DIAGNOSING COMMON BRAKE PROBLEMS
Your car’s braking system is arguably the most important system in your
vehicle. It’s imperative to understand the cause of the most common brake problems and learn how to
If you suspect problems with your brakes, whether it’s a soft pedal or a sharp grinding
sound, it’s best to address the situation immediately.
repairs are best left to experts, so if you don’t have experience diagnosing and repairing these
systems, bring your car or light truck to one of our three Begley Auto Repair Shops along Manatee
Avenue in Bradenton Florida to have your brakes properly inspected and repaired.
1. Spongelike or Soft Pedal - A spongy feeling or soft
brake pedal is a sure sign of a problem. If you have to pump the brakes for them to work effectively,
or you notice the brake pedal traveling further towards the floor than usual, this is indicative of a
loss of pressure in the braking system.
Most brakes systems are hydraulic, with a master cylinder that regulates the
pressurized hydraulic fluid that runs through lines to the brakes at each wheel. When you hit your
pedal, it activates the fluid in the master cylinder, which in turn controls the mechanical functions
of the actual brakes to slow and stop your vehicle.
When the brake pedal is soft or spongy, there could be a leak in one of the brake
lines. Leaks can occur where the lines meet at the wheels, where the lines discharge from the master
cylinder, or anywhere in between, and aren’t always easy to spot. If the loss of pressure is caused by
an internal failure in the master cylinder, however, you may not see fluid leaking externally.
Improperly bled brakes may also cause a soft pedal, with air bubbles in the brake lines
hindering your hydraulic pressure. This problem may be solved through the simple procedure of properly
bleeding the brakes. A more involved repair could include replacement of brake lines, either one or
all. The most expensive and complicated repairs to solve this problem typically would include
replacement of the master cylinder.
2. Irregular Noises - If you hear a
metallic sound or screeching when you use your brakes, it could be the brake pads are worn down and
need to be replaced. It can also be an indication that damaged or low quality brake pads have harmed
your rotors. Warped rotors or a damaged caliper can also cause you to feel a shudder in the steering
wheel when applying the brakes. While replacing brake pads is a relatively low cost and quick job,
machining warped rotors or installing new rotors is labor intensive and a more costly repair.
3. Brake Indicator Light -
Lastly, if you see
the brake warning light on your dashboard, do not ignore it. Immediately stop your vehicle and do not
use it again until the braking systems can be properly inspected.
For more information on common brake problems and brake systems, stop into one of our
three Begley Auto Repair Shops along Manatee Avenue in Bradenton Florida and lets discuss any
questions or concerns that you have about your vehicles braking system.
What is it?
Your car’s brake system is its most critical safety system and you should check it immediately if you suspect any
problems. A properly operating brake system helps ensure safe vehicle control and operation under a wide variety of
What does it do?
When you push the brake pedal, the force generates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder. This pressure flows
through the hydraulic lines and hoses to the wheel cylinders and calipers, forcing the shoes against the drums (drum
brakes) and the pads against the rotors (disc brakes). The resulting friction slows the vehicle and is relative to the
amount of force applied at the brake pedal.
Typical Wear and Tear
Brakes are a normal wear item for any car and eventually they’re going to need replacement. Avoid letting your brakes
get to the “metal-to-metal” point, which usually means expensive rotor or drum replacement. Factors that affect wear
include driving habits and quality of brake pads and shoes.
● Car pulls to one side during braking
● Pulsating brake pedal or steering wheel shake
● Brake pedal feels “mushy”
● Unusual noise when you step on the brake pedal
● Repeatedly need to add brake fluid to the master cylinder
● Brake fluid sprayed onto outside of wheel
● Unusual odor or noise
DESCRIPTION OF BRAKE REPAIR
A fully functioning brake system is crucial to your safety, the safety of
your passengers, and the safety of other drivers on the road. Your
vehicle’s brake system involves highly engineered parts and precise
movements that stop your vehicle by converting kinetic energy into thermal
energy. When you press down on the brake pedal, the master cylinder
pressurizes a system of hydraulic brake lines leading to each of the
vehicle’s wheels, where brake pads or shoes press against a disc or drum
and create the necessary friction needed to slow the vehicle to a complete
stop. Over time, this friction and heat has the potential to wear down the
brake shoes, brake pads, calipers, brake rotors, and other braking
components. While the components comprising each brake system may vary,
the warning signs for impending brake repairs are the same.
BENEFITS OF BRAKE REPAIR
Bad brakes display warning signs for impending brake maintenance. For
example, if your brakes squeal or grind when in use, then your brake pads
may be worn and require replacements. If your vehicle pulls to one side
when braking, then this may point to worn brakes, a malfunctioning
caliper, or low brake fluid in the brake lines. If your brake pedal
presses down too easily—also known as “spongy” brakes—then this may be an
indication of too much air in the hydraulic brake lines. Sometimes, your
vehicle’s electronic diagnostic system will alert you to a potential brake
issue by a service indicator light on the dashboard. While these are only
some of the most common signs of potential problems with your vehicle’s
brake system, noticing these signs of faulty brakes and seeking out a
brake service can save you money down the line. Our staff is trained in
maintaining and servicing front and rear brake systems and all
accompanying brake system components like brake pads, brake shoes, parking
brakes, rotors, drums, and hydraulic systems. If you experience any of the
above signs or symptoms of bad brakes, like unusual squealing or grinding
noises, then contact us online or call us today to have your brakes
Our ASE certified technicians in Bradenton Florida can properly
inspect the following brake components:
Disc brakes consist of a Disc Brake Rotor, which is attached to the wheel,
and a Caliper, which holds the Disc Brake Pads. Hydraulic
pressure from the Master Cylinder causes the Caliper Piston to clamp the
Disc Brake Rotor between the Disc Brake Pads. This creates friction
between the pads and rotor, causing your car to slow down or stop.
● Disc brake rotors and pads
● Calipers and hardware
brakes consist of a Brake Drum attached to the wheel, a Wheel Cylinder,
Brake Shoes and Brake Return Springs. Hydraulic pressure from the Master
Cylinder causes the Wheel Cylinder to press the Brake Shoes against the
Brake Drum. This creates friction between the shoes and drum to slow or
stop your car.
Brake drums and shoes
Anti-Lock Brakes: A System Built For
Computer-controlled anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are a recently
developed safety feature. When sudden stops are made, the ABS prevents
wheel lock-up. The system is comprised of wheel-speed sensors that monitor
wheel rotation, computer-controlled hydraulics that pulse the brakes on
and off rapidly, and the on-board computer.
Your vehicle's brake system is a culmination of over 100 years of
technological innovation, transforming crude stopping mechanisms into
dependable and efficient equipment. While brake systems vary by make and
model, the basic system consists of disc brakes in front and either disk
or drum brakes in back. Connected by a series of tubes and hoses, your
brakes link to each wheel and to the master cylinder, which supply them
with vital brake fluid (hydraulic fluid).
We can summarize all of your braking equipment into two categories,
Hydraulics and Friction Material:
The master cylinder is like a pressure converter. When you press down on
the brake pedal (physical pressure), the master cylinder converts this to
hydraulic pressure, and brake fluid moves into the wheel brakes.
Brake Lines and Hoses:
Brake lines hoses deliver pressurized brake fluid to the braking unit(s)
at each wheel.
Wheel Cylinders and Calipers:
Wheel Cylinders surrounded by two rubber-sealed pistons connect the piston
with the brake shoe. Push the brakes and the pistons stop and the shoes
pushes into the drum. Calipers squeeze brake pads onto the rotor to stop
your car. Both components apply pressure to friction materials.
Disc Brake Pads and Drum Brake Shoes:
A disc brake uses fluid (released by the master cylinder) to force
pressure into a caliper, where it presses against a piston. The piston
then squeezes two brake pads against the rotor, forcing it to stop. Brake
shoes consist of a steel shoe with friction material bonded to it.
How It Comes Together:
When you first step on the brake pedal, you are triggering the release of
brake fluid into the system of tubes and hoses, which travel to the
braking unit at each wheel. You actually push against a plunger in the
master cylinder, releasing fluid. Brake fluid can't be compressed. It
moves through the network of tubes and hoses in the exact same motion and
pressure that initiated it. When it comes to stopping a heavy steel
machine at high speed, this consistency is a good thing. The performance
of your brakes can be affected when air gets into the fluid; since air can
compress, it creates sponginess in the pedal, which disrupts consistency,
and results in bad braking efficiency. "Bleeder screws" (located at each
wheel cylinder) remove unwanted air in your system.
A car without functioning brakes is dangerous. In many cases, warning
signs will tell you if your car's brakes may need service.
Warning signs include:
● Squealing or grinding noises when
using brakes. This could mean your brakes need to be adjusted or that your
brake pads are worn and need replacement.
● Your dashboard's Anti-lock Braking
System (ABS) light turns on. This indicates that your brake fluid is low.
You may have a leak in your brake line. Get it inspected.
● While braking, your car pulls to one
side. This means that your brakes need adjustment, there is brake fluid
leakage, or your brakes are worn out and need replacement.
● Your brakes are hard to press down or
feel "spongy." Usually this means air has gotten into your brake lines or
you may have low brake fluid.
● When applying your brakes, your
steering wheel, brake pedal, or entire vehicle begins to shake. If this
happens, your brake rotors could be warped and need replacement.
you notice any brake warning signs, contact our professional staff by
phone, or email, immediately and we'll take care of it.
We want our customers to have the
opportunity to feel comfortable in their vehicle. You can leave the
repairs and services to our professionals, but please don't hesitate to
ask us questions about why a service is needed or how it occurred. We will
be happy to speak with you. Here is some valuable information on brake
issues and corrective services:
Brake Pad & Shoe Replacement
Brake pad problems can usually be identified by squealing brakes. If your
brake pads deteriorate completely, you'll hear a grinding metal-on-metal
sound when braking, meaning that it's too late and you're ruining your
rotors or drums! Those with knowledge of auto repair may be able to fix
this at home, but you should always see an auto repair professional
immediately if you have brake problems.
In a disc brake system, rotors are attached to your vehicle's wheels. When
the brake pads grip the rotor, they bring both the rotor and wheels to a
stop. However, the friction causes grooves and cracks to appear over time.
Resurfacing brings the rotor back to a "like-new" condition, reducing
squealing and wobbling. We will give your rotors a
thorough inspection and recommend your best course of action.
The brake caliper houses your brake pads and fits around the rotor like a
clamp, pressing the pads against the rotor when you brake. A brake caliper
problem could cause uneven braking, making your car slide forward when you
brake. Uneven braking can also cause your vehicle to slide out of control
in bad weather conditions, so contact us as soon as
A brake hose is a tube carrying pressurized brake fluid from the master
cylinder to the brakes. A crushed hose can cause a lagged or slow brake,
and a leak in the hose can cause the brake, or the entire brake system, to
fail. These don't need to be replaced often, but should be replaced at the
first sign of cracking or wear.
Brake Fluid Flushes
Brake fluid will absorb water from the air over time, causing the brake
system to become less effective and the fluid to become corrosive,
possibly damaging the system. It is important to perform a brake fluid
flush regularly to ensure that your vehicle is using fresh fluid. Talk to
our technicians about when it's time for a brake
Wheel bearings are found inside of wheels, allowing the wheels to spin
freely, and are connected to the brake system. They can become worn over
time, causing a vibrating suspension and noisy rubbing as the car is
driven. If they break completely, the vehicle will become very difficult
to control and unsafe to drive. Replacement interval for wheel bearings
varies greatly, but they should be checked for leaks and wear
periodically. WE can make sure that your bearings are
in good shape and let you know if they need replacement.
Anti-Lock Brake System
Anti-lock Brake Systems (ABS) ensure that the wheels don't stop rotating
during braking, preventing the car from skidding and offering greater
control. If your ABS light comes on, visit us and we
will be happy to diagnose and fix the problem.
Parking Brake uses Cables to mechanically apply the brakes (usually the
rear brake.) This is used to prevent the car from rolling when not being