Could Brake Fade Be Giving You a Fright behind the Wheel?

Posted on: 22 March 2022


When you are used to the way that your car or truck performs, you will know just how much pressure to apply to the brake pedal to stop in any given situation. So, it can be very disconcerting if you suddenly find that it takes more pressure (and a lot more distance) to achieve the same task. In this situation, you are suffering from a case of "brake fade," but what is this, and what should you do about it?

Brake Set up

On the typical car today, each wheel will have a rotary brake disc, housing a caliper and friction pads. When you put your foot on the pedal, a special fluid will activate pistons within the caliper, pushing the pads against the disc and slowing each wheel at the same time.


This process can lead to a significant buildup of heat, but it's not a problem in typical, everyday driving. However, if you want to see an example of this phenomenon at work, watch some professional car racing online, and you will see that the brake discs can sometimes glow red hot.

Reduced Performance

Brake fade can happen when the system heats up to such an extent that the pads are not able to perform as they should. The heat does not have enough time to dissipate, and you may have to put even more pressure on the pedal for a longer period of time to achieve the same objective.

Mitigating Factors

This type of situation can happen if you do a lot of stop-start motoring in heavy traffic, where your foot is on the brake pedal much more than it is usually. If you live in a hilly part of the country and have spent some time driving down a long hill, you may have been using the brake pedal to keep the speed in check, leading to brake fade. In this situation, it's better to use the engine as a brake by changing down into the appropriate gear if you have a manual transmission.

Water Infiltration

Sometimes, brake fade can occur if the fluid is in need of a refresh. Tiny particles of moisture can infiltrate, and when the system heats up to a certain point, this water can boil into steam. Once again, this can reduce effectiveness.

Taking Action

If you encounter brake fade on more than one occasion, it's time for you to take the vehicle to a mechanic. They will have a look at the entire system and may need to change the pads, fluid and other components.

Contact a car mechanic to learn more.