It should be pretty obvious to all drivers that brakes are an essential factor in making sure your car is safe to drive. But for some reason, all too many drivers are complacent about keeping up with brake repairs and preventive maintenance. Brake pads wear down relatively quickly (especially in automatic transmissions, which are far more common — on the used car market, they outnumber manuals 10 to 1), and they need to be replaced before more extensive damage is caused to the brake rotors themselves. Brake fluid is also essential, and yet a recent car maintenance survey found that 18% of vehicles had contaminated or low brake fluid. That can lead to total brake failure.
The good news is that brake pad service doesn’t cost much, and there are often brake service specials throughout the year. If you are uncomfortable with the upfront cost, you need to remember that brake maintenance should cut down on brake repairs. And even the cost of brake repair is nothing compared to the costs, both financial and emotional, of a car accident.
How can you know if your brakes are in need of some attention? Here are seven signs the Car Care Council recommends looking out for:
- Noise: The brakes make any screeching, clicking or grinding noises when you apply pressure.
- Pulling: The car drifts to the right or left when you brake.
- Low Pedal: You have to push the pedal nearly to the floor before it engages.
- Hard Pedal: You have to apply a great deal of pressure to the pedal before the brakes engage.
- Grabbing: The brakes grab when you barely press on the pedal.
- Vibration: The brake pedal shakes, vibrates or pulsates even when you’re braking slowly and on a normal surface.
- Light On: The dashboard brake light is illuminated.
Even if you aren’t seeing any of these symptoms, keep in mind that brakes should always be part of your annual inspection. Car inspections are a modest cost when compared to your overall investment in your vehicle, and they can keep you safe and save you money in the long term. And since there are around 87,032 auto repair shops in the U.S., you really have no excuse for skipping preventive measures.
How often do you invest in brake maintenance or brake repair? Join the discussion in the comments.