My car has recently started making a squealing noise while driving that actually goes away when I apply the brakes. What could be wrong?
Most likely your brake pads are worn enough to allow their "wear indicators" or "sensor" to touch the disc brake rotor. When this occurs the "sensor" emits that high pitch noise designed to warn you that your brakes need immediate attention. Have them checked promptly by a certified brake system specialist and have the brakes serviced before expensive damage or loss of brakes occurs.
My brakes have started to squeak when I apply the brakes, could there be a problem?
Yes and No. Some brake noise is normal and unavoidable. Demanding driving conditions such as traffic congestion, severe braking, dusty/sandy conditions, abusive braking and even humidity can cause unwanted brake noise. These conditions promote "glazing (surface hardening)" or "crystallization," which is a hardening of the brake pad/shoe surface or the entire brake pad.
The lesser of the two, "surface hardening," can usually be sanded off with common sandpaper. The more problematic condition, "entire pad crystallization," would require pad replacement to eliminate the noise. However, the cause of the hardening, if not corrected, would simply re-crystallize the pads. A simple pad replacement would not be a long-term solution.
Have your brakes checked by one of our quality technicians to confirm the requirement for repair. High demand brake use can easily cause more damage to more components in the brake system than just the brake pads. Brake noise can also occur if the brake system has a "weak link". The brake system is only as good as its' weakest component.
A faulty part can cause a chain reaction of failures to other components that could cause problems ranging from more than normal occasional noise to total brake failure.
Sometimes my brakes make a grinding or groaning noise that only happens at very low speed stops. Are my brakes going bad?
Only a complete brake system inspection can give you the truth, however the particular noise you are describing is generally considered normal, particularly on vehicles with semi-metallic pads or most front wheel drive cars. The noise is simply a vibration that can be more felt than heard coming from the front disc pads because on slower stops you don't have the brakes applied fully which allows them to vibrate against the rotor surface.
Usually no service is required as the noise is unavoidable, however if the noise is constant and occurs at almost every stop, the brake system should get immediate service.
Recently, my car has become increasingly harder to stop and the brake pedal seems to travel down a lot farther than it used to. What could be wrong?
The problem could range from a simple adjustment, air in the brake system or the most severe; total brake failure. Having a professional perform the necessary bleed, adjustments and inspection to determine the exact nature of the problem would be advised.
New brake fluid is more clear than my old brake fluid. Is the fluid going bad or is it normal?
Both. Brake fluid is the most overlooked component in the braking system of vehicles and it is one of the most important components in that system. Brake fluid is formulated to tolerate moisture absorption, control rubber expansion and corrosion, and acts as a lubricant. It also must not boil or freeze in brake systems over a wide range of operating temperatures. The level is checked occasionally, but very seldom is brake fluid completely replaced unless the vehicle's braking system undergoes a major overhaul.
Most technicians know that brake fluid deteriorates with age due to moisture and contamination. DOT 3 and DOT 4 brake fluid are polyglycol based. This glycol ether blend of fluids is "hygroscopic" which means it attracts and absorbs moisture. This process takes place every time you take the cap off the container or check the fluid in the master cylinder reservoir. Moisture is even absorbed through microscopic pores in rubber seals and hoses in the brake system.
Also keep in mind when you use your brakes, heat is generated at the friction contact points. As your vehicle sits, your brakes cool down. Therefore, over a period of time the heating and cooling action of your brake system will condense moisture in the closed hydraulics system. DOT 3 and DOT 4 brake fluid will absorb that water and keep it from effecting hydraulic components and helps prevent or at least slow down the corrosive effect.
Even though brake fluid absorbs moisture, it cannot continue to absorb it indefinitely, which is why it is suggested that you bleed the system and refill with fresh brake fluid once every 2 years or every 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.