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How do I know if I need new brakes?

The warning signs that you need new brakes should never be ignored. Indeed, your cars ability to stop is one of the most vital features that you require to avoid getting into a crash. However, if you're not a mechanic, you may not know how to identify the tell-tale signs it's time for a brake job.

Here are a few things you should definitely take note of to keep your brakes in the finest operational condition:

-- Listen to any strange sounds your brakes are making: Sometimes brakes will start to make a very high-pitched squealing sound every time you apply them. This isn't a sign that something is wrong. In fact, your brakes are still functioning well, but they might not for long. There is a small piece of metal imbedded in your brake pad, and after the brake pad gets worn down -- and it's time to replace it -- that metal shim will start to press against the brake rotors, and it will make a loud noise. If you hear that noise, it's time to get new pads.

-- Check for visible signs of wear: You can look through the spaces of your wheels to see the brake pads and check how thick they are. If there's less than a quarter inch of pad left, then it's definitely time to replace them.

-- Pulling and vibrations: Another sign of a problem is if your car pulls over to one side or vibrates when you apply your brakes. It could be a sign that one side of your cars brakes is failing and the other side is still working fine.

-- Grinding and growling: This might be a sign that your pads are worn down to nothing and it's metal on metal against your brake rotors. This is not only dangerous, but it's very bad for your car and could be a costly repair.

If you've experienced any of the above, make sure to get your car checked out by a mechanic. Also, if you've been hurt by a negligent motorist who didn't take care of his or her brakes, you might be able to seek financial damages in court. Failure to maintain brakes is definitely a form of negligence from a legal perspective.

Source: JD Power and Associates, "Warning signs you need new brakes," accessed March 24, 2017

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