Brake problem overview: Trouble comes in many shapes

Any fault with a number of separate parts can cause braking problems in vehicles. The sheer number of issues that can lead to accidents or recalls is vast and even includes systems outside the brakes themselves.

Periodic overviews of the issues facing drivers and manufacturers today are valuable, in that they remind companies at every step of the automotive supply chain of the numerous problems that can afflict brakes and the related importance of testing.

The following are a few recent cases of brake malfunctions observed by drivers. Whether they've led to recalls yet or not, braking problems are always worth checking on, in the name of protecting motorists and learning which issues to look for in future research and development.

Leaking brake lines afflict Passat
One of the more straightforward brake problems observed in the past few months affects the Volkswagen Passat. According to, the 2017 model year of this sedan has the potential to leak brake fluid. Cars that suffer these leaks can end up facing braking difficulties such as longer stopping distances and weaker braking, making it important that affected vehicles receive service.

The news source explained that the problem was discovered through routine testing in the Volkswagen factory, rather than through an accident on the road. The engineers discovered that during manufacturing, some brake line end flares were damaged. This issue leads to seal problems and the possibility of leaks. About 1,000 cars are involved in the recall.

"Any hardware problem will harm an automaker's finances and reputation among drivers."

Drivers will have warning if their cars begin suffering from reduced pressure. According to the source, a warning light on the dashboard will indicate problems with the brakes. The recall is modest in scope compared with the massive recall of diesel vehicles following Volkswagen's 2016 emissions cheating scandal, but any hardware problem will harm an automaker's finances and reputation among drivers.

Computer system issues harm Fiat Chrysler vehicles
The fact that modern, wirelessly connected computers have become indelible parts of brakes and other in-car systems is promising from a development perspective, but comes with its own worries. For example, Vox recently reported that the issue behind a massive Fiat Chrysler recall is not mechanical, but digital: The cellular radios in these vehicles are susceptible to hacking, meaning that outside forces could conceivable affect cars' brakes, transmissions and more.

The news provider reported that 1.4 million vehicles are affected in all, across the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram nameplates. The wide variety of makes and models involved shows that digital systems' wide applicability becomes harmful when software problems arise. The process of removing the vulnerability involves a USB stick with a patch rather than the kind of mechanical tuning associated with a traditional recall. The potential stakes are just as serious, however.

The fact that a computer flaw is putting drivers at risk shows the close integration between IT and safety systems in modern vehicles and serves as a reminder that brakes and other critical systems are more than their hardware. This may open up new avenues for testing and preparedness.

Data has added a new wrinkle to car safety.Data has added a new wrinkle to car safety.

Nissan Murano under investigation
Another reported brake issue is still being subjected to scrutiny by regulators, who will determine whether it warrants a recall. According to the Associated Press, there have been noted problems with the 2009 Nissan Murano. There are about 110,000 of these vehicles on the road, and the worry centers on possible loss of pressure in the brake pedal.

The news service reported that people have encountered the issue when applying brakes on manhole covers and other surfaces that offer less friction than a standard stretch of road. Nissan is working with investigators and using the data from affected vehicles to see if there is a systematic problem worthy of recall.

The AP noted one particular 2015 incident in which a Murano failed to stop after the driver applied the brakes. In that case, the driver switched lanes to keep from crashing, but was hit by another vehicle. Three people in the car suffered injuries. One factor affecting the car's performance may be a previous collision.

The wide world of braking
From computer malfunctions to losses of pressure, recalls affecting a few vehicles to investigations of millions, there are endless ways for braking to become a serious issue. Dealing with these problems is difficult in all cases, strengthening the case for extensive testing of new products. A complimentary brake testing consultation from Greening is a valuable first step in improving assets.