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3 Tell-Tale Signs Indicating That Your Disc Brakes Are Fading

Good braking is essential for optimal car safety and control. If your car — like most modern cars — relies on disc brakes when slowing or stopping, it would be good for you to be informed about what causes braking problems. Because brakes comprise a number of moving components such as brake pads and rotors, which press against each other when the brakes are applied, a great amount of heat is usually produced due to internal friction.

To prevent brakes from overheating, the brake rotors are usually equipped with internal vanes to allow for proper ventilation. The internal vanes help remove excess heat by drawing cooling air from the centre of the rotors to the exterior edges. By dissipating hot air from the rotors, the brakes are kept cooler and will be less likely to "fade." Fading comes about when brakes overheat because of being used for a sustained period of time. Brake fade can lead to a partial or complete loss of braking ability. Here are a number of tell-tale signs that your disc brakes could be fading.

  1. When your brake pedal is mushy. When your brake pedal is working properly, you will be able to achieve braking action with only a slight depression of the pedal. But if you start noticing that the pedal depresses closer to the floor — and sometimes even goes all of the way to touch the floor — without the brakes being effectively applied, then it is likely that your brakes are fading.
  2. When your braking distances increase dramatically. Braking distance can be defined as the distance travelled by your car from the point the brakes are fully applied to the point the vehicle stops. Several factors can determine your car's braking distances including the speed of the vehicle, weather conditions, road surface, your driving ability and of course, the condition of your brakes. If the distances it takes to bring your vehicle to a stop increase dramatically, chances are high that your brakes are fading. 
  3. When the brakes release a burning smell. If you pick up a burning odour coming from your brakes when you are driving, this is a sign that your brakes are overheating. In severe cases, the brakes can emit smoke or even catch on fire! Overheating brakes smell quite awful and can cause brake pads to burn.

The best course of action when you notice any of the above issues with your disc brakes is to ask the braking specialists at a trusted auto service or mechanic shop to inspect your car so as to identify the cause of the problem.