The rule of thumb is that we learn from our mistakes, but that doesn’t work when it comes to your car’s brakes. The lesson you might learn from a total brake failure is just too costly. Instead learn to look, hear, and feel for signs that it’s time to get your brakes checked. Repairs to brakes are never optional, and they can never be put off for another day.
Squishy brakes are something you feel in your brake pedal when you have to push the pedal further than you usually do. That means either the master cylinder isn’t doing its job or your brake lines might have air in them. Have them both checked.
Squealing brakes usually means that your brake pads are on their last legs. Brake pads are manufactured so they give off this sound when you’ve ground them down to a point where you only have a couple of thousand miles left on the pads.
Grinding brakes means you probably ignored the squealing, and there’s nothing left of your pads. In this case, the metal of the brake pads is now grinding on the rotors, and both will need to be replaced.
Pulling brakes are usually caused by misadjusted brakes, so one side is braking harder than the other and car will actually feel like it’s being steered to one side or another without you doing anything. This can be caused by a sticky brake caliper, grease on the actual brake pads, or a sticky parking brake.
These are all ways to hear and feel your way around your braking system, but don’t forget to simply look. If the ABS light is on, for example, you’ll need to get that diagnosed.
The author Barry LaPatner said “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” Unfortunately that doesn’t work when it comes to your brakes. Bad judgment that involves your brakes is never worth it.