The braking system in your vehicle is one of the most used and most important systems to maintain because faulty brakes are a severe problem that can result in damage to property and even loss of life. As all the parts involved in braking are out of sight, it can be challenging for many drivers to check brake pads, calipers, and rotors routinely. This fact also explains why many mechanics recommend having your brakes checked about every six months when you have your tires rotated. With the wheels already off, it is much easier for your mechanic to inspect and service your brakes as needed.
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Understanding Braking Systems
Hearing that you need new brakes from your mechanic can be tough news to swallow. The cost of parts plus labor for a complete brake job can be expensive. It helps if you understand the wear that your mechanic is seeing and the importance of repairing the problem and preventing an accident.
Most passenger cars have disc brakes. These brakes consist of three main components at each wheel – a rotor, caliper, and pair of brake pads. When you press on the brake pedal, a hydraulic signal is sent through the brake lines to the calipers. This signal causes them to squeeze the brake pads against the rotor, slowing its rotation. Because the rotor is attached to the wheel of the car, the resulting friction slows the car’s wheels and stops the momentum of the vehicle.
Disc brakes work because of the friction generated between the rotor and the brake pads. However, this friction also creates heat and wears away the surface of the brake pads. Over time, the brake pads get thinner, and the rotor and calipers may warp. A skilled mechanic can inspect the damage on each component and recommend needed repairs.
Extending Wear Life
While most wear and tear to the braking system occurs as a result of everyday driving. However, there are steps that every driver can take to help make their braking system last longer.
- Drive With One Foot – When driving an automatic transmission vehicle, some drivers opt to use one foot for each pedal. It may seem logical at first to assign each foot to a pedal. Unfortunately, this practice can lead to accidents when panicked drivers slam their feet on both pedals at once. It can also cause premature wear on your brake pads, as two-footed drivers have a tendency to apply pressure to the brake pedal before they have entirely removed their foot from the throttle. They are essentially telling the car to stop and go simultaneously and increasing friction between the brake pads and rotors.
- Brake Earlier – Conditions caused by other drivers or pedestrians on the road occasionally require that you apply your brakes hard and fast to avoid a collision. However, this style of braking should not be the norm. Braking hard wears out your brakes more quickly. When you can, apply the brakes gently, bringing your vehicle to a smooth stop.
- Reduce Your Load – The heavier the vehicle, the more momentum it has and the harder it is to stop. Regularly carting around a bed full of tools in your truck or towing an empty trailer makes it more taxing on your brakes to stop the vehicle. Consider removing unnecessary weight from your vehicle when you don’t need them. The extra weight will end up costing you money when your brakes need replacing.
- Gear Down – It can be a challenge to drive down long hills without riding your brakes. As soon as you take your foot off the brake, the car starts accelerating again. Hills are a great place to choose a lower gear. Driving in a lower gear forces the car’s engine to keep the car running at a slower speed without applying the brakes nearly as often
Your car’s manual should contain instructions for maintaining your braking system. However, here are a few good rules of thumb.
- Have your mechanic check your brake pads and rotors every six months when you have your car’s tires rotated.
- The brake fluid, responsible for transferring the message to stop from the brake pedal to the calipers, should be flushed about every 25,000 miles.
- Every two or three years, it is a good idea to bleed the brake lines, removing any air that may be in the system.
When it comes to making your brakes last, the most important thing you can do is to have them inspected regularly by a skilled mechanic at your Utah auto repair shop. Your mechanic can identify problems early and suggest solutions to keep your car driving the way you expect it to drive. Servicing and maintaining your brakes is vital to your safety as well as that of your passengers.