What Causes Brake Failure In A Car? [8 Common Cause]

Picture this: you’re driving down the highway, cruising along with no issues, when suddenly your brakes fail. It’s a nightmare scenario that no driver wants to experience. But do you know what causes brake failure in a car?

Brakes are one of the most important safety features in any vehicle. They’re the primary defense against accidents, and failure to maintain them can be catastrophic. However, despite their crucial role, many drivers neglect to properly maintain their brakes, leading to issues that can cause them to fail.

Understanding what causes brake failure can help you identify warning signs and prevent potential disasters. In this article, we’ll explore the common reasons behind brake failure in a car, so you can avoid them and ensure your brakes are in top shape.

What Causes Brake Failure in A Car: 8 Common Causes

1. Neglect Toward Care

This is a common cause of brake failure. Neglecting proper care of cars can be a major cause of brake failure. When brakes are not inspected and serviced regularly, they can become worn down or damaged. Over time, the brake pads can become thin and worn out, losing stopping power.

Additionally, the brake rotors may become warped due to heat buildup from frequent use without proper cooling. The calipers can also become stuck or corroded from a lack of lubrication.

2. Contaminated Brake Fluid

Brake fluid helps provide the hydraulic pressure needed to activate the brakes in a car. When this fluid is contaminated, it can cause problems with the braking system and lead to brake failure. Contamination can occur due to water entering through faulty seals or using the wrong brake fluid.

3. Worn Out Brake Pads

Brake pads are part of the braking system that offers direct friction to slow down the wheels. Over time, these pads will wear out and become thin, decreasing stopping power. It’s important to monitor this component regularly and replace it when necessary.

4. Damaged Rot ors

The rotors are another important part of the braking system that can be damaged due to excessive heat buildup or other issues. Warped rotors can lead to uneven stopping power and cause the brakes to seize up, leading to brake failure. It’s important to inspect the rotors regularly and replace them if necessary.

5. Leaking Brake Lines

A leak in the brake lines can decrease hydraulic pressure and cause brakes to fail. Leaks can be caused by corrosion or improper installation, so it’s important to ensure all brake lines are properly sealed and maintained.

6. Air In Brake Lines

Air bubbles in the brake lines can also cause serious issues with braking performance. This is typically caused by an improper bleed of the brakes, allowing air to enter the system. It’s important to make sure all brake lines are properly bled and free of air.

7. Faulty Sensors

Modern cars have sensors that control different parts of the braking system, including antilock brakes and traction control systems. If these sensors become faulty or damaged, they can cause a decrease in braking power and lead to brake failure.

8. Low Brake Fluid

Low brake fluid levels can also cause problems with the brakes in a car. The system requires adequate fluid to function properly, so it’s important to check this often and top off the reservoir when necessary.

Can I Know Before Brake Fails?

Yes, you can know from signs. If your vehicle shows signs of brake trouble, it pays to inspect it as soon as possible. One of the clearest signs of something wrong with your brakes is a strange squeal or grinding noise when you apply them.

This could mean your brake pads are so worn that the metal backing plates rub against your rotors. You may also find that the pedal feels spongy or unresponsive – this indicates air in your braking system which a cracked line, faulty hose, or loose seal could cause.

Considering how much force is required to stop the vehicle is important. If it takes more and more effort to bring the car to a stop each time, then this could signify either worn parts or low brake fluid levels.

If you notice any liquid leaking from underneath the car, this could mean that a hydraulic line has been compromised and needs urgent attention. Keep all these warning signs in mind, and don’t hesitate to take your vehicle to an experienced mechanic if you ever suspect something isn’t right with your brakes.

What To Do if the Brakes Fail While I’m Driving?

In any situation where you are driving and your brakes fail, you should do your best to remain calm. Panic or overreaction can quickly lead to an accident, so staying as focused and balanced as possible is essential.

The primary thing that must be done in this situation is to try to slow down the car safely with other means. Accelerate the engine and shift the gear into a lower gear to use engine braking, or try downshifting to slow right down. Given your surrounding environment, only do this if it is safe and possible.

If you can drive towards a road shoulder on the side, attempt to reach that slowly while gradually reducing speed by easing off the gas pedal. If not, you must carefully steer your vehicle away from other cars and hazard onto a safer part of the road such as medians, parking lots, etc.

Doing this may sound easy, but remember that steering requires concentrated effort during a brake failure while maintaining speed simultaneously—it takes extraordinary skill and balance.

When you come across bearable speeds and can put control back into the hands of your feet again, start applying brakes lightly till you find moments when they begin working properly again.

How Often Do Brakes Fail?

When considering the potential risks of driving a vehicle, brake failure is certainly one of the more frightening possibilities. Yet, statistical evidence suggests that brakes fail far less often than most people think.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly only 5% of motor vehicle crashes in America are caused by brake failure. That translates to approximately 300,000 crashes per year out of 5.6 million car accidents nationwide.

That being said, it is still important for drivers to take preventative measures to ensure their brakes are functioning properly. The most basic maintenance would be regularly inspecting and replacing worn-out brake pads and rotors when necessary.

Additionally, it is essential to be aware of potential brake system issues during regular driving operations, such as grinding noises or spongy braking while pressing the pedal. Taking these precautions will help keep your brakes in good working condition and reduce the chances of an unexpected and potentially dangerous brake failure occurring on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

1. What’s The Common Brake Failure?

The primary reason for failure in a vehicle’s braking system is typically attributed to a leak in the brake lines, which slowly causes a loss of brake fluid and, subsequently, a decrease in pressure transmission from the pedal to the tires.

Additionally, brake failure can occur when the discs or drums become too worn to provide adequate friction to stop the wheels.

2. What Are The Signs Of Brakes Failing?

Some signs that a driver may observe when their brakes fail include a squealing sound when pressing the pedal, vibrations in the steering wheel or seat, and difficulty stopping the vehicle.

3. Can Brakes Fail Without Warning?

Brake failure is uncommon and usually comes with warning signs. Every driver should know what to look for. Handling brake problems when they first appear can prevent the problem from worsening and result in a smaller repair bill. Most importantly, it can also save lives.

4. What Noise Is Brake Failure?

Brake failure can be quite dangerous and cause serious accidents. When brakes fail, the car will not stop normally, making a screeching or grinding noise. The noise is caused by metal-on-metal contact due to the lack of brake pads or other components.

If the brake rotors are damaged, they may rattle when pressed. When pressing the brake pedal, a spongy feeling is another sign of impending brake failure.

5. What Is The Most Important Brake Part?

The brake master cylinder plays a vital role in the braking mechanism, as it triggers the movement of the entire system. When the brake pedal is depressed, a piston is propelled through the cylinder, thus compelling brake fluid through the brake lines.


Brake failure is rare and can usually be avoided with proper maintenance. However, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of brake failure and take preventative steps to address them before they become an issue. Moreover, knowing which parts are essential for a functioning brake system can help drivers to identify any potential problems before they arise.

John D. Archer

John D. Archer is a mechanical engineer and writer based on the area of automotive accessories at brakeshub.com, A resident expert and professional, John is passionate about all things automotive and loves to share his knowledge. He has good experience in all kind of automotive accessories. He has worked as a chief mechanical engineer in some reputed automotive garage firm.