Keeping your brakes well-conditioned and in suitable working order is without question one of the most important aspects of proper vehicle maintenance. After all, your brakes are what help you stop, keeping you and everyone around safe. However, despite the brake system’s obvious importance, many people hesitate to take their vehicles in for regular brake inspections and maintenance—a decision that ultimately leads to repairs of significantly more cost than regular up-keep.
To help you avoid this costly mistake, let’s take a look at how your brakes operate and what you should know about various types of brake services and the difference between an inspection and evaluation.
You may often hear the term “brake system”, which typically includes the caliper, brake pads and rotors (also called brake discs). Your brake system brings your car to a stop when brake fluid, pushed from the master cylinder, helps to create pressure on the calipers which then squeeze the brake pads against the rotors, ultimately stopping your wheels from spinning.
When your brake pads are pressed against the rotors, it creates friction which then comes wearing of parts. While brake fluid helps to reduce heat and friction, the rate at which your brake system and its individual parts will wear depends on numerous conditions including the type of vehicle you have (large, heavier vehicles wear faster) and the type of driving you do on a regular basis (stop-and-go driving will lead to faster wearing of parts).
We’ve previously outlined the various ways you can tell if you need to have your brakes evaluated, but you should understand more about some of the more common repairs and replacements your car may need:
As one of the most important components of your brake system, it’s crucial to keep calipers in working order. Brake “binding” is a very common problem in which the calipers cause your brakes to stick and lock up, most often because the pins (known as sliding pins or guide pins) that the caliper moves on fail to work properly. In some cases, the sliding pin can be greased and inspected to resolve the issue. However, if the caliper itself is leaking or isn’t working, the entire unit must be replaced.
Worn brake pads are one of the most common brake system failures—a critical issue to the safety of your vehicle. To no fault of the driver, problems with brake pads are most often associated with abnormal wear. This can be the result of worn out or faulty calipers and rotors, incorrect fitting, low or old brake fluid, or normal wear and tear from daily driving. You can typically point to a brake pad issue if you detect or feel grinding while braking. Just like your tires, it is recommended to change the brake pads on both sides of the axle to help them wear evenly in the future.
Just like your brake pads, rotors are going to wear over time. And just like your brake pads, many rotor problems come from uneven wear, rusting, pitting or warping. You should always consult your vehicle manufacturer’s service guide, but normally you’ll need to replace rotors if they are below manufacturers specs or show signs of abnormal wear.
Your brake system is fully dependent upon the quality of your brake fluid. Over time and through regular use, brake fluid ages and becomes contaminated, significantly lessening its effectiveness. You should always ensure your brake fluid is at its proper level and it is recommended to perform a full brake fluid exchange as specified by the vehicle’s manufacturer. A brake fluid exchange should consist of removing all brake fluid, cleaning the master cylinder reservoir, refilling the reservoir with a manufacturers' approved brake fluid and flushing the brakes until fluid is flowing from each wheel location.
When it comes to brake service, many people are concerned about the overall cost of repairing or replacing the entire system. Routine brake maintenance, which includes a detailed inspection of all parts as well as re-lubrication of brake cables, caliper guide pins and other parts of the brake system, can significantly extend the life of your brake system and its individual parts, saving you significant money down the road.
Not sure about the quality of your brake system? Visit a local Sears Auto Center and let our technicians perform a complete brake evaluation.