The brakes of your car are nothing to ignore even if you think the problems they're having are relatively minor. Small problems with brakes can often lead to something more serious so that you cannot stop your car completely, or the brakes may just suddenly seize up. In some cases you may need to buy some new brake parts and have them installed but in other cases, a fluid leak might be involved. Note a few tips for troubleshooting some common brake problems with your car and then discuss these with a mechanic if they're outside your area of car maintenance expertise.
1. Soft brake pedal
A soft pedal means that you need to put too much pressure on it before the car stops, perhaps even virtually standing on the pedal. The first thing to check is the level of brake fluid; not enough fluid means that the parts involved in braking do not have the right pressure to stop the car. If the brake fluid level is fine, take some out with the dipstick on the brake fluid reservoir and note if you see flakes, chips, or any type of contaminant clinging to the fluid. If so, the fluid needs to be bled and replaced. Rust and other bits of contaminant can make its way into the lines and damage the fluid so that the brakes don't work as they should.
If the fluid is fine, you probably have worn brake pads that aren't gripping the rotors as they should, or a worn caliper. This is the little clip that squeezes the pads into place. These usually need to be replaced once the brakes get soft.
2. Brake pedal too firm
A brake pedal is too firm when it resists your pressure so much that you can actually feel it, like you're working out at the gym. This can be the result of an obstruction in the brake line; if a chunk of rust has gotten into the line, the brake pedal fluid won't flow very easily and the pedal will push back against you.
A vacuum problem can also be the culprit; brakes work with a vacuum system that boosts the power you put against the pedal so that you don't need to apply so much force to get the brakes to engage. If there is a leak in the vacuum system, it may actually be working as a booster for the vacuum and in turn, you feel too much resistance pushing back against the brake pedal. In this case, the brake booster usually needs replacing.
For more information, talk to a professional like Stopmaster Brake Service Pty Ltd.