Skip to main content

By the time you hear that high-pitched squeaking sound when you stop at an intersection, you’ve already got a brake problem. Your vehicle’s brakes are its most important safety feature. Address problems with the brakes immediately so your vehicle will be safe at all times.

How do you know there’s a problem with the brakes? Check out these potential brake warning signs.

Squeaking sounds when you brake

If you’re hearing squeaking or squealing sounds when you brake, you may have worn brake pads. Brakes can make these sounds in certain weather events like rain. But if your brakes squeak or squeal rain or shine, it may be time to have a professional evaluate your brakes.

Deep grinding sounds when you brake

If you notice a grinding sound when you apply the brakes, there may be a problem in your braking system. The grinding sound is metal on metal. It usually means the brake pads or shoes have worn enough that the metal underneath grinds against the rotors. It doesn’t take much before your rotors become warped and need replacing. To stay safe, get your vehicle in for repair right away if you hear these sounds.

Spongy brakes

If the brake pedal feels spongy and soft when you press on it, there may be a hydraulic system issue, according to NAPA. Brake pedals should feel firm and apply gradually. Brake pedals with a soft feel may mean the braking system isn’t 100% operational. While the issue may a lack o fluid in the vehicle’s master cylinder, it could also be a problem like failing calipers, air in the lines, or wheel cylinders.

Too firm of a brake pedal

The brake pedal shouldn’t be too hard to push. If it is, NAPA says there may be a problem with the power assist mechanism. There are hydraulic and vacuum power assists. Most vehicles use vacuum boosters to support the braking system and keep the driver from working too hard to apply the brakes.

Some turbocharged vehicles and heavier trucks use hydroboost instead of vacuum boosters. The hydroboost relies on hydraulic pressure drawn from the power steering pump to help the braking system. If the power assist mechanism fails, the brake is hard to push. The braking system still works.

If the pedal is too firm and the brakes don’t work, there might be a mechanical disconnect between the master cylinder and brake pedal. Likely culprits could be a broken connecting rod or a blockage.


Hydraulic systems have many lines connecting them to different parts in the car. This is especially true in vehicles with anti-lock brake systems (ABS). A leak in any of those lines leads to both loss of air and fluids in the hydraulic system. 

Leaks can cause the braking system to completely fail. The wheels and rubber flex lines between the brake calipers and the hard line are particularly prone to leaks. Brake fluid is thin in consistency and slippery with a light odor. Its color ranges from deep orange to clear but can change over time.

If the inside of the tires is wet, you may be dealing with a caliper or wheel cylinder leak. Creased or damaged pain close to the brake line connection can be another leak indication. Brake fluid can ruin your vehicle’s paint. If you suspect a leak, get this repaired right away.

It takes longer to stop

Brake fade occurs when it noticeably takes longer to bring your vehicle to a halt. If you’re driving down a steep incline and ride your brakes to do it, the pads get hot and less responsive. But this situation is temporary. Once everything cools down, everything should work fine again. When the fade becomes a permanent situation, the brake pads and rotors need to be replaced.

Warning lights

When your brake warning light appear, you need to take action. It could either by an alert from the ABS system or main system. If a component in the ABS system goes down, the braking system can function normally. If you see the warning light for the main braking system, you’ll want to have a mechanic look at your car ASAP. That main braking system light appearing indicates something in the hydraulic system failed.