5 Signs of an Imminent Brake Failure

We cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure your car’s brakes are always in their best shape. Brakes are your automobile’s topmost safety feature, even in the modern era of airbags and backup cameras. They are any driver’s best bet in accident prevention, and their failure is responsible for thousands of accidents on American roads each year.

You should always watch out for signs of an impending brake failure. Read on for some of the more common signs.

1. The brake pedal feels spongy.

Spongy or soft brake pedals signify brake pad wear. You should check with a mechanic if the pedal seems to reach the floor too easily.

It is worth noting that spongy pedals don’t always have to translate to brake pad thinning. Sometimes they are the result of air being trapped in the brake lines. Other times they are caused by fluid leaks, so get an expert to inspect your car before purchasing new brake pads.

Remember, if an accident is directly linked to defective brakes, you may be entitled to damage recovery from the car manufacturer or the mechanic who last serviced your vehicle. A car accident law attorney such as Tario & Associates can help you determine fault and file a compensation claim.

2. When the vehicle drifts to one side when you brake

You may have heard of cases where a vehicle tends to pull to one side when the driver stops or slows down. Often, this is caused by uneven wear on the brake pads or the presence of impurities in the brake fluid. It doesn’t matter the cause – this is a high-risk accident hazard that should be checked immediately.

3. Illuminated brake warning light

The brake warning light on your dashboard should come on briefly when you start the engine. If it stays illuminated or comes on randomly while the engine is running, you have a problem. Watch out for this sign first, but don’t base your action solely on it.

4. Grinding brakes

Squealing and grinding noises when slowing down are a sure sign that your brake pads need replacing. This usually happens when the pads have become so thin that metal parts start grinding on each other. Another reason is that pads use an alert mechanism that activates when they wear down beyond a certain level.

5. Strange vibrations on the steering wheel

Vibrations and violent shaking of the steering wheel are often caused by warping on the rotors. A rotor is a silver disc behind the rim or wheel that the brake pads squeeze on when the pedal is pressed. Warping creates uneven contact between the brake pads and these discs, causing the vehicle to slow down less smoothly. You can have the damaged rotor repaired or replaced, depending on the extent of the damage. Often, a repair will set you back almost as much as a replacement, so cost shouldn’t prevent you from getting a new set of rotors.


Watching out for these signs of brake failure can save you costly repairs and accidents in the foreseeable future. Make sure to consult a mechanic before making any repair or replacement decisions.

Emily Muelford
Emily is a British writer whose love of car culture is augmented by a fascination with both the European and American automotive markets. Her perspective is uniquely fish and chips.