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What your brakes are telling you

Read the signs to see if it's time for a brake job

When it comes to safety, the ability to bring your car to a quick, predictable stop is critical. Brakes need to be kept in top condition at all times because they could be called upon to save your life at any moment.

Brakes require regular maintenance, too, and you need to make sure they’re always ready to do their job.

If you suspect it might be time for a brake job, have a professional look to see what work might be needed. And, as always, follow the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual to keep the brake system maintained properly.


The sounds your brakes make can be a sign that they need work. Slight squeaks can be normal in some cars, but it can also be a sign of serious problems.

If you recently had brake work performed, the squeaking might be a temporary problem. Changing to different grease or applying a new kind of brake pad can sometimes result in a minor noise that will go away after a few days.

If you haven’t had brake work done lately, squeaks and squeals can be a sign that your brakes are wearing out and need to be replaced immediately. Brakes are designed to wear out over time — they grind down a little bit every time you stop the car — and most cars are designed to intentionally make a squealing noise when the brake pads wear down too thin to be safe.

That’s your car telling you, “Please, give me a brake job!”

Even if you think your brakes feel fine, it’s still wise to have a trusted service shop check them out to be sure.


Worn-out brakes can also sometimes manifest themselves as vibrations that you feel through the seat, brake pedal or steering wheel.

When your brake system is operating as designed, it will smoothly and evenly bring your car to a stop. But if the parts are wearing down too far — or if they’re simply wearing unevenly — they can create a “shimmy” you feel every time you press the brake pedal. That might mean you decelerate unevenly or just feel a gentle vibration through the steering wheel.

If you feel any vibrations when you slow down, have your brakes checked for uneven wear. It’s likely that your brake drums or rotors will need to be machined or replaced to fix the problem.

Keeping your brake system in good shape can prolong the life of your car and, most importantly, let you stop confidently in emergencies to protect yourself, your passengers and the people around you.