Your car’s brakes are unquestionably one of its most crucial safety features. There are a number of more serious problems that can develop when a vehicle’s brakes suddenly lock up and don’t seem to be releasing. Until the issue is identified and fixed, you shouldn’t be operating a vehicle in traffic. It’s time to figure out why your brakes are locking up.
Causes Of Brakes Locking Up
Brake lock-up occurs on vehicles without ABS when stopping on slick or wet roads due to a loss of traction between the tire tread and road surface.
Your tires continue to skid on the slick surface even though you’re applying maximum force to the brake pedal and they’re no longer spinning. This occurs as a result of the tires being unable to acquire the necessary traction to stop.
ABS pumps the brakes for you to provide the most stopping power on slippery surfaces. Your tires can almost, but not quite, skid as a result.
Brake lock-up can occur under normal driving conditions on standard and ABS-equipped vehicles due to small problems like worn brake pads, excessive rust on the rotors (from your vehicle sitting for months), and installing brake pads on one axel that may heat up more slowly than the pads on the other axel.
All but the most severe rust buildup should be removed by replacing worn pads (a DIY project) and regular driving. No braking issues ought to arise once the brake pads have warmed up.
Both non-ABS and ABS models: Worn, missing, rusted, or damaged mounting hardware can lead to disc brake calipers binding, which can lead to brake pad and rotor overheating.
Overheating causes brake lock-up, which can cause your car to veer sharply to one side when stopping, and premature pad and rotor wear. A do-it-yourself project is replacing brake pads and rotors.
Non-ABS and ABS: Low brake fluid levels, using the wrong brake fluid, or brake friction material saturated with brake fluid from a leaking component can result in brake lock-up. A binding caliper will behave in the same way as a collapsed brake hose that is trapping fluid inside.
The rear wheels may lock up when applying heavy braking force if a brake system proportional valve is malfunctioning and delivering equal fluid pressure to the entire brake system.
Only for ABS: The ABS pump can be harmed by brake fluid that has been contaminated by moisture. Poor braking performance and brake lock-up are both effects of a failing ABS pump. If you think your car might be leaking brake fluid, never drive.
Wheel Speed Sensors And Wheel Bearings
With ABS only: A ring gear on the wheel hub bearing allows wheel speed sensors to measure a wheel’s speed and transmit that information to the engine control module (ECM) of the vehicle.
The ABS may activate when stopping for no apparent reason if a worn wheel hub bearing, damaged ring gear, or malfunctioning speed sensor is sending inaccurate data to the ECM. This will lock the brakes.
Verify the tire pressure. When a tire is underinflated, it will roll faster or slower than the other tires, which will cause the ECM to receive inaccurate information.
This is the system’s “brains,” and it includes the ABS controller/module and/or pump. The very thing that ABS aims to prevent—locked-up brakes—can be brought on by an ABS computer that isn’t working properly.
Poor braking performance is brought on by a malfunction in the ABS computer or electronics. Additionally, it will turn on the ABS dashboard warning lamp to let you know it’s time to see your mechanic.
Driver Reaction To Road Conditions
Maintain your composure if your brakes lock up as you stop!
If the brakes lock up because of a mechanical problem or if the vehicle is sliding on slick pavement, non-ABS vehicles can help the tires maintain traction by pumping the brake pedal.
What To Do When Your Brakes Lock Up
Do Not Panic
Not panicking is the single most crucial thing to keep in mind when experiencing brake lock-up.
Even though it may seem more difficult than it actually is, you have a duty to protect not only the other drivers around you but also your passengers.
You lose the ability to consider the following steps when you are in a panic.
Find A Place To Stop
Finding a secure location to stop is the next factor to take into account. Look around you quickly to see what is available.
Parking lots, spacious driveways, or even a clear shoulder are good options for this.
Carefully Exit The Roadway
When you’ve reached the destination you want to stop at, carefully leave the road. Take into account all surrounding traffic, even though it’s a little challenging right now.
If at all possible, signal before navigating a lane change. Remember that making the wrong choice now could result in a much worse situation.
Come To A Stop, Set E-brake If Necessary
After removing your vehicle from the road, stop it as gently as you can. Setting your emergency brake can offer some stabilization if it seems like your car is pulling to one side or the other.
It’s crucial to keep in mind, though, that applying the emergency brake to a moving vehicle while it’s moving quickly can be dangerous in and of itself.
Have The Vehicle Towed For Repair
A vehicle should never be driven again after experiencing brake lock-up until the necessary repairs have been made. Even if it’s only a short drive away, a vehicle should be towed to the intended location of repair.
How To Fix Locked Up Brakes
Get to your neighborhood Les Schwab as soon as it’s safe to do so, whether you’re experiencing brake drag or brake lock-up. Our technicians will inquire as to which wheel(s) appears to be locking up and at what time. Any details you can offer will aid in the diagnosis and fixing.
However, there are three options available to you if you lock up while driving that could prevent an accident.
- Put some force on the brakes and work to regain as much control as you can. If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), you may feel some pedal feedback and hear a mechanical noise as it stops. The ABS is giving you feedback as it keeps the wheels from locking up and stops you from skidding.
- Step off the brake pedal to allow your wheels to possibly gain enough traction to momentarily unlock. Afterward, if necessary, apply brake pressure once more.
- Press the brakes repeatedly (and quickly) until they release or bring you to a safe stop.