Knowing how to check your brakes is something that not everyone knows how to do. Fortunately there’s several ways for you to check your braking system just through the feel of your own brake pedal.
It’s something you interact with every time you drive your vehicle, so chances are you are familiar with the feel and response of the pedal. You don’t need mechanical expertise to diagnose your braking system through your pedal.
You can save yourself money and hassle by knowing how to check your brakes, and we’ll be showing you the steps to do it yourself. You’ll be driving the vehicle at relatively slow speeds, by evaluating the feel and feedback you get from your brake pedal. Here’s a few symptoms you’ll be looking for as you go though our How to Check your Brakes DIY Guide.
Spongy Brake Pedal
With the vehicle stopped but engine started slowly apply steady pressure to your brake pedal. Note the feel of the pedal and if it feels spongy or overly responsive. This can be a sign of air trapped in your brake lines and in your hydraulic system. You should bleed your brakes to restore the braking system to normal operating standards. If you don’t know how check our guides here and here.
Try driving your vehicle around the block at low speeds and always obey the traffic laws. While applying pressure to your brake pedal, if you feel that the engagement is too low, you may require a brake pedal adjustment.
If your brake pedal has to travel too far for your vehicle to begin to slow down, this is a dangerous driving condition. Park your vehicle and try to pump up the pressure and see if this improves. Push the pedal down firmly and repeat to pump up your pedal, and if this gets your brakes to engage faster, you may be low on brake fluid.
Shake it Up
If you feel your brake pedal pulsate and shudder as your vehicle comes to a stop, you may need to have your brake discs machined or replaced. This can also manifest itself as a shaking steering wheel as you begin to brake.
The pedal pulsation comes from lateral runout of your brake disc, meaning the rotor has warped from excessive heat and overuse. Replace your brake discs to remedy this issue.
Too much effort
If your brakes require much more effort than they once did, you may have an issue with your brake booster. With power brakes your pedal should come down to about an inch from the floor.
If your vehicle is equipped with power brakes and you suddenly need much more force than you once did, your power booster may be faulty or the vacuum line that runs to the booster may be leaking.
When you are applying pressure to your brake pedal, does the pedal continue to sink slowly to the floor? This can be a sign of your brake master cylinder failing, or the internal seals of our brake master cylinder may be torn or leaking.
Check your brake fluid for signs of a dirty reservoir or chunks in your brake fluid. This is an extremely unsafe condition that should be fixed before you drive the vehicle any further.
Check your fluids
Keeping your brake fluid clean and your master cylinder filled is a great way to keep your braking system in good health. Knowing how to check your brakes means checking your fluids. Always fill your master cylinder to the MAX fill line with the approved brake fluid for your vehicle.
If you have drum brakes they may need adjustment to engage properly. These adjustments are done through the self adjustment arms or levers that wind the drum brakes.
While driving if you find your vehicle taking too long to come to a stop, you may need new brake pads. Changing your brake pads and checking your brake rotors is a straightforward job.
If your vehicle pulls to one side as you brake, you may need need pads or an alignment. If your vehicle is equipped with drum brakes in the rear, a leaky or stuck wheel cylinder may also cause this issue.
Squeaking and Squealing brakes
If your brakes make a squeaking noise when you are coming to a stop, this is a sign that you must replace your brake pads. Squealing and squeaking occurs when your brake pads have worn down and are loose.
The vibration from the tolerances that have worn down cause this squeaking, which can become even louder if you allow the brake pad to wear down completely.
If you own a vehicle with an ABS system, always be careful around the ABS pump or accelerator pump and lines. Many of these systems are pressurized by way of a electric pump and can exceed 1,000 psi of pressure in some cases.
That does it for our How To Check Your Brakes Guide, please leave us any questions or comments below.