Cars & Vehicles Auto Parts & Maintenance & Repairs

Troubleshooting the Brake System

    Vehicle Pulls to One Side

    • If the vehicle pulls to one side when the brakes are applied you'll want to begin by removing the front wheels and inspecting the front disc brakes. Check the brake pads for damage such as chipping or excessive glazing on the surface. Also check that oil and/or grease has not contaminated the pads. Compare the pads on either side and look to see that one is not more worn than the other. Next, check the calipers to see if the pistons are stuck and look for any other damage. Then check the front suspension components, especially the front sway bar and end links. If any of these are loose or disconnected it could be the cause of the problem.

    High-pitched Noise

    • If you hear a high-pitched noise when the brakes are applied, this is an indication the pads have worn down. The noise is usually caused when the wear indicator on the brake pad contacts the brake disc when the pads have worn below tolerable levels. Remove the front wheels and the brake calipers. Check the thickness of the pads against standards listed in the vehicle's service manual. If the brake pads are worn below safe levels they must be replaced immediately.

    Brake Pedal Travels Further Than Usual

    • Check the fluid level in the master cylinder. If the level has fallen low enough to uncover the ports in the bottom of the reservoir, the system will need to be bled. The rear brakes also may be out of adjustment. Many vehicles with rear drum brakes have self adjusters which can be corrected by making a series of starts and stops while traveling in reverse. If this does not remedy the situation, remove the brake drums and inspect the self adjusters for proper operation.

    Brake Pedal Seems Spongy

    • If the brake pedal seems spongy when the brakes are applied, it is usually a sign that air has entered into the hydraulic circuit. Bleed the brakes to return the system to normal operation. Also check the flexible brake lines that run between the hard lines on the frame and the brake calipers/wheel cylinders for leaks or damage. Tighten the master cylinder mounting bolts. If none of these efforts fix the situation, the master cylinder may need to be replaced.

    Increased Effort By Driver

    • If you need to push the pedal harder than normal to stop the vehicle, it could be a sign that the power booster has failed. Before you replace it, check the vacuum line running from the engine to the power booster for leaks and run a vacuum test on the line to make sure the booster is getting the required amount of vacuum. Check the pads and brake shoes for contamination by oil or grease. Also check the thickness of the pads and brake shoes, and replace as necessary.

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