideswipe accidents
  • Head-on crashes
  • Rollover accidents (overturn collisions)

An unfortunate consequence of all this is that brake problems often result in high-impact crashes that cause catastrophic injuries and vehicle damage. It’s not uncommon for individuals to be ejected from their automobiles when collisions stemming from brake issues occur.

We’d be happy to share more about our abundance of experience in holding negligent parties, including drivers, mechanics, auto parts manufacturers, and others, liable for their actions and how you might be able to do the same. You may find that you’re eligible to recover compensation for your losses by filing a car accident claim.

Reach out to us to discuss your case and learn more about the rights Mississippi law affords you in your case. It’s free to meet with a lawyer from our office.

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