Automobile brakes are designed to stop a car when pressed. Sometimes, you may experience a situation when the front brake is engaged, but you don’t touch the pedal. Such a condition is known as brake locking up. You must be wondering what causes the front brake to lock up during that moment.
Common reasons are an overheated braking system and using the incorrect brake fluid. The list also includes defective ABS components, broken parking brakes, damaged parts in the braking system, etc. Avoiding panicking is the key during brake lockup. Then, find a place to stop and call for a tow to reach the nearest repair shop.
Nothing else matters during brake lockup. Being inattentive to the problem can cause serious problems. Let’s explore what causes one front brake to lock up with a fix.
What Causes One Front Brake Locking Up?
Front brakes are essential safety features for every car. Something serious can happen if anything is wrong with them.
We all know “prevention is better than cure.” Learning the root cause is necessary to deal with front brake lockup.
Find the culprits from below.
1. Slippery Road Condition
The brake pads create friction with the brake rotor when braking. As a result, the wheels slow down to stop the car.
However, braking distance can be extended on the slippery road. Your vehicle may continue moving forward even after hitting the brake pedal.
Often, the road surface gets slick due to rainwater or ice. In such cases, your vehicle wheel loses traction and skids. It can occur especially with cars without ABS or anti-lock braking systems.
2. Bound Brake Caliper
Dust can build up inside the braking system if a brake component is broken or worn. Brake dust enters the brake system and accumulates between the brake caliper and rotors. Thus, the caliper binds when braking.
The rotor and pads can overheat if proper measure is not taken for the bound brake calipers. It causes premature wear and tear of the brake pads and rotors, leading to lock-up.
3. Piston Seizure
A poorly maintained or rarely used vehicle’s caliper piston can go wrong. Thus, the piston becomes heat-sensitive and more likely to seize, causing the front brake to lock up.
4. Compromised Hydraulic System
Brake drag happens for the following reasons,
- Extra brake oil in the master cylinder
- Using incorrect brake fluid
- Faulty brake valve
- Old brake fluid
The functionality of the braking system significantly depends on hydraulic pressure. Brake system pressure can go wrong because of a damaged brake hose or valve. Also, brake lines can have insufficient pressure for old fluid or incorrect brake fluid.
Additionally, restricted brake hoses or lines prevent fluid from returning to the reservoir. As a result, you may experience a self-applying brake. In this case, the brake stays engaged even after releasing the pedal.
5. Multifunctional ABS Module
ABS module is used in cars to prevent brake lock up. When it is malfunctioned, it fails to do the things for which it has been designed.
Moreover, a defective speed sensor can also be the culprit. This defective sensor may send wrong data to the ABS, causing brake lock up.
You will see an illuminated ABS light on the dashboard when the ABS malfunctions.
6. Unintentionally Engaged Emergency Brake
A parking brake is beneficial as it stops the vehicle even when the pedal is released. But emergency brakes can be your worst enemy if you pull the lever accidentally when driving.
The reasons include:
- Applying the emergency brake when driving at a slow speed is similar to slamming the brake
- Your vehicle will skid if you pull the emergency brake lever at high speed, causing brake lockup
7. Damaged Master Cylinder
A damaged master cylinder is another culprit for brake lockup. The master cylinder links to the wheel cylinder or brake caliper located at your vehicle’s wheel.
So, when it is damaged, even distribution of the brake pressure can’t happen.
How to Diagnose & Fix the One Front Brake Lock-Up?
When diagnosing brake problems, follow below steps:
Brake Fluid Check
Assess the master cylinder reservoir. Also, check the fluid level. Ensure that the level is between the minimum and maximum lines. If it’s below the minimum, refill it.
Inspect the fluid’s condition, replacing it if it’s dark or contaminated. Leaks or blockages in the brake line and hose will also be examined.
Check the brake calipers if the hydraulic system checks out. Examine the caliper piston on the locked wheel. If it’s rusted or showing signs of wear, they’ll recommend repairing or replacing it as a set.
Note that brakes are typically replaced in pairs (left and right) to ensure balance.
Discs and Pads Evaluation
Assume that the calipers are in good shape, focus on the brake discs and pads. Worn brake pads can lead to a stiff pedal, sensor wear, loud grinding noises during braking, and uneven rotor surfaces. Replacing the brake pads or the rotors when necessary.
If your rear wheels have drum brakes, inspect the brake shoes and rear drum for wear.
Check for signs of overheating, such as excessive brake fade, smoking wheels, or squealing noises. These symptoms may indicate a need to replace the wheel bearing on the affected wheel.
Inspect all remaining front and rear brakes and their components. Look for irregular wear and damage indicators like burning odors, excessive brake dust, or bluing on drum and disc brakes.
If any issues are identified, replacing the entire brake set and addressing the opposite wheel’s brakes if necessary.
How much does it cost to fix the front brake lock up?
The cost to fix a front brake lock-up can vary depending on the severity of the issue, the vehicle’s make and model, and local labor rates. It typically ranges from $100 to $300 per wheel. This cost includes labor for inspection, repair, and potential replacement of brake components like calipers, pads, or rotors.
- Brake fluid flush: $90 to $200
- Caliper replacement: $300 to $800
- Brake pad replacement: $115 to $270
- Brake rotor replacement: $250 to $500
- Wheel bearing replacement: $200 to $800
- Complete brake set replacement: $300 to $800
What are the signs of front brake lock up?
You will experience the below signs when the front brake lock-up occurs.
- Skidding: The vehicle skids uncontrollably during braking.
- Tire Marks: Visible tire marks on the road surface during braking.
- Steering Difficulty: Difficulty steering while braking.
- Uneven Brake Wear: Uneven wear on brake pads or discs.
- Burning Smell: A burning odor from overheated brakes.
- Reduced Braking Power: Reduced or loss of braking effectiveness.
- Vibrations: Vibration or pulsation in the brake pedal.
So, what causes one front brake locking up with fix are many. Consequently, it is vital to inspect your vehicle periodically to avoid further damage.
At the same time, replace or repair the worn-out components to ensure the longevity of your vehicle. Discontinue driving your vehicle when issues appear and seek professional help.
Meet Zayan, the mechanical genius behind the highly acclaimed brakes problems and solutions website. With over a decade of hands-on experience in the automotive industry, Zayan has become a trusted authority in the realm of brake systems.
His passion for cars, coupled with his expertise in solving complex brake-related issues, has earned him a devoted following of car enthusiasts, mechanics, and everyday drivers seeking reliable guidance.