If you notice something’s up with your brakes while you’re driving it’s wise not to take any chances – any sort of brake issue is potentially dangerous.
If you don’t know what the problem is then the best advice is to pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so, then try to establish exactly what’s wrong.
Not all brake problems are equal and some are easier to fix than others. We’ve identified five common problems you might experience with your brakes; here’s a handy rundown to help you diagnose the problem:
Your car shakes when the brakes are applied
It’s not pleasant when the whole car shakes and it can be quite unnerving if you’ve never experienced it before. Due to the laws of physics, when the whole car shakes it’s usually to do with a problem at the rear, so in this case, it’s probably the back brakes that are at fault. Shaking in the front of the car is often caused by the steering wheel.
If you notice the whole car shaking as you apply the brakes you’ll need to take your car to a mechanic as soon as you can.
Your brake pedal moves up and down when the brakes are applied
If your brake pedal moves up and down when you apply the brakes it could be because your rotors are warped. This is a fairly common problem and drivers who cover a lot of miles or do a lot of motorway driving can be especially prone.
If you want to replace your rotors yourself, you should check the condition of your brake pads. If you notice they’re also worn then it’s a good time to change those too.
Your steering wheel shakes when the brakes are applied
This is another problem that can happen at any time but is most commonly experienced when driving at higher speeds. If you’ve noticed your steering wheel shakes when the brakes are applied it could mean the rotors are warped or have irregularities caused by excessive heat. Your rotors can also get rusty if you don’t use your car for long periods.
It’s cheaper to have your rotors resurfaced than replaced, but new ones should last longer. Unfortunately, if the rotors are too worn, you’ll need to replace them anyway.
Your car pulls to one side when braking
It can be very disconcerting when your car pulls to one side, not to mention extremely dangerous if you’re not expecting it. Pulling to one side can be caused by a number of different things including wear on the tyres, however if it’s happening when you apply the brakes then it’s most likely due to a frozen calliper.
You can fix the problem by cleaning the calliper, but it’s usually easier and more effective to simply replace it.
Your brake pedal feels soft
If you notice your brake pedal feels soft you should pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. When your pedal is soft or sinks to the floor and won’t come back up, you have a serious problem and the brakes could fail at any moment.
A soft or unresponsive brake pedal is often caused by loss of pressure or leak in the brake fluid.