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Can you tell if your brakes are about to go?

Perhaps no single safety system on a car is as important as the brakes. If you've driven in the mountains, you've seen the runaway truck lanes that they can use if the brakes go out. You can imagine just how disastrous that could be in any car, on any road in California.

But can you really tell in advance? What warning signs should you look out for? Here are a few tell-tale signs:

  • The brakes are not as responsive as they once were. Your car still stops, but it feels sluggish and takes a longer stopping distance to do so.
  • The brakes squeal when you press on them. This is because of a metal shim in the brake pads that is designed to let you know that the pads have worn out.
  • When physically examining the pads, they look very thin. Anything under 1/4 of an inch is too little and they need to get switched out soon.
  • The car pulls to one side when you press on the brakes. This indicates that they are not wearing out evenly.
  • The brake pedal itself fades down too far and gets too close to the vehicle's floor. Even if it still technically works, this is a red flag.

Now, keeping up on your maintenance and changing your brake pads on a set schedule -- or whenever you see these warning signs -- is a good first step. However, you can't guarantee that all other drivers are going to do the same. If someone's vehicle malfunctions because of neglect and causes an accident, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries.

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