In a vehicle, the brakes are one of the most important mechanisms to care for. Brakes are a safety measure that you and your family need on the road. That is why proper brake maintenance should be performed regularly to ensure your brakes are in good condition. Regular car brake maintenance doesn’t just give you the assurance of safety and functionality, it also ensures the lifespan of your car’s brake system.
The maintenance of your brakes can be easily overlooked and brake pads will fade as time passes. The difference in response time between worn out brakes and new ones is significant. If you want to know more about your brakes’ performance, it is probably a sign that you need to have them serviced.
What do brakes do and how do they work?
People think that the brakes are what stop the car. That is a misconception. Friction is the force that slows down the car to a stop. Nowadays, modern cars use disc brakes. In this article, we’ll be ignoring drum-type brakes. Also, to make things simple, we won’t discuss anti-lock brakes.
Disc brakes are made up of 5 parts- brake discs, calipers, brake lines, brake pads, and brake master cylinder. Disc brakes have plate-like discs, which are also called rotors, that are attached to the wheel. The disc brakes are squeezed by the brake pads in the caliper. This works like squeezing a spinning plate between your fingers to slow it down.
These consist of 2 layers – a high-friction material and a metal backing plate that presses against the disc brake. The backing plate protects the caliper from overheating. The brake pads also serve as the foundation for the friction material.
The brake caliper is the part of the disc brake that wraps around and contains small pistons. The brake pads are pushed against the disc by the pistons. The hydraulic action of the brake fluid will then push the pistons outward. The hydraulic power comes from the brake pads and is distributed against the brake disc evenly. The more pistons there are in the caliper, the more evenly the pressure is spread on the disc brake.
The pressure made by the hydraulic brake is built up in the master cylinder by stepping your foot on the brake pedal. The pressure then goes to the brake lines from the master cylinder and then on to the calipers.
The brake systems in a car have power assistance to increase the action of your foot on the brake pedal. This then reduces the effort of the brakes.
One of the main causes of problems with brakes is heat. When the brake pads press against the disc brake, a large amount of heat is produced. To remove the heat, the disc is ventilated with internal vanes pulling in cool air from the center of the disc toward the outer edges. The brakes will remain cool and less prone to “fading” by “pumping” away from the hot air from the discs.
The “fading” of brakes happens when they become overheated and overused. In worst case scenarios, the brake fluid can boil the calipers and cause a loss of friction, which means the loss of braking ability. When the brakes fade:
- The pedal can go flat to the car floor without any braking action (in the case of badly faded brakes)
- The distance the car takes to stop will increase
- The braking action will emit a burnt odor
- In extreme cases, the brakes will smoke and catch fire
When your brakes overheat, you should pull over to the side of the road and allow your brakes to cool down.
Old VS New Technology
In the past, most brake pads were made with asbestos. Asbestos resists heat but produces harmful dust and gasses during hard brakes. To prevent these gasses from interfering with the disc brakes, holes are drilled into the discs on high-performance vehicles.
The latest brake pads don’t use asbestos. Instead, the new disc brakes use slots to promote cooling without gas buildup. The slots prevent stress cracking which drilled rotors can suffer from.
The new materials used in today’s technology are safer for the environment. Unfortunately, this causes the disc brakes to warp prematurely. This will then cause a pulsing feeling in the brake pedal.
Change your brake fluid
Brake fluid attracts moisture. Here are some reasons why it is important to change it:
- The moisture gathered in the brake fluid will reduce its boiling point and make the fluid boil easily during hard braking.
- When the brake fluid boils, it causes the brakes to fade when driving on low-sloped roads, especially for trucks with heavy loads.
- The gathered moisture will corrode the metal parts that are in the braking system. This will eventually cause problems
The solution to this problem is easy. The brake fluid must be checked and changed regularly as recommended by your car’s manufacturer.
Signs for when you need new brakes
- High-pitched squealing – this means your brake pads are rubbing the rotors.
- Your steering wheel wiggles when you are stopping. Warped rotors cause this problem.
- You have to push the brake pedal further to stop your vehicle.
Keep your brakes well-maintained
Cars that are regularly maintained have great braking capability. For people who take their vehicles to the track, larger brake discs and uprated brake pads are available in service stores.
Make the right choices for your vehicle’s brake system and change your brake fluid regularly. This will make your brake perform flawlessly.
Keep a Maintenance Schedule
Stick to the car brake maintenance schedule in the manual so you won’t forget when your brakes need to be serviced. If you don’t know when to replace your brake fluid and pads, inspect your pads for wear every 12,000 miles. Most manufacturers would recommend you to replace them when there’s already a ⅛ inch or less of the pad lining remaining. You can check your brake fluid from time to time or you can ask your technician to do the inspection when you change your oil. You can also opt to change your brake fluid when it is dirty.
Remember that the brake fluid and pads need to be replaced in accordance with your driving style and your vehicle’s specific needs. If you’re unsure on how to do your brake system maintenance, you can call for help. Contact The Auto Warehouse today. We provide auto repair services, maintenance and more!