Brake Failure: Top 14 Causes & Remedies

What Is Brake Fade? Brake failure includes the Brake Fade phenomenon, which occurs due to the reduction of braking performance. It is because of the building-up of heat at the disc or drums of the …

Brake Failure

What Is Brake Fade?

Brake failure includes the Brake Fade phenomenon, which occurs due to the reduction of braking performance. It is because of the building-up of heat at the disc or drums of the brakes. Typically, Brake Fade occurs due to rough use of brakes (i.e., pressing them hard and repeatedly) during a short duration. You need good ventilation for the brakes to reduce this “Fade” problem. That’s why many vehicles use ventilated discs on the front wheels. Brake fade usually occurs in recently developed performance cars due to aggressive driving.

Why Does It Occur?

Furthermore, brake fade can factor in brake failure comprising a friction braking system. Therefore, it ultimately includes almost every vehicle per se, such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bikes. Besides, brake fade can either be mechanical fade, friction fade, or fluid fade. It usually occurs during high-performance drives or a steep descent.


However, it is more common in drum brakes than discs due to its construction. You can reduce brake fade significantly using correct methods and materials, design and selection, and proper cooling. Besides, you can minimize brake failures, such as brake fade and rotor wrapping. You can do it through proper braking techniques, such as applying brakes on a long slope at lower gears. However, the driver may need a brief use of the throttle after selecting the gear for automatic transmissions. 

What is Brake Judder?

Furthermore, you can feel braking vibrations caused by a distorted disc, out-of-shape drums, or worn-out pads. Judder is easily noticeable when braking from high speed. However, if present, it should be attended to immediately.

Following are some of the possible causes and remedies for brake failure:

Sr. No. Trouble Cause Remedy
1. The brake pedal is soft and spongy. a. The air in the brake system. a. Bleed the brake system.
  b. Brake fluid too hot (after a long time of operation of the brake) b. Give the brake system time to cool down and, if necessary, bleed
  c. Damaged one of both primary seals in the tandem master cylinder. c. Replace primary seals.
  d. Brake shoes are worn out. d. Replace shoes.
2. Unsatisfactory braking action despite hard pedal pressure (normal pedal travel) a. Brake shoes oily or greasy. a. Rectify the cause of leakage and clean brake drum/disc.
  b. Brake shoe/pads charred. b. Replace the parts.
  c. Brake shoes/pads worn. c. Replace.
  d. Vacuum booster defective d. Rectify/Replace.
  e. Brake shoe/drum distorted. e. Check and rectify.
3. Brakes heat when the vehicle travels or fails to release. a. Compensation port in tandem master cylinder clogged. a. Dis-assemble the tandem master cylinder and clean.
  b. Rubber parts were swollen because of the usage of non-recommended fluids. b. Drain the brake system and dismantle the whole brake system. Replace all rubber parts, including the brake hoses. Then, fill the brake system with one of the approved brake fluids.
  c. Brake drum shoe clearance is morec. Adjust.
  d. Brake shoe return-spring weak/broken. d. Replace
  e. Brake drum out of true of scorede. Rectify.
  f. Anchor plate/caliper mountingf. Tighten bolts.
  g. Slack hub bearing loose. g. Rectify.
  h. Vacuum booster piston seized. h. Rectify/replace.
  i. Weak/broken pedal return spring. i. pivot and linkage. Brake Failure: Replace spring lubricate

Brake Failure: Troubleshooting Tips

4. Unsatisfactory braking action despite hard pedal pressure leaky. (short pedal travel) a. Vacuum hose or connections leaky. a. Eliminate leaks.
  b. Damaged vacuum seal in tandem master cylinderb. Replace vacuum seals.
  c. Damaged O-ring between the tandem master cylinder and vacuum booster. c. Damaged O-ring
  d. Damaged seal on vacuum booster piston. d. Replace vacuum booster.
  e. There is a tear in the diaphragm. e. Replace vacuum booster.
  f. Check valve sticking. f. Replace the vacuum line together with the check valve.
  g. A defective vacuum pump. g. Repair the vacuum pump.
5. Unsatisfactory braking action despite hard pedal pressure excessive. (long pedal travel) a. excessive drum to shoe clearancea. Adjust brakes.
  b. Incorrect brake fluid. b. Incorrect brake fluid. b. Flush the system and use specified brake fluid.
  c. Cracked drums. c. Replace brake drum.
  d. Excessive wear in brake pedal linkage. d. Inspect and rectify linkages.
  e. Wheel bearing play is excessive. e. Adjust.
  f. Mounting of brake part loose/defective. f. Rectify and tighten.
  g. Inoperative one brake circuit through leaks. g. Eliminate leaks.
6. Brakes dragging on one sidea. Brake shoes/pads oily or greasy. a. Check seals of the wheel hub, and replace brake pads/shoes.
  b. Brake shoes/pads of one side excessively worn. b. Replace brake shoes/pads.
  c. There is a difference in the friction valve of brake shoes/pads. c. Replace brake shoes/pads.
  d. Out of round drums. d. Correct by grinding/turning.
  e. Bad tires. e. Replace worn tires.
  f. Brake anchor plate/caliper mounting loose. f. Tighten firmly.

Brake Failure: Troubleshooting Tips

7. Brakes squeaking or Judder. a. Brake drum out of round. a. Check and rectify.
  b. Brake drum/disc out of true. b. Check and rectify.
  c. Brake linkages having high frictionc. Check and rectify.
  d. Brake liners not chamfered. d. Check and rectify.
  e. An excessive air gap between liners and shoe. e. Check and rectify.
  f. Loose brake liner rivets. f. Check and rectify.
  g. Anchor plate/caliper brake mounting loose. g. Tighten.
  h. Lining/pad worn out excessively. h. Check and rectify.
  i. The wheel bearing play is not in order. i. Adjust it.
8. Rattling brakes. a. Unsatisfactory wear pattern of brake shoes. a. Properly run-in brake shoes.
  b. Check shock absorbers. b. Adjust or replace if necessary
9. The fluid reservoir needs frequent topping up. a. Leak in hydraulic unions for leaks. a. Check all liners, hoses, and unions for leaks.
  b. Brake fluid escaping from leak port of the tandem master cylinder. b. Replace vacuum seals in the leak port of the tandem master cylinder. If necessary, remove brake fluid from the vacuum booster.
10. Sudden braking effect inspite of light pedal pressure. a. Brake incorrectly adjusteda. Readjust brake.
  b. Brake anchor plate/caliper mounting loose. b. Firmly tighten anchor plate.

Brake Failure: Troubleshooting Tips

11. Uneven wear on brake lininga. Check for the correct type of brake lining materialsa. Fit approved makes only.
  b. Wheel cylinders corroded. b. Clean/repair the cylinders.
12. Pistons seized in wheel cylinders. a. Shoe assembly linkages are dirty or corroded. a. Check, rectify, and free cylinders.
  b. Mounting of wheel cylinder out of line or loose. b. Check and rectify.
  c. Corrosion of cylinder bores. c. Remove corrosion/rectify.
13. Parking brake ineffective. a. Change brake shoe after leakage, if any. a. Change brake shoe after rectifying the cause of leakage, if any.
  b. Excessive clearance between brake lining and drum. b. Adjust brake shoe to drum clearance.
  c. The excessive free play of cables. c. Adjust cables.
14. Poor brake / Rear-wheel lockinga. ‘G’ conscious valve not functioning.a. Replace
  b. LCRV not functioning. b. LCRV Adjust the gap. If the problem is not solved, replace it.

For more information on brake systems and brake failure, please click here:

Girling Brakes

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