Sooner or later your brakes might not be as efficient as they used to as their components suffer natural wear and tear. It could be the brake pads, calipers or pipes for example. On the other hand, you might just be unfortunate and find that there is a fault with your brakes.

Whatever the issue, it is worth getting your brakes fixed as soon as you realise something is wrong.

Can I drive with faulty brakes?

You think that you might have an issue with your brakes and are possibly wondering, can I drive with faulty brakes?

Well, having brakes that are not working as well as they should will result in increased stopping time, which can be terrifying if you need to stop but your car is taking a long time to slow down. Ultimately this could lead to a crash. 

Not only is it dangerous to drive with faulty brakes, if you have an MOT test coming up, you could end up failing.

Additionally, if you are subject to a vehicle check by the police and any part of your braking system is proven to be faulty, you can be found guilty of driving a defective vehicle.  Driving a defective vehicle holds a penalty of 3 points on your driving licence and a fine of up to £2500.

But how do you know when your brakes are failing? Here are some of the things to look out for.


Brake pads

The most common braking component that needs replacement is a set of brake pads on the front wheels.


How to tell if brake pads are worn

Knowing that it is both dangerous and illegal to drive with faulty brakes it’s helpful to know how to tell if brake pads are worn.

Unusual sounds when you brake could be an indication that the brake pads are worn and need replacing.

Many modern cars also feature brake pads with built-in wear sensors. In these vehicles a dashboard warning light will come on when the pads have worn down to a minimum level.

As not all cars are fitted with a dashboard warning light for brake pads, it is also worthwhile learning how to carry out visual checks. Learn the normal thickness of the brake pads and how to keep a regular eye for any changes. This can help to ensure that you get your brake pads replaced before the braking system on you car poses you or other road users any danger.


Unusual sounds

Listen out for sounds that could indicate your brakes are slowly but surely failing, such as squealing or grinding noises.

Squealing Brakes

If your car makes a squealing noise when you are slowing down, this could be a sign of a number of components getting tired out. Your brake pads could be worn or your pads and rotors could be glazed over, for example. Anti rattle clips could be broken, pad insulation might be lacking or rotor surface may be cut incorrectly or have no surface at all.

Grinding Brakes

If your brakes make a grinding noise then you should deal with it immediately. It might suggest that your brake pads have worn out completely, in which case the sound is caused by your rotor disc being in contact with part of the caliper directly. If this happens then these parts will be getting damaged too, which could result in a more expensive repair.

Another reason why your brakes might grind is that there may be something lodged in the caliper, like a stone. If this is the case, your brakes will make a screeching or grinding sound all the time, rather than in the former case when this happens only when the brake pedal is pressed. If there is an object that is stuck then it needs to be removed quickly as it can cause damage that is expensive to fix. Sometimes it will come out on its own if you move the car forwards and backwards but other times you need to take your car to be serviced.



If you feel that your steering wheel is shaking when you are bringing your car to a stop then this is another sign that your brakes are having problems. This could be a sign that you have a warped drum or rotor. Alternatively, it could be a case of dry guide pins or worn brake pads. If you start to notice your steering wheel shaking then get it repaired immediately. You may just need to grease the guide pins, which would be the least expensive of the potential repair jobs, or you might find that you need to replace the rotor, which would be considerably more costly.


Car drags when accelerating

Some problems with your brakes can become apparent when you are speeding up rather than slowing down. An example of this is when your car drags while you are accelerating.

This could suggest that your brakes are facing a buildup of rust, which is causing your emergency brakes to get stuck on. This is an issue that needs to be fixed as soon as possible because it causes friction that could result in serious damage to your vehicle. That's not to mention the fact that it will be a real drain on your fuel economy whenever you are trying to get your car up to speed.


Car pulls to one side

When you are driving, if you find that your car keeps pulling to one side and you continually have to correct it with your steering then this could suggest one of two things: either your wheels are not aligned or you have a problem with your brakes.

In the case of the latter, it could be that your brakes are frozen, that they are leaking fluid or that they have got out of alignment. Taking your car to be serviced would result in this issue getting fixed.


What to do if your brakes fail

Brake failure can be a very sudden and scary experience for motorists.

However being aware of this simple process, which you can follow in such circumstances, can help you to safely bring your car to a complete stop.

  1. Stay calm.
  2. Switch on your vehicle hazard lights.
  3. DO NOT switch off the car engine at this stage.
  4. Shift the car down to a lower gear immediately. 
  5. Begin to pump the brake pedal repeatedly to regain brake fluid pressure. 
  6. Result to using the parking brake to stop yourself only at slower speeds and in an emergency.
  7. At this point you can switch off the car engine and call for assistance.