Blog Car Care Advice Are Your Brakes Overheating? Here Are 4 Signs & 3 Causes
Car Care Advice

Are Your Brakes Overheating? Here Are 4 Signs & 3 Causes

Looking for a mechanic near you for maintenance or repair? AutoNation Mobile Service brings the shop to you. Get a free instant quote today.
Get a Quote

Your brake system is a marvelous mechanism. It can stop a 4,000 lb car at the press of your foot. 

But all that braking generates a lot of heat through friction, and if you’re not careful, it could lead to your brakes overheating. 

How can you tell when your brakes are overheating? 

In this article, we’ll explore four signs and three causes of overheating brakes and if it’s safe to drive with overheated brakes. We’ll also cover ways to cool down and prevent your brakes from overheating, plus five FAQs about brakes.  

This Article Contains:

Let’s get cracking.

4 Signs of Brakes Overheating

Identifying signs overheating brakes early can save you from expensive repairs and potentially life-endangering situations. 

The most common signs include: 

1. Your Brake Light Comes On

An illuminated brake light on your dashboard signifies an issue with your braking system. It could mean your brake pads are overheated or the emergency brake is engaged. 

If the light isn’t because of the emergency brake, it’s best to have a professional examine your brake system soon.

2. Squeaky Sounds From Your Brakes

The brake pad or brake shoe has a high-friction material (also called brake lining) that prevents metal components from rubbing against each other.

This brake lining, though durable, may wear out faster when your brake pad or brake shoe is misaligned. When this happens, the metal components grind against each other, generating squeaky sounds and excess heat.

3. Brakes Feel Spongy or Soft

When air accumulates in the brake lines, your brakes may feel spongy or soft.  


Air in the brake line or brake hose could turn into steam or water when the brake fluid heats up. This may prevent the brake fluid from flowing properly, reducing your braking power. In some cases, it may result in complete brake failure.

But here’s the thing: Soft or spongy brakes could also signify low brake fluid, which could be due to a damaged brake line or master cylinder. 

4. Smoke or a Burning Smell From Your Brakes 

The buildup of brake dust or corrosion may cause the brake pads to stick to the disc, preventing the wheel from spinning freely. 

Similarly, seized brake calipers or wheel cylinders may result in the pistons getting stuck. 

When this happens, your brake pads or brake shoes may continue pressing against the wheel, generating excess heat, and emitting a burning smell or smoke from your brakes. 

Now, let’s explore the reasons behind overheating brakes. 

3 Common Causes of Brakes Overheating

These are the three most common factors behind overheating brakes: 

1. Worn-Out Brake Pads or Brake Shoes

Driving with worn brake shoes or brake pads may cause your brakes to overheat. 
Without sufficient friction material, your brake pads or shoes won’t be able to prevent the metal components from rubbing against each other, generating excess heat. 

Brake pads and brake shoes last roughly 30,000-35,000 miles with urban use.

2. Improperly Installed Brake Pads or Brake Shoes

Your brakes rely on friction to bring your car to a halt. If the brake pads or brake shoes are misaligned or incorrectly installed, they may squeeze against the metal components unevenly.

The result?
Your brake pads, brake shoes, or brake rotor may wear out faster, reducing the effectiveness of your brakes.

3. Low-Quality Brake Parts

A poor-quality brake part will wear out faster, often overheating your brakes.
That’s because the quality and composition of your brake parts are vital in ensuring your brake system operates efficiently.

For example, low-quality brake pads or shoes may not have the right gripping power or may not align with your vehicle’s specifications. 

Also, a substandard brake part may not be designed or tested for weather conditions, resulting in various brake issues.

Can overheated brakes be dangerous? 
Read on to find out. 

Is it Safe to Drive With Overheated Brakes?

No, driving with hot brakes isn’t safe. 
It could result in complete brake failure or your brakes catching fire.

This could land you in trouble with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (highway safety regulators) as it endangers human life.  

Need a hack to cool your brakes? 

How Do I Cool Down Overheated Brakes?

Try these tips to cool down hot brakes: 

Next, let’s explore some precautions you can take to keep your brakes from overheating. 

How to Prevent Brakes From Overheating? 

These methods can help keep your brakes from getting overheated: 

Have more questions about your car’s brakes? 

5 FAQs About Brakes

Let’s explore answers to some common questions you may have about brakes: 

1. How Do Car Brakes Work?

Your car’s brake system uses friction to bring your vehicle to a halt by converting kinetic energy (the wheel’s movement) into heat energy.

In other words, the pressure is transmitted to your brake pads (disc brake assembly) or brake shoes (drum brake assembly) when you step on the brake pedal. The brake pads or brake shoes then rub against the wheel’s rotors, creating friction and bringing your vehicle to a stop.

PS: Most modern cars use a disc brake assembly for the front and a drum brake for the back. However, the rear brake in some vehicles may have a disc brake assembly.  

2. What are the Different Types of Braking Systems?

Here are common types of braking systems found in a car or bike: 

3. What are the Types of Brake Fluids, and Which One to Use? 

There are generally four types of brake fluids you can use:

4. What Does Brake Fade Mean, and What Can I Do About It?

Brake fade refers to a loss of braking power due to excessive heat buildup in your brake components. Typically, this happens because of air in the brake line or improperly fitted or worn-out brake pads.

If brake fade happens, it’s best to take your foot off the accelerator, downshift the gears, and gently apply the handbrake to prevent further damage. 

After bringing your vehicle to a stop, contact a reliable auto repair shop for brake service. A new brake pad or brake shoe will typically fix the problem. 

5. How Do I Choose the Right Brake Discs and Brake Pads? 

It’s always best to choose OEM brake discs and brake pads.
Alternatively, you can choose high-quality brake parts from a reputed manufacturer like Haldex commercial vehicle systems. 

However, if you’re opting for aftermarket parts, ensure the new brake pad or brake disc is of the right shape and size.

Wrapping Up

Overheating brakes are a significant safety concern. 

This brake problem is likely caused by worn-out, misaligned, or incorrectly installed brake pads or brake shoes. Thankfully, there are several warning signs and ways to cool down overheated brakes.

But, if your brakes continue to overheat, it’s best to consult a reputable auto repair provider like AutoNation Mobile Service.

AutoNation Mobile Service takes care of any brake problem, including replacing old worn-out parts right from your driveway. We also offer upfront pricing and a 12-month warranty on all repairs. Contact us, and we’ll get your brakes fixed in a jiffy!