Brake warning light on dashboard?

Problems with the brakes are hard to miss because they are accompanied by different sounds and warning lights on the dashboard. Brake problems cause different warning lights. It is good to understand the differences in these lights. This way, you don't drive on if you absolutely cannot. After reading this article, you will know the main causes of these lights.

Brake system warning lights

The type and number of brake warning lights may vary from one car model to another. However, most modern vehicles have three warning lights for the brake system:

  1. Illuminates when the parking brake is engaged and the car is started. Does the warning light stay on? This may be due to insufficient brake fluid or a malfunction in the brake system.
  2. Sometimes it says ABS or ESP in this light. This indicates a malfunction in these systems or that the brake pads are worn.
  3. When this light is on, the electric parking brake is on.

Why does the brake warning light come on?

There are a number of reasons why these lights may come on. Some are easy to fix, while others need to be repaired by a mechanic. Some common causes are:

Handbrake light stays on

Some cars have a separate light for the parking brake. It is a red or yellow circle with a 'P' in the middle surrounded by brackets on either side. The light comes on when the parking brake is on and you forget to take it off and drive off.

When you release the parking brake lever, the light goes out. If not, the lever may be broken or the parking brake itself may not be working properly.

Low or leaking brake fluid

Low brake fluid is the reason for several brake problems indicated by a red circle with an exclamation mark '!'. enclosed in parentheses. The brake fluid reservoir is a transparent tank under the hood. It has labels 'MAX' and 'MIN' inside, so you can easily see if there is enough or too much brake fluid in it. If the level is close to or below the 'MIN' label, refill the tank with a brake fluid listed in the owner's manual. Try to match the fluid type and if you cannot, replace it with a fluid with a higher number. For example, you can refill with DOT 4 fluid if your car uses DOT 3.

On the other hand, if you see a low fluid level in the tank and you have slightly worn brake pads, there may be a fluid leak. In that case, you should check the brake lines, the fluid reservoir and all the associated valves and connections to find the trace of amber fluid. A leak requires urgent attention and you should take the vehicle to a mechanic to fix the problem.

Worn brake pads

Damaged, broken or worn brake pads are other reasons why the brake warning light comes on. Scuffing and squeaking noises are another indicator of worn brake pads.

In this case, you should replace the brake pads for a new set. Without a lining, the pads will have metal-to-metal contact which causes the scraping sound. It is downright dangerous to continue driving with worn brake pads, because some parts of the braking system, such as the discs, may fail or even break.

Replace the brake pads on time, this will prevent expensive repairs. Don't forget to examine the brake discs and the sensors. You can shave the discs in case of minor wear or replace them if they are completely damaged. Sometimes the warning light does not go off after replacement, in which case the system may have bad sensors.

Defective brake lights

The brake light has different bulbs. If one of these burns out, the warning light comes on because the computer detects the resistance change in a circuit. Replacing the bad bulbs solves this problem, but remember to use the right type. If they are ordinary bulbs and you want to replace them with LEDs, hire a mechanic to do the work.

Driving on with the dashboard lights on?

The clear answer is 'No'. A warning light indicates a problem in the braking system that is too dangerous to ignore. Think of a situation where you need to stop the car but can't because the brakes refuse. It is dangerous for yourself and other road users. Go to a garage if a warning light stays on. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse and possibly damage other parts.

Squeaking brakes - possible causes

The causes of squeaking brakes

If your brakes make a noise, a squeaking or a scraping sound, it is not usually wise to drive on for a long time. To give you an idea of possible culprits, this article lists some possible causes.

Unusual braking noise

Unusual braking noise or behaviour is a warning sign that one of the most essential systems in your car may be faulty. Unfortunately, it happens that drivers ignore strange noises or abnormal braking behaviour, with sometimes unpleasant consequences.
Eventually, you may find yourself in a situation where your car needs a repair that is much more expensive than it should be. Worse still, the car may not stop in an emergency, causing an accident.

Car brakes have a tough job. They are exposed to enormous forces and a lot of heat is generated by friction every time you use them to stop.
When you press on the brakes, all the energy that your car makes forward has to be converted into friction in order to brake. The amount of friction created to stop a medium-sized car is enough to make the brake discs so hot that they glow and can turn red.

As mentioned before, the brakes of your car are perhaps the most essential part of all. Therefore, you should be alert if you hear any braking noises, such as squeaking and/or notice irregular braking behaviour.
Below are some of the causes of abnormal noises that can occur in the braking system of passenger cars.

A rattling sound

A rattling sound is common. You usually hear this sound when you release the brake pedal. It usually sounds like the rattle you hear when shaking a can of paint. The most common cause of this noise is the brake pads, and that is a good thing. Brake pads can sometimes rattle due to heat/expansion. Bear in mind that this rattle should not be constant and it should never happen when you have your foot on the brake pedal. If this does happen, it is wise to have your brakes checked at your garage.

A scraping sound

A scraping noise when braking is usually a serious problem and should be addressed immediately. The most common causes of a scraping noise are:

If your brakes make a loud grinding noise when you press the pedal, this is almost always caused by worn brake pads. In this case, there is no or insufficient brake lining on the pads. The grinding noise is therefore caused by the brake block without lining being pressed against the disc.

It can also happen that a small stone has come between the disc brake and the brake pads. In some cases, the stone only gives a scraping noise when pressing the brake, but it can also be present constantly. 

In both cases, a visit to a garage is necessary to rectify the annoying noise.

A squeaking sound

In general, a squeaking noise during braking is not a major defect, but it can be very irritating. What often happens in practice is that when the brake pads are replaced, the brake disks are not also replaced. This is not always necessary, but then the new pads have to wear down and this can cause a squeaking noise. If the brake discs are almost worn out, then it is wise to replace them at the same time as fitting new brake pads.  

Beeping noise when fading brakes

"Brake fade is a condition in which the brakes have overheated and therefore do not function normally. Brake fade most commonly occurs in situations where the brakes are used much more frequently than normal, such as going down a mountain. This overheating can also cause the brakes to squeal. Below is a brief explanation of what fading is and how you can check it. 

What exactly is fading?

When you experience fading, it takes more effort to deliver the same braking power. One way to avoid fading is to brake more on the engine. Use a low gear so that the engine and drivetrain of the vehicle control the speed of the vehicle rather than just the brakes. If you think you are experiencing fading, you should always perform a pressure check on your brake system. This will check if the hydraulics on your brakes are still working correctly. You can perform a hydraulic check by pumping the pedal a few times when the car is parked. The pedal should become firmer and firmer with each pump, without becoming slack.