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Faulty Brakes

By: Tracy Wilkinson - Updated: 30 Apr 2021 | comments*Discuss
Brake Fluid Handbrake Hydraulic System

Driving with defective brakes can result in you being pulled aside by the police and subjected to a vehicle check. If the police officer determines that your brakes are defective then you may find yourself issued with a CU10 offence and facing a fine of up to £2500 as well as 3 Penalty Points to go on your driving license.

We’ve already covered how to Check Your Brakes to keep them safe in another article, so now we’re going to go through some common problems you might have with your brakes, and what could be causing them:

My brake pedal sinks right down when I hold my foot on it: when you apply the brakes, the vehicle may not stop or will need a long distance to come to a halt.

Possible reasons:

  • Brake fluid is dangerously low and needs refilling
  • Master cylinder needs replacing
  • Air has got into the hydraulic system. Bleed hydraulic system to rectify problem
The Brakes Hardly Stop The Car: this time, when the brakes are applied the car takes ages to stop and barely does so. When stopped you need to keep your foot hard on the brake to keep the car from moving.

Possible reasons:

  • Brake fluid is dangerously low and needs refilling
  • Master cylinder needs replacing
  • Air has got into the hydraulic system. Bleed hydraulic system to rectify problem
  • Brake pads and/or brake shoes are worn out and need replacing.
The Brake Pedal is really hard to push down and braking is difficult: the brake pedal needs to be forced to apply. It’s hard and will probably just happen out of the blue, rather than build up slowly over time.

Possible reasons:

  • Bad power brake booster
  • Vacuum to the power brake booster isn’t working properly.
  • Brake line is pinched and needs replacing.
  • Something has become wedged under the brake pedal. Check it is clear and that floor mats are not getting stuck under the pedals.
The Brake Pedal Drops: The brake pedal makes the car stop when you need it to, but then slowly goes down to the floor. This may get worse the more the brakes are used, such as in heavy urban traffic and may also get worse over time.

Possible reasons:

  • The brake shoes may be incorrectly fitted, of poor quality or be the wrong type completely.
  • The brakes could be overheating due to dragging, sticking or worn components.
  • The brakes could be overheating due to a restricted airflow, which can be caused by obstructions such as brake dust shields or the wrong wheel types.
  • The brake fluid could be contaminated with water, or the wrong brake fluid might have been used. Replace with the right fluid.
  • There could be a leak in the hydraulic system.
The handbrake won’t release: You might see smoke or smell burning. The rear wheels may be really hot. The car may feel like it is dragging when moving forward and/or roll easily in reverse. The handbrake moves up and down far easier than it should do.

Possible causes:

  • The handbrake cables are frozen up and need replacing
  • The handbrake needs lubricating
  • There is a broken mechanism inside the rear brakes that needs checking.
Do remember that your handbrake is an integral part of your braking system and that if you are pulled over by police for a check, they will expect to be able to push your car while the handbrake is engaged and for it to not move.

For more help and advice on keeping your brakes in a safe condition, check your owner manual and the Highway Code. Information on defective vehicles can be found in the Road Traffic Act 1988. If you suspect that there is a Serious Defect with your brakes, then please take your car to be checked over by a professional mechanic at the earliest opportunity - it's not worth taking the risk.

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I’ve also been stopped recently in regard to defective brakes. My car’s right rear light doesn’t indicate the brake. I was asked whether I knew about the problem. I said that I was aware of it and had queried in the garage about the rear brake light. I was told that it was possible in some car makes. So, anyway, I was supposed to pay a £100 penalty and take my car to the garage. However, I received a letter from the police saying thatit was an error and that they were sorry for a confusion caused.
LA - 30-Apr-21 @ 4:30 PM
I was issued cu10 for defective brakes on my Mercedes sprinter 2004.The examining officer performed handbrake check by pushing the rear wheels whilst handbrake lever pulled (pulled by myself when stoppedànd not sure how many clicks).The officer only checked if vehicle wasn't in gear and never checked if handbrake levee was fully applied. During the examination he pushed nearside wheel and it moved slightly maybe an inch before it would kind of had resistance from handbrake shoes inside brakedisc drum.Have to mention that particular wheel was on an even road deepening. Vehicle had topass mot to release prohibition. It was checked in the garage and handbrake was in good condition not required any repairs. Next day it passed MOT. Metropolitan police wants to prosecute on RTA 1988 s41A. Please advise if I have a chance to win a court case based on above. Kind regards Nat
G - 12-Dec-20 @ 7:42 PM
Hi I've just been pulled over for having faulty break lights which I was unaware of The officer told me she would be writing a report and I would receive a letter in a few weeks with an outcome What is my worst case scenario here I truly wasn't aware my lights were not working
Ally - 30-Aug-17 @ 12:41 PM
I was in Brecon, some 60 miles from home when my brakes failed - pedal to the floor.A bit of pumping produced restored it for a while, just enough to get into town and to a garage, but they said they were going home shortly and could do nothing except lend me a trolley jack for a few minutes. It gave me the chance to see a major leak from a rear wheel cylinder that could not be fixed or made safe to get home, so I had to make a decision - to be stranded in Brecon or to limp home.I decided on the latter. Fortunately, it was a fine day, the road home was nearly all A roads with good visibility and not too hilly, and was cross-country nearly all the way with a reasonable bypass around the biggest city.The car has a low first gear (important for engine braking) and the handbrake was still working.Most importantly, I knew the brakes had failed and could therefore drive with extreme caution. I decided to limit my speed to 30mph maximum, cruise in third gear, and not drive at any speed I could not stop using engine braking and handbrake.Road junctions, traffic lights and roundabouts needed careful forward planning - into second in good time, slow up, into first, then a dab on the handbrake to stop.Traffic building up behind was waved on wherever it was safe for them to do so, slowing up to allow them to pass quickly and safely and waving them on.Steep downhill sections also needed planning - I would get down to 15mph at the top of the hill and stay in second gear.Only once or twice did it run away beyond 30mph, so a couple of dabs on the handbrake brought it down.The useless footbrake was only used to work the stop lights if anyone was close behind, otherwise I wanted to keep as much brake fluid in the car as possible. The red warning light came on after about 10 miles. It took about 3 hours to get home, but I was happy to allow all the time that was needed. When I got home, I found the brake hose snapped off completely.I was heavily laden, and it is possibly that metal fatigue set in with the suspension so low putting strain on the rear hose.I am now replacing the rear brake hoses and replacing the pads on the handbrake.
JM - 19-Aug-16 @ 2:07 PM
@Pi. You should check this with a good mechanic. It's unlikely that a worn brake pad could be a result of the police officer 'revving' the machine whilst checking it.
NoPenaltyPoints - 23-Mar-15 @ 2:37 PM
I have been stopped and issued a ticket for defective brakes, £100 fine and 3 points, this is due to me apparently have no rear brake pad left on my motorbike brakes, I was very suprised by this as it is regurly in the garage having somthing done, I was even more to find out that the back brake was jammed and believe this is due to the police man repeatedly revving at maximum and applying the back break only at maximum ( 6-7 times )hence jamming the break, the policeman then took photos of the break (pad I think) and gave me a ticket. I feel this conduct was wrong and I should appeal, please advise.
pj - 20-Mar-15 @ 8:59 AM
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