Why Did My Brakes Seize & What to Do About It?

Car Sitting Too Long Outside

It’s never fun having mechanical issues with your vehicle, but brake failure or seizure is one of the worst issues that can happen. Brakes are the very thing that stops your vehicle, so when they aren’t working properly, the end result can be catastrophic.

That’s why having your brakes serviced regularly is so important. Additionally, knowing what to look or listen for when you suspect brake system issues is also pivotal in preventing major damage and a massive repair bill right along with it.

This blog post will help you discern what potential brake issues you are having when your brakes seize, and what to do about it until you can get your vehicle into the mechanic for servicing.

What Causes Brakes to Seize on a Car?


One of the things that causes brakes to seize on a vehicle the most is inactivity. When a vehicle doesn’t move for long periods of time, things start to seize up (just like aging people!).

It all goes back to Newton’s Law of Motion; an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. The outside force being brakes that stop the car, and then the gear that it is put in to stop all motion until further notice (park). However, inactivity isn’t the only cause of brakes seizing.

Reasons Your Brakes Might Seize:

1. Inactivity

As mentioned above, letting a vehicle sit for long periods of time will definitely cause your brakes to seize.

The inactivity coupled with other factors like corrosion, leaking or low brake fluid, and frequent exposure to excessive dust or moisture (both are terrible for brakes) can make this much more likely. Particularly on an aging or older vehicle.

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When you live in the Lower Mainland area, you know how much rain we get during our rainy season, and how much heat and dust we get during the summer. This is why many Metro Vancouver residents experience seized brakes after storing their vehicle over the winter months until summer rolls around.

2.Extreme Heat Exposure

This is another common problem in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, but one that also affects people all across British Columbia as well. As we are notorious for having some of the worst forest fires annually across Canada, we know all too well about extreme heat.

Our summers can very quickly go from 25 degrees Celsius on any given day to 45 degrees Celsius. This extreme heat can cause brakes to seize, once again, especially on older vehicles or vehicles with aging brake systems.

When brakes are exposed to excessive heat, the brake discs and pads expand. This can make it harder for the brakes to release after depressing them, especially if you are applying your brakes more often than usual.

When you are coming home on a long weekend through the Chilliwack area where there is a variable speed corridor on Highway 1, you know to expect a lot of stop-and-go traffic. However, what you might not expect is that your brakes are more likely to seize during hot weather and this kind of driving.

3. Improper Brake Fluid for Your Vehicle

Generally, when we buy a vehicle, we expect that all the fluids are not only topped up, but that they are also the correct ones. One downside to buying a used vehicle is that you don’t know for certain that any work done, including fluid replacement, has been done by a licensed professional like a mechanic or brake shop.

Using the incorrect brake fluid may seem trivial to the novice car person, however it can be catastrophic. If you have the wrong brake fluid in your car you put your vehicle at risk for your brakes seizing. This is because using the wrong fluid can cause corrosion or even your brake fluid to boil. Furthermore, improper brake fluid for your car can actually cause the fluid to absorb water, further damaging your brake system with rust and corrosion.

As a professional scrap car removal company in Vancouver, we have seen MORE than our share of scrap cars with major brake issues from cars left outside too long and exposed to extreme heat or moisture. Fortunately for Vancouverites, we offer MORE cash for scrap cars than anyone! Even vehicles in need of complete brake jobs or with extensive rust and corrosion.

4. Damaged Brakes Components


Without a doubt, when something is broken on a vehicle, it deeply affects other components and how they operate as well. This is definitely the case when it comes to your braking system.

When you drive on brakes that are in need of replacement or repair, you not only continue to damage the already worn or damaged parts, but you also start to cause premature wear on other components that are part of your braking system.

Things like discs, brake pads, calipers, rotors, pistons, and even other ABS components can incur premature damage and wear by failing to fix other failing or malfunctioning brake parts. If you notice squealing, grinding, shimmering, or anything else when you brake, get your vehicle serviced by a professional to avoid further damage and a larger mechanic’s bill.

5. Low Levels of Lubricant

Brake lubricant is essential in the operation of your brakes. Without proper lubrication, your brakes can very quickly overheat, get damaged, and of course, seize. Not having enough brake lubricant can cause all kinds of major brake malfunction and failure. Which is part of why proper routine maintenance on your vehicle is so important.

A professional mechanic who services your brakes regularly will know how much lubricant is needed, what kind your vehicle specifically needs, and will also keep a record of it. Without proper tracking and application, you will experience uneven brake wear and possibly seized brakes.

How Do I Know If My Brakes Have Seized?

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Usually, when you have parked a vehicle for an extended period of time, upon start up and trying to move the vehicle, you’ll notice instantly that your vehicle does not want to move. However, this is a common occurrence with vehicles that have been sitting too long, it’s not the only sign that your brakes have seized.

Part of knowing that your brakes have seized is knowing what to look for when it comes to brake problems in general because there are different components of your brakes that could be seizing. Each part or component that could be potentially seizing will display a different sign or symptom.

If your calipers have seized, you might notice pulling to one side when you are braking. If your brake pads are stuck, you might notice your brakes overheating. Overheating brakes will usually bring with them a distinct burning smell.

ABS issues will usually present themselves with the ABS light indicator illuminating, and your ABS brakes may no longer be working (don’t worry, you will still be able to brake, you just won’t have your ABS system in operation).

What Do I Do If My Brakes Seize?

When your brakes seize, what is usually actually seizing are the calipers. However, it could also be because of sticky brake pads, a brake pad that is in the wrong position, or a malfunctioning e-brake or cable. There are a few tips to try before visiting your local mechanic.

1.Try Rocking Your Vehicle

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The first thing to do if you suspect that your brakes have seized is to try rocking your vehicle back and forth. You can do this by attempting to drive the vehicle forwards and backwards in short spurts. Be sure to do this in a safe, open space, not in an underground parking lot around other vehicles and of course, cement walls.

If it still won’t move, try getting out of the vehicle and pushing it forwards a bit. If you can get someone to assist you while you do this, even better.

Sometimes this can provide just the smallest amount of activity and leverage that is needed to release a stuck brake pad or caliper. If, however, this doesn’t rectify the problem, move on to step 2.

2.Try Pumping the Brakes

Sometimes, what can cause your brakes to seize is a lack of brake fluid in the brake lines. If your vehicle has been parked for several months, try applying and releasing the brakes several times and then try to move the vehicle. If this doesn’t work, that’s obviously not the issue.

3. Try Dragging Your Brakes

If you are able to move your vehicle, but notice that the brakes really seem stuck, causing excessive drag, then try to drag your brakes slowly and carefully. The best way to do this is by driving very slowly up the street while keeping your foot lightly on the brakes.

Do this while driving both forwards and backwards, 2 repetitions of each for at least 30 feet. If you don’t feel your seize brakes release after this, move on to step 4.


4. Check Your E-Brake

If you’ve had your vehicle parked for a while and the brakes themselves don’t really seem to be the issue, check your emergency (or parking) brake. It could be an issue with the cable that is causing your vehicle to not move when accelerating.

Generally, an e-brake is meant to keep your vehicle from rolling downhill when in the “park” gear. However, prolonged periods of time while having the e-brake set can make it difficult to release when disengaged.

Additionally, so can malfunctions or other mechanical issues related to the e-brake. If this doesn’t work, have your vehicle towed to your local mechanic.

What to Do If Your Brakes Fail or Seize While Driving

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If you are driving along and suddenly notice a serious loss of braking power or notice a burning smell that starts when you’re braking, but doesn’t go away once you’re not, call a tow truck asap.

Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and stop driving your vehicle immediately. If you put it in park, be sure not to set your e-brake because that will only make towing your vehicle more difficult.

Tell the towing company that you think your brakes have seized when you call so that they can send the appropriate vehicle. In cases where brakes have seized, they often times will want to send a flat deck tow truck to prevent further damage to your vehicle.

We buy so many scrap cars in the Lower Mainland with brake system issues. Particularly at this time of year because many vehicle owners have parked their cars over the winter and are now starting them up for the summer season.

Without proper storing procedures, many old vehicles experience seized brakes due to the excessive rainfall, snowfalls, and high winds that kick up dust throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

How Can I Prevent My Brakes from Seizing?

As we just touched on it, one of the most important things you can do to prevent your brakes from seizing is having your vehicle routinely serviced by a professional mechanic like our friends at Midas who know exactly what your brakes need, when, how, and how long it has been since they were last serviced.

Another great way to prevent your brakes from being seized is to park your vehicle indoors. However, for anyone living in the Vancouver area, you probably are all too aware that this is difficult, as parking is extremely limited in Vancouver.

Other Ways to Prevent Your Brakes from Seizing:

1. If parking your vehicle for long periods of time, move your car once or twice a week. This can be tough if your vehicle isn’t insured, but you don’t need to move it much to help prevent brake seizure. Just a few feet forwards and back will work. If you can’t park your vehicle in a covered or indoor area, use a car cover to prevent weather exposure (especially in Vancouver!)

2. During summer months when you aren’t driving a vehicle, try to park in shadier spots to reduce extreme heat exposure

3. Top up brake fluid before parking it for extended periods. This will help because if you have or develop a brake fluid leak while it’s parked, you’ll be more likely to notice the puddle on the ground, and less likely for it to run dry.

4. Don’t use your e-brake for prolonged periods of inactivity. Instead, use a chock to prevent your vehicle from rolling if you are parking it for several weeks or months. This will help reduce your chance of the e-brake getting stuck.

Utilizing any of the above tips will help reduce your chances of having your brakes seize, and also prevent further damage to any other components involved with or around your braking system.

Cash for Cars with Mechanical Issues

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As a professional scrap car removal company serving Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley since 2005, we’ve seen it all when it comes to scrap vehicles. Transmission failures, engine problems, brake system issues, exhaust problems, and even things like collision damage.

No matter what you are selling, or why you are selling it, you’ve got a reliable and professional scrap car buyer with More Cash For Scrap. We always offer MORE cash for scrap cars than anyone in the Lower Mainland.

Also, we provide free towing for all of the scrap cars that we buy. So, if your brakes failed and you collided with a streetlight while driving down 6th street in New Westminster, we’ll buy it. Or if your brakes seized and you couldn’t get your car out of your underground parking lot our in Abbotsford, we’ll push that baby out and pay you MORE cash for it than the other guys.

No other scrap car buyers can offer as much cash for scrap cars as we can. Nor can they deliver the level of customer service that we offer because no one cares MORE about doing good business than we do!

How Can I Sell My Car for Cash in the Lower Mainland?

First of all, pick up the phone! All you need to do to get MORE cash for scrap cars in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley is call or text our team of scrap car removal specialists. You can also reach out to us through any of our social media platforms.

Then, provide our scrap car buyers with the make, model, year, condition, and location of the vehicle that you’re scrapping. We will make you an instant cash offer on it right over the phone (or by text if you prefer).

Cash for Cars

If you accept our offer, we will come collect your car that very, but are also happy to arrange a specific day and time too if you need. Our tow truck driver will load up your vehicle, pay you cash in hand, and then leave with your car. It’s that simple!

If you want to sell a vehicle with any kind of mechanical issues or failure, not just brake problems, sell it to More Cash For Scrap. We even pay the most cash for cars with collision damage and buy ICBC write-offs! No matter what you’re scrapping, we always pay MORE!

Have a question, comment or feedback? Just ask or let us know your thoughts here:

  1. jilino1ph May 10, 2024 at 1:19 am

    nice article very informative

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About the Author: scrapcar

Since 2005, we've specialized in turning our customer's scrap cars into quick cash. We buy vehicles in ANY condition and with ANY issues. We pay MORE cash for scrap cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans than any other scrap car removal company in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island. If you want MORE cash, same day free junk car towing, and a reliable scrap car buying service, you want More Cash For Scrap.