Brake Whisperer: Listening for Signs of Vehicle Trouble

Brakes basically scream for attention when they’re starting to fail. Literally. If you’re hearing a high-pitch wail when you press the brakes, it’s time to get your car in for service.

“Prevention will always be less expensive than the cure,” said Jennifer Holland, marketing manager for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). “When in doubt, check it out.”

Below, Holland offers drivers tips to tell if their brakes are wearing down and thoughts on what comes next:

  • Listen for problems. Some brake pads will "chirp" when you need replacement.
  • Pay attention to feedback. Does the brake pedal feel looser than normal, or do you need to press the pedal to the baseboard?
  • Trust the experts. Get your brakes checked periodically when you bring your vehicle in for routine maintenance.
  • Don’t ignore the brake light. Take your vehicle in for service if a warning light appears on your dashboard.
  • Brake work isn’t automatically expensive. Sometimes a part needs a quick repair or replacement. Other times lubricating a piece of brake hardware resolves the issue.
  • Modern brake pads are designed to squeak and squeal when they are wearing down. The idea is that drivers will hear the audible cues and take their vehicle in for service before severe occurs.
  • Brake pads are constructed from metal or ceramic. Metallic brake pads handle friction and temperature more efficiently, while ceramic pads produce less brake dust. Ceramic brake pads are more commonly found on smaller, lighter vehicles like sports cars.