Dealing with brake repair work is one of the most important safety-related issues you need to take care of over the lifetime of a vehicle. Brake systems include a lot of components, and that means they can suffer from multiple points of failure. If you're trying to figure out whether your ride should go to a shop, here are some ways you can get to the bottom of the problem.
Checking for Leaking Fluids
If you have a dry and clean spot, such as along the street where you park your vehicle, one way to verify whether there might be trouble with the brakes is to press the brake pedal and check for fluids. This works best as a two-person operation, as it's helpful to have one person depress the brake and the other look for anything squirting or dripping. You can look underneath the car close to where the wheels attach to the axles. If there's any indication that fluid is coming out of any location, get the vehicle to a shop immediately.
Lack of Back Pressure from the Brake Pedal
Normally the brake pedal should provide quite a bit of resistance when you depress it. If you feel the brake get any softer than it normally is, there's likely a problem somewhere in the system. Unfortunately, the issue can be in a lot of different spots, including the calipers, the master cylinder, and even the lines.
If you feel the brakes suddenly go completely soft while driving, get the car off the road and have it towed to a shop immediately. Should you be stuck in a difficult situation, such as being pointed down a hill, use the shifter to put the transmission into low gear. This will help take some of the roll out of the car. It's a good idea to also locate the emergency brake lever or pedal (sometimes marked as a parking brake), because you may need it to bring the vehicle to a quick stop.
Sometimes the problem is simple wear and tear. If the brakes feel like they're grabbing harder than normal, you may have worn down the rotors or the drums. Spotting problems with drums is tough because they're tucked up in. With disc brakes, you should see visible scoring on the rotor when you look at the wheel. There may also be black dust from the brake pads.
Contact a shop, like Buettner Tire & Auto, for more help.