Motoring FAQ's

How to tell if brakes need replacing

Car brakes are essential to vehicle safety, as they allow you to control the speed of your car and bring it safely to a halt. As with any other system in your car, brakes need to be regularly maintained and inspected to ensure they’re working correctly and effectively for the safety of you and other road users.

Your annual MOT or service are both opportunities for a qualified technician to assess the condition of your brakes, however, you should always be on the lookout for warning signs that they’re not working as they should. Keep reading to discover when your brakes need replacing.

How often should I get my brakes checked?

You should try to have both your brake discs and brake pads checked every 10,000 miles to make sure that everything is fully functioning. Your brake discs will need to be replaced after 30,000 to 50,000 miles on average, and your brake pads after 20,000 to 40,000. However, these figures will depend on the quality of the parts, your driving habits, and the condition of other braking components such as the brake callipers.

What are the parts of the brake system?

Before we discuss any brake failures, it’s important to understand the anatomy of your brakes, so you can better figure out when components need replacing.

It’s important to note that different vehicle makes and models will use different components – for example some cars will use disc brakes on all four wheels, while others may use drum brakes on the rear.

  • Brake discs – Circular metal discs that turn with your wheels. When the brake pads are pushed against the discs by the callipers, your car will begin to slow down.
  • Brake pads – Pads on either side of the brake disc that push against the brake disc when you press the pedal to reduce the speed of the car.
  • Brake callipers – Callipers house the pistons that push the brake pad against the brake disc when you apply the brake pedal.
  • Brake fluid – A liquid used in hydraulic systems to transmit the pressure from your foot through the braking system in order to stop your car.
  • Brake lines – The lines that house your brake fluid and allow it to travel throughout the braking system.

Signs your car brakes aren’t working properly

If you’re not sure how to tell if brake discs need replacing, or when it’s time for new brakes, there are some key signs to be aware of that indicate it’s time to replace them.

Your brakes don’t work as well as they used to

One of the main warning signs that you may need to replace your brakes is a loss of performance. If you find that the brake pedal feels spongy when you press it, then it may be that your brake pads need to be replaced or your brake fluid is low.

Lower than normal brake fluid levels could be down to a fluid leak, so you’ll need to have this checked by an expert as soon as possible. Our Free Brake Check can make sure that there are no leaks or problems.

Book a free brake check

You can hear a grinding or squealing sound

If you can hear a grinding noise when you brake, it’s likely that the friction material of your brake pad has worn away significantly, and the harsh sound is caused by the remaining metal on metal contact between the pad backing and the brake disc.

As for a squealing noise, this can be caused by a build-up of rust on the brakes. If you’ve left your car standing in the rain for a prolonged period of time, then there may be some light rusting on the metal components. This usually isn’t anything to worry about and should quickly wear off with consistent driving. The noise could also be the pads sticking in the calliper carriers that they operate in. Any squealing or grinding sounds like these should be investigated at the earliest opportunity.

If it is time for new pads or discs, you can find the right ones for your make and model on Simply enter your VRN to be shown all the options available for your vehicle. Remember, if you’re replacing your brake discs, you must always change your pads at the same time.

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Your car pulls to the side

Pushing the brake pedal shouldn’t affect your handling or direction, so if your car pulls to one side when you brake, this can be a serious problem in an emergency.

Pulling when you brake could also be related to your tyres or suspension but is likely a sign of uneven wear to your brakes, or a sticking calliper. Either way, it’s best to get them checked out immediately to ensure you can brake safely when you need to.

Unusual vibration when you’re braking

Warped brake discs can cause vibrations through your steering wheel or brake pedal as you slow down. If you feel this happening, then your discs will likely need to be replaced. You may also feel vibrations through your seat – this indicates that the rear brake discs or drums could be worn.

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There are leaks on the inner wheels

Worn seals, split hoses, and loose connections in your braking system can all lead to fluid leakages, weakening your braking performance.

Any fluid on the inner wheels, or on the floor where you’ve stopped or parked, can indicate a leak. You can identify brake fluid by its typically clear colour and slight odour. In this instance, do not drive your car as it will be unsafe to do so. Arrange for a specialist to inspect it.

Your brake warning light is on

One sure-fire way to know if there’s a problem with your brakes is to check your dashboard. If your car’s brake warning light is on, then your brake fluid may be low – top it up as soon as possible with the brake fluidcorrect .

You should also fully drain and replace your brake fluid every 24 months or 24,000 miles. If you’d prefer, we can do it for you with our Brake Fluid Change service at your local Halfords garage.

If the light remains on once you’ve topped up, then it could also indicate that your brake pads have worn and need replacing. Many feature a wear indicator which illuminates a warning message to the driver that the pads are nearing their wear limit. However, this isn’t a feature on every car, which is why making regular checks are so important.

What should I do if my brakes aren't working properly?

If you have any issues with your brakes, or you’re concerned by the sound or feel of your car when braking, then have your car checked by a qualified technician straight away. Here at Halfords, our experts are on hand to carry out a full assessment of your braking system at no cost, with our Free Brake Check. We’ll assess 6 key areas of your braking system to identify any problems and advise you on the best course of action.

For lifetime care of your brakes, why not join our Brakes4Life scheme? This exclusive offer gives you free replacement brake pads or shoes for life – even when you change your car. All you have to do is buy your first pair then we’ll cover their replacement forever. 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 on our dedicated Brakes4Life page.

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Can I replace my own brake pads?

Yes, you can. If you’re comfortable with carrying out repair work on your own vehicle, then Halfords has the parts you need. You can find the right brake pads for your make and model on Just enter your vehicle registration number and we’ll filter all the options available for your vehicle. We can even deliver them for free the next working day or you can take advantage of our click and collect service, which is available within one hour in selected stores.

Find out more on how to do the job yourself by reading our guide on how to replace brake pads. If you’re unsure about anything, don’t hesitate to seek advice from a Halfords expert at your local garage – your brakes are safety critical parts, so it’s important that you take care with repairs and fixes.

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We offer a number of different brands and systems for your specific requirements, alongside an extensive range of foot packs and fitting kits for a large number of cars and vans.

You’ll want to check compatibility using our online checker, but it’s also important to consider the properties of the roof bars. Weight limits need to be taken into account and it’s also a good idea to think about aerodynamics.

For more information about how to find the right roof bars for you, visit our buyer’s guide.

You can buy a replacement roof box key on There’ll be a code on the lock of your roof box and you just need to find the key with the matching code online.

Shop our range of Roof Box Spare Keys here.

We'll need to see original documents that:
Prove your name and address
Show you're allowed to use the registration number

Identity documents

You can use the following to confirm your name and address:

Driving licence
Utility, Council Tax or rates bill from the last 6 months
Bank or building society statement from the last 6 months
National identity card

The following will confirm your name only:

Passport (doesn't have to be issued in the UK)
Bank or building society debit or credit card
Police warrant card
Armed forces identity card

Proving you can use the registration number

The DVLA stipulates that you must provide one of the following to show you're allowed to display the registration number:

Vehicle registration certificate (V5C or V5CNI)
New keeper supplement (V5C/2 or V5C/2NI)
Certificate of entitlement (V750 or V750NI) to the number
Retention document (V778) (not applicable in Northern Ireland)
A renewal reminder for a tax disc or SORN (V11 or V11NI)
Temporary registration certificate (V379 or V379NI)
A number plate authorisation certificate (V948) with an official stamp from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) or Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA)
A letter of authorisation from a fleet operator (including lease or hire company) quoting the document reference number from the registration certificate

For further information, please see the DVLA website:

In order to find the right size roof box, you need to consider the size of the load you want your roof box to carry. Roof boxes come in:

  • 1/2 width - equivalent to a mid-size car boot
  • 3/4 width - equivalent to a large car boot
  • Full width - equivalent to a large estate car boot

1/2 width and 3/4 width roof boxes allow additional room on the top of your car for bikes, whereas full width roof boxes take up the full width of your car's roof, making them ideal for large loads when going on holiday or moving house.

If you're still not sure, why not take a look at our buyer's guide?

All motorcycle helmets worn on UK roads must meet British Safety BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark or UNECE Regulation 22.05 or a European Ecoonomic Area member standard offering at least the same safety and protection as the BS standard and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark.

The owner of the number plate will need a proof of address ID, usually a driver's license or passport will suffice, and proof of eligibility of the registration number such as a Logbook (V5C), Authorisation Certificate (V948/eV948) or Cherished Transfer certificate (V778/eV778)

These rules also apply on new electric vehicles which also use a new green number plate

AdBlue is designed to be used straight out of the bottle without any dilution. Due to the nature of the system, it could cause damage to your car if you do attempt to use diluted AdBlue. AdBlue must meet the requirements set out in ISO 22241-1 and be made up of 32.5% refined urea and 67.5% demineralised water - anything else is illegal to sell under the name AdBlue.

The Highway Code says that the maximum speed that a car with a trailer or caravan, etc. is 60mph on UK motorways and dual carriageways and 50mph other types of roads, providing no lower speed limit is in force.

If the bottle remains unopened, it will last for 12 months before degrading too much. If the bottle has been opened, it will last for 6 months before degrading too much. The date which is stamped on the label of a bottle of Adblue refers to the date when it was manufactured

Do not start your engine! Depending on the amount of AdBlue, you may damage your engine when you start it. You should empty and clean your tank. You will have to empty the whole tank and discard the mixture.

Do not start your engine! Even the slightest drop of diesel will pollute the AdBlue in your tank. One drop of diesel will pollute up to 20 liters of AdBlue. Running with polluted AdBlue will disrupt your Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. To prevent further damage to your vehicle, it is best to contact your vehicle manufacturer. You may need to replace certain AdBlue components.

AdBlue is not dangerous to the environment. A small AdBlue spill can be diluted with water. It is best to mop up the spillage and avoid flushing it down a drain or waterway. In case of a large spill, try to prevent the spillage from entering drains or waterways. Contain the spill with sand or earth. Please note that AdBlue may make surfaces slippery.

Advanced Glass Matting (AGM) batteries work by absorbing the acid and holding it against the metal plates better. Enhanced Flooded Batteries (EFB) work the same as a normal lead-acid battery, but with carbon to hold the charge better. EFB batteries can be used in in some cases instead of AGM, it depends on the electrical load. Always check the manufacturers handbook before charging your battery.

The Alcosense breathalysers are incredibly sensitive pieces of equipment, capable of picking up the minutest amounts of alcohol on someone's breath. As they are sensitive, the detection systems can drift out of their operating range just through general usage, blowing too hard, knocks and so on. This would result in a false figure, and may read that you're safe when in fact you're over the limit.Alcosense recommend that you recalibrate your breathalyser every 12 months, by sending it off to Alcosense to be tested and reset. This service costs £19.99 for the Alcosense Lite and Elite models, and £24.99 for the Pro, Ultra and Excel models.

It's always the way that you never realise you're without your vehicle's locking wheel nut key until you end up with a puncture. However, if you are faced with this predicament, there are a few options to try. Visit your local dealership who may be able to provide a spare key, or use a master key to remove the nut. Visiting your local tyre garage who may be able to drill or cut the nut off.

All of our roof bars and boxes have been tested up to 80mph or 130kmh. This means that it's safe to drive to the national speed limit with these attached, but care must be taken in high winds

Replacement keys can be ordered in store, please visit your local Halfords store.

A MOSFET is a kind a microchip which can amplify an electrical signal very efficiently. As they're small and don't produce much heat, they're ideal for use in car stereos

It’s recommended by most vehicle manufacturers that brake fluid is changed every two years to keep brakes in the best possible condition. At Halfords, we offer a brake fluid change where our experts will drain your old brake fluid and refill with new replacement fluid. A brake fluid change is also included as part of our major car service.

If your steering wheel shakes while braking, it's likely that there's an issue with your car's braking system. The cause of the braking issue could be down to worn brake pads, wheel misalignment, warped brake rotors or an issue with suspension components. If you're concerned about your car's steering, you can book a Free Steering Check and one of our experts will diagnose the problem.

Your UK Blue Badge can be used in some countries in the European Union (EU), Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. For confirmation that your Blue Badge is recognised, check with the embassy of the country you are travelling to.

A full, valid UK driving licence, certificate of motor insurance, V5C certificate, breakdown cover and UK car sticker. In some instances, you may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) and Green Card. Always check the requirements with the embassy you are travelling to.