Car and Truck Brake Maintenance and Repair
Your car/truck’s brakes are one of its most important safety features because your life and the lives of your passengers depend on them. Troubleshooting car brake problems should be done carefully, cautiously, and thoroughly, since your brakes are one of the most important components of your car and can save your life in normal conditions and emergency situations.
The best method for troubleshooting any car, truck, or SUV brake problem is scheduled maintenance to ensure that all brake components never proceed to the breaking point in the first place. Schedule your maintenance with PJW Auto and rest easy knowing that your car or truck is in the best hands.
A car’s brake system consists of the following: brake pads or brake shoes, rotors and or drums, calipers and or wheel cylinders, hoses, lines, hardware and the master cylinder. There may also be more sophisticated anti-lock brake components. These components must be inspected at pre-defined intervals to ensure the car will be able to stop.
Brake Problem Symptoms
Contact PJW Auto if you notice any of the following when braking.
- The car has intermittent problems stopping.
- The brake pedal is hard, soft, too high, too low, spongy, pulsates or chatters, works better when pumped, or returns to its normal position too slowly.
- The car pulls in one direction, pulls only to the left or only to the right.
- The brakes grab, seem to drag, lock or make noise.
- The emergency/parking brake doesn’t work properly or is rarely used.
- The dashboard brake light comes on.
- You added brake fluid in the last six months.
These symptoms indicate potential problems with your car’s brake system.
What We Look For and Replace
Rust, heat, and age are your car’s enemies. The brake components that should be replaced will depend on the age of the brakes, the car’s mileage, and the amount of wear. At PJW Auto, we look for:
- Cracked, swollen, chaffed or leaking hoses,
- Steel brake lines that are kinked, badly corroded, leaking or damaged
- Calipers or wheel cylinders that are leaking and calipers that are frozen, badly corroded or damaged. Uneven brake pad wear is evidence of a frozen caliper.
- Master cylinder leaks or brake pedals that sink to the floor instead of providing resistance when pressed.
- Rotors and drums that are warped, worn or have cracks due to heat. Rotors and drums that are not in perfect condition, should be resurfaced, unless they are too thin. In the case of the later, rotors and drums should be replaced.
When replacing disk brakes, we replace the brake pads and shims, resurface or replace the brake rotors, recondition or replace mounting slides, pins and bushings if your car uses a floating-style caliper. We use special high-temperature brake grease to lubricate caliper components. When replacing drum brakes, we replace the brake shoes, resurface the brake drums and replace shoe retaining clips, return springs, self-adjusters as needed. Again, use of the right grease is essential to your car’s safety. Wheel bearings, unless sealed, are cleaned, inspected, repacked, and adjusted.
The final steps in replacing brakes are to replace the old brake fluid with new fluid and then bleed the brakes. Bleeding the brakes is a process by which old fluid and air is removed from the brake lines, calipers, wheel cylinders, and master cylinder. The bleeding process involves opening bleeder screws and draining old fluid while fresh fluid is added to the master cylinder reservoir.
Brake fluid attracts water over time degrading it’s performance which is why some manufacturers recommend replacing brake fluid every 24,000 miles or two years; whichever comes first. PJW Auto knows your car’s brake type and the compatible brake fluid. Using the wrong brake fluid can create problems with your car’s brakes if all the old fluid isn’t removed.
Troubleshooting Car Brake Problems
Do you want some help troubleshooting car brake problems? Does your car brake and pull to the left? Do you have spongy brakes or locked brakes or smell a burning rubber smell from your wheels? What does a brake warning light mean? Is there a quick car brakes fix for you or is the problem more serious? These are some of the questions PJW Automotive can help you with to determine if you need disc brake repair or general brake repair.
Troubleshooting car brake problems can sometimes be pretty straightforward; brake repair may not be so simple. In many cases when experiencing brake problems it’s a good idea to have your car towed rather than risking the drive.
Here are some sample problems, causes, and solutions for common brake problems:
ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) Brake Light Comes On, Yellow Light
This indicates a problem with your anti-lock brake system. The onboard computer will disable the ABS system when the warning light is on. Your brakes will still function, but without ABS. This can seriously endanger you in an emergency situation, but you can safely drive the car in to PJW Auto for repair.
Brake Warning Light Comes On, Red Light
Three conditions commonly cause this problem. The first is that your emergency brake is on. Check your emergency brake. The second is that your car is low on brake fluid. Fill the reservoir to the line with the correct brake fluid or bring you car in for fluids service. If neither of these solutions extinguishes the light, bring your car, truck, or SUV in to PJW for inspection. The third condition that may occur is due to a leak in one side of your brake system. If your brake system has completely failed you may need to use your emergency brake to stop. Call PJW Auto at (651) 636-6141 to arrange to have your car/truck towed.
When you touch the brakes the car veers sharply to the side and a wheel may lock up and skid. This may be caused by a bad disc caliper, wheel bearing problems, loose or broken brake pads or shoes, or contamination of the brake pads or shoes. This is a serious problem. Have your car towed in to PJW Automotive at 2087 Old Hwy 8 in New Brighton for repair ASAP.
Hard Brakes/Brake Pedal Won’t Depress
This can be caused by several possible problems, ranging from a bad power brake booster to failed caliper components to a failed vacuum line or a pinched brake line to brake problems as simple as something wedged under the brake pedal. Inspect the floor under your brake pedal and if nothing is found, have your car towed to PJW Auto.
Brake Pulls Car To Left Or Right When Braking
This can be caused by sticking or failed brake calipers or by problems with a brake pad. If the problem is severe ( see ‘Locked brakes’, above) have your car towed in for repair. A sticking brake may also cause this problem (see ‘burning smell’, below). If the pull shifts from left to right this is not a brake problem, it is likely a suspension problem. In any case, bring your car in to PJW Automotive for repair and maintenance.
You Smell A Burning Rubber/Chemical Smell After Driving
Some people describe this as smelling like burning resin. This may be due to burning brakes, although it could also be an indicator of problems with your clutch. You may also see light smoke coming from one or more wheel wells. Another indicator here may be that your car pulls to one side or the other. Stop your car and check that the emergency brake is off. If you were just driving down a long steep grade let your brakes cool down before proceeding. If neither of these conditions has occurred you may have a stuck brake. Have your car towed for repair. Continued driving may warp your discs or cause complete brake failure. Even if your brake appears to free itself, have your auto technician inspect your brakes, since extensive heating may cause damage to the coatings on your brakes and may cause brake fade.
You Hear A Grinding Noise From Your Wheel
This can be caused by foreign matter trapped in your brakes or it could mean that you need to have your brake friction material or rotors/drums resurfaced or replaced. Take your car in for brake service at PJW Auto.
Brake Pedal Pulsates or Vehicle Vibrates When Braking
This is probably due to warped brake rotors or drums and may have been caused by overheated brakes or over-tightened lug nuts. Other causes may include wheel bearing problems or rusty spots on brake rotors. If you feel the problem in both the brake pedal and the steering wheel then the problem is coming from the front wheels. Take your car in for a brake inspection at PJW Automotive.
Brake Pedal Goes Down Too Far, Spongy Brakes
This can be caused by something as minor as air in the brake system or it may be an indicator of something much more serious. This may be preceded by a ‘spongy’ feel to your brakes. Check your brake fluid level and fill to the marked level with the correct brake fluid for your car. If you did have low fluid you may continue to experience the problem after filling. This may be because you now need to ‘bleed’ your brakes or it may be due to a more serious problem. It could be caused by a leak in your brake line or your master cylinder may be failing. In any case, this can be a very serious problem and some cases could easily be fatal. Take your car in for immediate brake repair and/or servicing with PJW Auto.
Brakes Barely Stop the Car and/or the Car Moves With Brakes Fully Applied
Very similar to the brake pedal goes down too far problem. It’s also possible that your brake pads/shoes may be worn out or severely contaminated by fluids or greases. Follow the same procedure – add fluid and take the car, truck, or SUV in for brake repair and/or service at PJW Automotive.
This can be an indicator of an easy fix or it can also indicate wear and tear or something more extensive. Sometimes dust and dirt build up in the wheels. Try taking your car through an automated car wash and see if this fixes the problem. Other problem sources could be automated brake adjusters in need of service, cheap brake linings, broken brake return or retaining springs, a bent backing plate, and warped brake shoes. Take your car in for brake service to identify and correct the problem. Note that a constant squeal may be due to other problems such as a failed wheel bearing. Take your car in for inspection as soon as possible. If you hear a high-pitched piercing metallic sound when going slow and not applying the brakes this is probably your brake wear sensors saying your brake pads have ¾ or more of wear. Take your car in for disc brake repair at PJW as soon as possible. Delay may cause damage to your brake rotors (a much larger expense) or even endanger lives.