As you drive around, notice how your total brake system performs, and ask yourself these questions:
Does the vehicle travel too far before coming to a stop in city traffic? If it does, either your brakes need adjusting or you need new brake linings.
Does the vehicle pull to one side when you brake? On vehicles with front disc brakes, a stuck caliper and brake fluid leak can cause this problem.
Does your brake pedal pulsate up and down when you stop in a non-emergency situation? A pulsating brake pedal usually is caused by excessive lateral run-out, which can happen because your brakes are overheating from overuse.
Does your steering wheel shake when you brake? If it does and you have disc brakes, your front brake discs need to be professionally machined or replaced.
Do your brakes squeal when you stop fairly short? The squealing is a high-pitched noise usually caused by vibration. Squealing can occur when the brake linings are worn and need replacement, the brake drum or disc needs to be machined, the front disc brake pads are loose or missing their anti-rattle clips, the hardware that attaches the brake calipers is worn, or inferior brake linings are in use.
Do your brakes make a grinding noise that you can feel in the pedal? If so, stop driving immediately and have your vehicle towed to a brake repair shop. Further driving could damage the brake discs or drums. Grinding brakes are caused by excessively worn brake linings; when the lining wears off, the metal part of the brake pad or brake shoe contacts the brake disc or drum and can quickly ruin the most expensive mechanical parts of the brake system.
Does your vehicle bounce up and down when you stop short? Your shock absorbers may need to be replaced.
Never put off brake work. If this check shows that you have a problem, take care of the situation immediately. If your brakes fail, you (and other people) may be in serious trouble. Other kinds of automotive trouble may keep your vehicle from moving, but brake trouble keeps it from stopping.