What Are Common Brake Problems?

If you don’t know what’s causing your brake problems, they can be frightening. Anxiety is caused by a fear of the unknown. You’re wondering things like, “Will my brakes fail?” Are they secure? Is it okay if I drive my car? Is it appropriate for me to drive my car?

Here are five of the most common brake issues I encounter, beginning with the most serious. Before a mechanic starts talking about the need to replace this or that, it’s a good idea to figure out what’s causing your problem. If you don’t find your problem here, read my article on brake noises, read the comments at the end, or leave your own comment telling your story.

  • Soft Brake Pedal

A soft brake pedal is a SIGNIFICANT brake problem. If your brake pedal feels squishy, “like stepping on a plum,” and will not stop on the way down unless you pump it, or if the brake pedal sinks to the floor with little or no resistance, you are in a dangerous situation and should not drive any further! If you do, it could only be a matter of minutes before you collide with something.

When the brake pedal softens or sinks to the floor, it is usually the result of a braking system leak, most commonly the master cylinder leaking internally or externally.

The first thing you should do is check your brake fluid—consult your owner’s manual for instructions on how to do so.

A master cylinder can fail internally or externally in one of two ways. If the brake fluid reservoir is full and there are no signs of leaks, the problem is usually internal and cannot be identified simply by inspecting the master cylinder. In any case, don’t drive the car; there’s something wrong with your brakes if the pedal is soft.

It’s worth getting a flashlight and checking to see if the master cylinder is visibly leaking. If it is, the fluid should be visible on the carpet under your dash, just above your brake pedal. The master cylinder is shown in the pictures below, beneath the brake pedal.

  • Car Pulls to One Side When Braking

A car that pulls to one side is both inconvenient and potentially dangerous. A frozen caliper is the most common cause of this braking problem, which can be caused by a variety of factors, including the tires (see below). A caliper can gradually freeze up over time, a process that can go unnoticed for a long time.

The piston of a caliper can become stuck in its bore, causing the caliper to freeze. Water and debris will penetrate the metal in the caliper if the dust boot that protects the piston from the elements is torn, causing rust and corrosion. The pressure on the pads will be uneven if the piston is stuck and the fluid pressure can’t easily push it back into the bore.

The caliper is a device that can freeze up if the slide pins have lost lubrication. If this happens, you need to clean and lube or replace them because they are hard to find and may not be worth rebuilding your old one when it would cost more in time for just getting a new overhaul kit.

  • Steering Wheel Shakes When Brakes Are Applied

The steering wheel shakes when you apply the brakes at highway speeds, which is a very common brake issue on all makes and models.

There are a number of potential causes for this shakiness, including warped front rotors, hot spots (slight irregularities) on your rotors caused by excessive heat, and pad impressions. Except for the patch of rotor surface where the pads rest, moisture from rain or high humidity causes your rotors to rust if your car sits for long periods of time without moving. A pad impression is a patch of uneven rotor surface that causes the brakes to pulsate.

Brake pulsations can be fixed very easily by resurfacing or replacing your rotors. If the rotor is still thick enough, you will just need to have it resurfaced before sending out on a long drive with heavy brake usage like trucking across country for example. The thickness of every rotor needs to meet a certain minimum spec in order not cause an issue when being measured at the thinnest point and if this requirement isn’t met then there’s no other option than replacement which may cost more depending on what you choose between new ones bought outright or having them installed as part of scheduled maintenance interval service that gets done regularly based off driving habits/driving conditions.

  • Brake Pedal Pulses Up and Down When Applying Brakes

If your brake pedal pulses up and down every time you apply the brakes, the problem is most likely caused by warped or out-of-true rotors. Because rotors go through the heating and cooling process thousands of times as they age, they will eventually lose their shape or trueness. If you do a lot of highway driving and have a habit of slamming on the brakes, you’ll most likely encounter this issue several times during the life of your vehicle.

  •  Whole Car Shakes When Brakes Are Applied

If your entire car shakes when you apply the brakes, it’s possible that it’s just your rear brakes. Shaking caused by a problem in the front end of the car will typically be felt in the steering wheel, whereas shaking in the rear will appear to affect the entire vehicle.

We’ve come up with some other amazing articles answering these questions! Check them out here:


  • How Often Should I Check The Brakes On My Tesla?
  • Why Do The Brakes On A Car Suddenly Stop Working?
  • How Often Should Brakes On An Electric Car Be Replaced?
  • Is It Safe To Drive A Car If The Brakes Are Grinding?
  • What 3 Things You Need To Know Before Getting Brake Service
  • 3 Questions To Ask Before Getting Brakes Service
  • How Do I Pick The Right Brake Repair Service Near Danville?
  • How Do I Know If My Brakes Are Dangerously Worn?
  • 11 Signs That You Might Need To Replace Your Brake Pads

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