As a BMW owner, it’s never pleasant to hear that tell-tale screech of spongy brakes. However, neglecting it will only make things worse and lead to more costly damage.
While it may not be something you think about often, your BMW’s brakes are one feature that you need to keep in optimal working condition. Your brakes will tell you when something is wrong, you just have to listen and be aware.
LOOK AND LISTEN
There are two ways you can check for wear on your disc brakes: looking and listening. Inspect your brake pads through the gaps that exist between your wheel’s spokes. The outside pad should be pressed up against the metal rotor, with at least 1/4 inch of pad. If you see less than that, you should have your brake pads replaced or inspected.
Next, listen. Are you starting to hear a high screeching sound when you apply your brakes? That is when the indicator, a small metal shim, gives you an audible warning that your brake pads need to be replaced. If you’re hearing it regularly, don’t delay: make an appointment with your trusted brake mechanic.
There’s one exception to this, and that’s if your BMW has been sitting for a while after being exposed to water, such as after you have washed it or after a rain storm. This moisture often causes a thin layer of rust to build up on the brake rotors, but this is completely normal. When first applying the brakes, the pads press on the rust-covered rotors, causing a squealing sound for a few minutes until that rust wears off. The sound should disappear fairly quickly.
Here are the top four signs you need new brakes for your BMW.
1. FADING OR REDUCED RESPONSIVENESS
If you are noticing your brakes are not being as responsive as before, or if the pedal tends to “sink” toward the floor, this may indicate a leak in the brake system (either an air leak within the brake hose or a brake fluid leak). You will know it’s a brake fluid leak if you see a small puddle of fluid on the ground where you park your car. Brake fluid is similar in appearance to motor oil, but has a less “slimy” texture.
If your vehicle tends to “pull” to one side when you are braking, this may mean the brake linings are starting to wear unevenly, or it could be that there is debris contained in the brake fluid. Your vehicle will likely need a brake adjustment or you may have to have the fluid drained out and replaced, says JD Powers.
3. GRINDING OR GROWLING
This is a loud metallic sound that just can’t be ignored, and it means the pads have worn down completely, usually beyond replacement. This grinding or growling noise results from two pieces of metal (the caliper and the disc) rubbing together. This can scratch your rotors, which will create an uneven surface. Upon inspection, your mechanic may tell you that the rotors must be “turned,” which is a process that will even out the rotor surface, or that you must have the brakes totally replaced.
A pulsating brake pedal signals warped rotors, but it may be that your car is out of alignment). The vibration may feel like the feedback you get in the brake pedal when you make a panic stop (if your BMW has anti-lock brakes).
Warped rotors are to blame if the vibration occurs as a result of braking situations when the anti-lock brakes do not engage, caused by hard braking for long periods of time (driving slowly down a steep hill or mountain or when you are towing something). Friction is created under these conditions, which heats up the rotors and causes them to warp. You feel the vibration because the brake pads can’t evenly grab the surface. If you continue to drive under these conditions, you will have to stop here and there to make sure your brakes can cool off sufficiently.
When you keep your brakes properly calibrated, you can prevent expensive repairs later, and, most importantly, avoid an accident.
CONTACT RICK AND RAY’S AUTO PLAZA
Need brake service you can trust for your BMW? Contact us at 817-335-2073 for a free estimate on anything from broken brake lines and leaking fluid to new shoes and pads. If you’re not sure what’s wrong, don’t worry: let us handle the diagnostics and suggest the right repair or replacement.