Brakes are pretty much the most important safety device on your car. If you’ve ever partially lost your brakes in the past, you’ll agree that it’s not something you want to experience again. Inspecting your brakes twice a year for wear and damage can protect you and your passengers. Additionally, it will also help save you money by catching any damage before it becomes too costly.
Brake System Components That Can Fail
The master cylinder, the heart of the vehicle’s braking system, holds the brake fluid when it is not being delivered to the brakes through the brake lines. If brake fluid leaks because the master cylinder is worn or brake lines are plugged or broken, the fluid cannot be delivered, and the brake pads will become ruined.
The brake fluid itself can become dirty or contaminated as it draws rust-causing moisture and picks up other debris, or it can break down from excess heat. Clean brake fluid is either clear or slightly yellow, while dirty brake fluid may be brown or even black. Old and dirty brake fluid can damage ABS brake systems internally.
The brake lines connect to the master cylinder through a combination valve, which combines a metering and proportioning valve. It regulates the pressure on the front and rear wheels to make sure both sets of brakes are applied simultaneously. A malfunctioning combination valve may cause the wheels to lock up.
Brake pads and shoes can be made of ceramic, metal or organic materials, while the disc rotors and drums they press against are made of metal. Because the pads and shoes create friction to stop the car, they gradually wear down over time and may wear away completely, letting the metal of the calipers and cylinders they are attached to grind against the rotors and drums and damage them. Some pads have a metal strip attached that sounds a warning whistle when the pad becomes too worn, but this strip sounds only when the car is in motion and the brakes are not applied.
Your vehicle’s braking system can bring thousands of pounds of metal, plastic, McDonald’s sacks and whatever else you may be carrying to a stop hundreds of times before you get to work. Brake parts wear out, but they do so slowly, meaning you may not notice they need attention until it’s too late.
Neglecting your braking system can lead to increased repair costs, or worse, no brakes at all. Paying attention to some of the signs of brake wear (and having them checked while you are getting you oil changed at A-1 Auto Repair of Mesquite) can keep you on top of maintenance, saving you money and keeping your car from sliding into the vehicle in front of you.
The best sign that your vehicle’s brakes need attention is that high pitched squeal when you come to a stop. Brake pad manufacturers include a little piece of metal called an indicator on the pad. When the material wears down to the point where less than ¼ inch is left, the metal piece begins to touch the vehicle’s rotor, doing a good impression of fingernails on a chalkboard. Depending on how hard you drive, that generally means you should replace your brake pads within a month.
Occasionally, the indicator rusts and falls off, leaving you with no irritating noise to give you the warning. Besides that, many aftermarket and low-cost pads don’t come with a wear indicator. But, there are other signs that your pads need attention. If it takes you longer to stop than it used to, or if your brake pedal travels farther than it did a few months ago, it might be a good idea to get the brakes inspected. Regular pad checks are a good idea and require little more than removing a wheel and knowing what to look for. A-1 Auto Repair of Mesquite can do this when they rotate your tires during a regular oil change.
Rotors can usually last through two or three sets of brake pads before needing to be replaced. If your steering wheel wiggles in your hands when you come to a stop, your rotors are probably “warped,” and it’s a good idea to replace them.
Your A-1 Auto Repair of Mesquite technician might recommend replacing the rotors. Most vehicles today vehicles are equipped with thinner, lighter rotors to save on costs and increase fuel economy. If you’ve got the option of turning the rotors or replacing them, you will find that it costs only a little more to replace them. And it’s faster (sometimes it takes a couple of days to get the rotors in and back from a ‘rotor turning’ place).
There are several options for replacement brake parts for your vehicle. While you can never go wrong with what your manufacturer recommends, a variety of aftermarket parts can help you cater your brake system to your driving style. If you find yourself replacing rotors often, you might consider switching to the slotted version. While initially more expensive, the slots disperse heat better than stock, though most of the time they aren’t really necessary for the average driver.
Your rotors aren’t the only piece of brake hardware that can be changed for better performance. One of the most common brake pad upgrades is a switch to ceramic brake pads. These pads stop just as well, if not better than the stock pieces, but produce much less dust and are generally quieter. You could also install performance, or racing, brake pads on your vehicle, but these usually have a shorter life span and generate more wear on your rotors.
Neglecting your brakes until they are grinding is not an option. That can cost you in unnecessary rotor replacement and possible towing bills. That’s not to mention the likelihood of losing most of your stopping ability right when you need it most. Keep up with brake maintenance, pay attention to the signs of brake wear and count on your A-1 Auto Repair of Mesquite technician to help you choose the right equipment for your vehicle.