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Brake problems can be deadly if ignored, so it’s important to understand the signs that your brakes may soon need replaced, and to take action as soon as you notice any of these signs.

Brake light turns on

Your car’s brake warning light is, of course, the most obvious sign that there is an issue with your brakes that should be looked at by a mechanic as soon as possible. (But double check that your parking brake isn’t engaged when you first see this light, as this can activate it as well.)

Grinding, squealing, or clicking noise when you brake

Any of these noises when you press down the brake pedal likely signify that your brake pads are wearing thin, and it’s time for a replacement.

Shaking or vibrating car or pedal when you brake

Similarly, if your brake pedal, steering wheel, or entire car shake or vibrate — or your car seems to bounce up and down — when you brake, it can be a sign of various different issues with your car’s braking system. If you experience any of these while braking, it’s important to have your car looked at by a mechanic as soon as you can.

Brake pedal feels “soft”

If pushing down on your brake pedal does not provide the same resistance as usual, but instead feels soft or “spongy” — or the pedal sinks right down to the floor — it is a likely sign of an issue with your brake system, such as moisture in the system or issues with the master cylinder, and should be checked out immediately.

Burning smell

If you ever smell burning or smoke while driving and it is coming from your car, then it is time to get your car straight to a mechanic, no matter what. One potential cause of a burning smell while driving is overheated brakes.

Car pulls to the side when braking

Does your car seem to tug towards one side when you are braking? This is usually a sign of some fault in your brakes that is causing uneven pressure in braking. It’s important to get this looked at and fixed as soon as possible to avoid further damage to your car, or brake failure.

Car slows very slowly

If your car is taking much longer than usual to slow down when you hit the brakes, then it is a sign of “brake fade.” Your brake pads will need to be replaced soon, so getting your car to a mechanic as soon as you can is important.

The importance of watching for the signs

How often your brakes will need serviced depends on a variety of factors — some brake pads will need to be replaced after 25,000 miles, while others can last over 70,000. For this reason, it is important to stay vigilant about these signs of brake problems, so that you can address any issues before they become serious and pose a risk to your safety, or result in a far more expensive repair.