The Dreaded Brake Fade: Signs, Causes, and Prevention

If you ever find yourself in a situation where your car's brake pedal is firm, the brake is not effective, and pumping the pedal doesn't help, then you should know you are dealing with a brake fade. This is a condition in which the brake pedal behaves as if it is working as usual, but the car doesn't stop. 

Causes of Brake Fade

Here are the three main causes of brake fade:


Bake systems are designed to work within a specific range of temperature, and they may fail when this range is exceeded. The most common cause of brake pad overheating is brake overuse. For example, some people use their brakes to slow down when going downhill (by applying continuous pressure on the brakes). This puts enormous stress on the brake pads, and the generated heat may reduce or even eliminate the friction between the brake pads and the brake rotors, leading to brake failure. 

Degraded Brake Fluid

When you press a brake pedal, the pressure is transmitted to the wheels via brake fluid. Unfortunately, contamination of the brake fluid interferes with its compressibility and also lowers its boiling temperature. If that happens, the fluid won't be able to transmit adequate pressure to the pads, leading to brake failure. Brake fluid contamination can be caused by different things including road debris, moisture, and even natural fluid degradation. 

Resin Gases

There are brake systems that come with a thin layer of resin over their pads. If you force the brake pads to work for prolonged periods or apply too much pressure on them, the resin brakes down and forms a thin layer of gas between the pads and the rotors. This eliminates the friction needed to stop the car, and you have a brake fade on your hands.


The good news is that brake fade is not inevitable; there are measures you can take to prevent it. For example, you should:

  • Not overuse the brakes since doing that may overheat them
  • Downshift when going downhill instead of using the brake to slow down the car
  • Install the right brake pads for your car (cars that haul heavy loads need pads that can handle high temperatures)
  • Replace the brake fluid regularly

Hopefully, your car won't be having any brake problems any time soon. If it does, however, consult a mechanic like those at Louisville  Auto Spring for a diagnosis and fix as soon as possible because the brake system is probably the most crucial part of your car.