It’s no fun worrying about brakes. And most of us don’t. We assume they’re working right and will do their job when called upon. But as with anything, brakes should be checked, maintained and considered so that you can be sure they’re always in working order.

Lucky for you, Toyota brakes are designed to let you know when they are in need of service. Here are four signs that your brakes might need to be serviced.

Brake Light
You know the brake warning light on the dashboard of your car? If it turns on, it could mean a lot of different things. The vehicle could be low on brake fluid or there could be a malfunction in the brake system.

Before you start to worry, check to make sure the parking brake is released. If the light turns off after it’s fully released, the system is operating normally. If not, you should stop the vehicle immediately and contact your Toyota dealer.

Not sure what dashboard indicator we’re talking about? Not to worry, we have an entire section dedicated to decoding blinking lights like your brake light indicator and more.

Increased Stopping Time
If you find yourself braking earlier than you usually do in order to avoid an accident, it’s a good idea to get those brakes checked by a Toyota technician.

Worn Pads
Everyday wear on your brake pads is normal. But when they wear out completely, they can cause expensive damage to your brake rotors.

Whenever you bring your Toyota in for maintenance, ask the technician to check your brakes. Ask specifically about brake-pad life. The technician will provide you with the percentage of effective brake pad remaining (i.e., front pads, 40%; rear pads, 50%). This will give you an idea how long your pads will last before they need replacing. When in doubt, ask the technician how many miles the percentages would be expected to translate to.

For continued safe and efficient driving, know when it’s time to have your pads replaced and stick to the schedule. If you wait and drive on worn brake pads, it could cause some serious damage and increase your stopping distance, making a simple trip to the market a potential hazard for all.

Strange Sounds
You can use your ears as well as your eyes to check your brakes. Some brakes are equipped with sensors that emit a high-pitched squealing sound as pads get too thin. The sound is loud enough to hear from inside the car with the windows up, and it should be taken seriously.

If you hear your brake sensors squealing, get them in front of a Toyota technician as soon as you can. Your brakes can also make a much harsher noise. It sounds like metal grinding on metal. In fact, that’s exactly what it is. If your pads wear down all the way, you will be left with just the pad backing plates pressing against the brake rotor to stop the car.

If you hear metal grinding, get to a qualified Toyota technician as soon as possible.

Keeping your brakes in good condition should be a top priority for all drivers. Use your eyes and ears a little though and you should have no problem. To get more info on your brakes and when they should be changed, please visit your vehicle’s owners manual or schedule service with your local Toyota Dealer.