Most drivers have experienced braking hard when the car in front of them hits their brakes unexpectedly. You mash the brake pedal and assume that the brakes do what they are supposed to do, just like every time before. A vehicle’s brakes, unlike oil changes, are not always at the top of a driver’s routine maintenance list. However, because of the sheer operating mechanics, every driver should be aware of the symptoms of tired and worn brakes that might indicate a need for brake repair.

Detecting problems is the first step in preventing a catastrophe when it comes to your vehicle’s brakes. Below are the most recognizable symptoms of worn brakes indicating a visit to Lex Brodie’s tire might be in your future:

Driver Feel – Quite often, problems with a vehicle’s brakes, are first felt by the driver, either through the steering wheel or through the brake pedal or both. A steering wheel that jiggles or vibrates when the brake pedal is depressed is typically a symptom of warped rotors. This may feel similar to the vibration or “thumping” experienced when the vehicle’s anti-lock brakes (ABS) kick in during a sudden braking episode, as when a car begins to slip on ice. The ABS system engages to prevent out of control skids and any other time the vibration is felt when braking is a sign of other problems. Generally, warped rotors occur in vehicles that brakes excessively under extreme conditions such as repeated towing or descending steep grades. The vibration is a result of the brake pads not being able to evenly grab the surface of the rotor.

Sound – Brake pad manufacturers include an audible warning system known as an indicator (metal shim) on their brake pads, which emit a shrill, intense squealing noise when the pads reach a pre-determined thickness. When the pads wear down to 1/4-inch thickness, the indicator makes contact with the rotor, producing the screeching noise. Lower-cost brake pads may not be equipped with indicators or they may fall off, so relying on the tell-tale noise is not recommended. Another sound that may be noticed is a grinding noise, which often means the brakes pads are completely worn through, and the metal discs are rubbing against the metal calipers. If not repaired soon by a brake and service company, the rotors will become damaged and need to be replaced, effectively increasing the relatively low cost of brake pad replacement.

Other indications of worn brakes are increased stopping distances or a brake pedal that feels “mushy” or “sinks” to the floorboard. The latter could mean an air leak in the hose or leaking brake fluid. In any case, the best plan is to make an appointment with a reputable company like for brake service. Being aware of worn brakes not only saves you money in the long run but may also prevent accidents. As with all things mechanical, maintenance is the best preventative.