Squeaky Brakes? Time For Inspection

Responsive brakes are always important, but they take on added significance in the winter--when there’s even less margin for error behind the wheel.

“Something like a vibrating brake pedal is a sign to head over to a service station,” said Tony Molla, vice president of the Automotive Service Association, a Texas-based nonprofit devoted to vehicle maintenance.

Friction so integral to the braking process eventually degrades the system’s shoes, fluid and hoses. The telltale signs that the brakes are struggling--squealing during stopping or a loose brake pedal--can happen any time of year.

Molla urges drivers to trust their gut and to be safe rather than sorry.

“Don’t have to wait until your brake icon lights,” he said. “A routine inspection before winter roots out potential problems.”

Molla said a brake inspection generally includes the following:

  • Check the master cylinder. This reservoir beneath the hood stores the brake fluid and needs to be periodically checked for leaks and wear.
  • Inspect brake hoses. These hoses carry fluid to and from various braking components. Underperforming hoses create an inefficient stopping system.
  • Inspect brake fluid lines. Brakes are a hydraulic system that requires fluid to function. Leaking or damaged brake lines degrade the whole system’s ability to function.
  • Look for wear and tear. Friction and heat can wear unevenly on brake parts and contaminate brake fluid.  
  • Test the parking brake. Test its efficacy and make any necessary adjustments.