What causes car brakes to overheat?

Car brakes can be subject to a variety of issues from brake wear to overheating. When brake discs overheat, the high temperature reduces the effectiveness of the friction material. This heat build-up can be transferred into the brake fluid, causing it to boil which then leads to spongy and ineffective brakes. As soon as you notice any issues with your brakes, it’s essential to get them looked at as soon as possible.

In this article, we’ll cover how to tell if your brakes have overheated, the causes of overheating and how to prevent it from happening.

How to tell if brakes have overheated?

There are multiple signs to look for which indicate that your brakes have become too hot:

  • Braking feels softer than usual or spongy.
  • Brakes are smoking or have a burning smell.
  • Brakes produce a squealing sound.
  • Steel brake discs can become bright orange when in use and blue when they have cooled.

Is it safe to drive with overheated brakes?

It’s not safe to drive if your brakes have overheated. As soon as you notice the signs of overheated brakes, pull over to a safe place as soon as possible to allow the brakes to cool down. Not using your brakes for around 5 minutes should allow them to cool.

Brakes overheating can lead to brake fade, which further decreases your braking ability and can even lead to complete loss of control. As a result, you should get your brakes checked as soon as possible if they have overheated.

At Halfords, we offer a free brake check to give you peace of mind that your brakes are in top condition. You can easily book online and select your nearest Halfords Autocentre.

book free brake check

What causes brakes to overheat?

There are several reasons why your brakes may overheat. Some of the main causes are as follows:

  • Frequent aggressive braking.
  • Brakes pads installed incorrectly.
  • Poor quality brakes pads and brake discs.
  • Jammed brake caliper guide pins.
  • Towing loads that are too heavy or frequent braking on hills.

If you suspect that any of these issues could be the case with your brakes, you’ll need to get replacements as soon as possible. You can find the relevant car parts for your vehicle on halfords.com by simply entering in your vehicle registration number.

If you’re unsure of what the problem with your brakes could be, book in at your local Halfords Autocentre and get them checked by one of our experts.

How to prevent brake from overheating?

There are a few things you can do to prevent your brakes from overheating and keep them well maintained:

Have your car serviced regularly

Having an annual car service means that any potential issues with your brakes can be identified early, allowing you to take action quickly and prevent the problem from further deteriorating.

Installing high quality brake pads and discs

It may seem obvious, but installing high quality vehicle components are likely to last longer than poorly made alternatives. Your vehicle handbook will cover the best components recommended for your vehicle.

Avoid aggressive braking

Frequent and aggressive braking can cause unnecessary wear on your brake pads and discs and results in poor fuel economy. Paying attention and assessing the road ahead will allow you to brake slowly and in good time. Take a look at our hypermiling article for more fuel efficiency tips.

How to choose the right brakes

With car brakes being central to the safety of your vehicle, it’s essential to choose high quality components that meet the technical requirements of your car. To discover the types of car parts recommended by your vehicle manufacturer, take a look at your vehicle handbook.

At Halfords, we stock 1000s of high quality car parts for a wide range of makes and models. To find the right brake parts for you from brake pads to brake calipers, just enter in your vehicle registration and we’ll show you all parts relevant for your car.


For lifetime care of your brakes, why not join our Brakes4Life scheme? This exclusive offer gives you free replacement brake pads or brake shoes for life – even when you change your car. All you have to do is buy your first pair of brake pads or brake shoes with us, then we’ll cover all future replacements. When you get a new car, simply bring it in to register for the lifetime replacement, or you can transfer your cover to the new owner when you sell your car. You can find more details about the scheme, including the full terms and conditions below.

Explore Brakes4life
Shop car parts