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Braking bad: Britain on the verge of a brake-down

11th April 2013 Print
Car maintenance

Britain’s drivers are sharing the road with cars on the edge of a ‘brake down’ and are at risk of accidents as a result, according to a new report from Kwik Fit.
The new research shows that over five million motorists (15%) admit to having some sign of brake damage.  Worryingly, a third of motorists with defective brakes, some 1.7 million drivers, have known about the problem for at least a month, without getting it repaired.  Men are most likely to have neglected any issues – 24% of male motorists with a brake problem admitted to knowing about it for at least three months – compared to just 7% of women.
This neglect is all the more worrying when combined with drivers’ experiences. Kwik Fit’s study also found that nearly one in five (18%) motorists have been in a car accident caused by braking errors. However, their responses might give a clue to their attitudes towards brakes - nearly three times as many people thought another driver’s braking was to blame for the accident, rather than their own (13% v 5%).
The symptoms of brake problems which 5.1 million drivers are experiencing include grinding noises when the brakes are applied, the car pulling to one side under braking, and the brake pedal feeling spongy.  More than half a million drivers admit to having a brake warning light on the dashboard which they are ignoring.
When asked why they haven’t done anything about their braking issues, nearly one in ten (8%) admitted to simply not knowing what to do about it, a quarter (26%) were worried about the expense of getting it fixed, and one in six (17%) said they didn’t think anything was wrong. 12% confessed they were going to make the issue someone else’s problem – they said they were going to sell their car soon and didn’t want to spend any more money on it. 
In light of the Government’s new focus on improving the safety of young drivers, it is notable that more than one third (36%) of 18-24 year old drivers have symptoms of brake problems on their car. This compares with just 3% for drivers over 65.
London drivers are most likely to be experiencing brake problems, with a quarter of them (24%) reporting symptoms.  Motorists in Yorkshire can be the most relaxed about their fellow road users ability to stop – only 8% of drivers in Yorkshire and Humber say they have any brake problems.
Number of motorists with symptoms of brake problem

Symptom - Number of motorists experiencing problem

Squealing from brakes 1.44 million

Excessive handbrake travel 1.24 million

Grinding noise from brakes 1.21 million

Car pulling to one side under braking 1.18 million

Spongy brake pedal 0.97 million

Brake warning light on 0.55 million

Continuous pulsating from pedal 0.45 million

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, says: “This research reveals that many of us have been in an accident where braking has been a cause, and yet far too many motorists admit they are driving around with defective brakes. A grinding noise could be a result of pads which are worn and need replacing, pulling to one side could be a component sticking, and a spongy pedal could be due to air in the hydraulic system.

“It is vital that drivers are able to stop their car as quickly as possible in an emergency, and anyone suffering these symptoms may have their safety compromised as a result. We would urge anyone experiencing these warning signs to get their brake system checked as soon as possible.”
Motorists can take their car into any Kwik Fit centre for a free brake check, during which Kwik Fit’s brake experts can establish the cause of any problems and advise whether repairs are needed. If a customer does need new brakes, Kwik Fit offers a lifetime brake guarantee. Once Kwik Fit has fitted new brakes, replacement pads or shoes are free for as long as the customer owns the car.
Motorists can find their nearest Kwik Fit and book an appointment at

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Car maintenance