Checking and Maintaining
Your Car’s Brakes
We all know that brakes play a vital role in automobile
safety, but do we all spend as much time checking our brakes as often as we
should? All car-owners should inspect their vehicle on a regular basis, and take
care of any little flaws or faults immediately. Sadly, though, brakes can be
overlooked; you might focus on your engine and your tires, but often take your
braking system for granted.
Nobody can afford to do this, not when your proper brake
performance can literally mean the difference between life and death. So, with
that in mind, how can you check and maintain your own brakes to keep yourself,
and fellow drivers, as safe as possible when behind the wheel?
Is Your Brake Fluid Healthy?
Your car brakes feature five core parts: the brake
lines, and the master
cylinder. The brakes operate with hydraulics,
using fluid to maintain control from your foot as it presses the pedal to the
brakes on your car’s wheels. This entire transfer of power starts with a piston
in the master cylinder; applying pressure to the pedal causes fluid to run
through the brake lines to the calipers, slowing the movement of the wheels to
ultimately bring your vehicle to a stop.
This brake fluid is stored in a reservoir under the hood,
and maintaining its proper level and performance is quite simple: check for any
clear leaks or cracks in the reservoir and the lines, and be sure to check the
fluid level at least once a month. Your car’s manual will tell you how much
fluid is required, so familiarize yourself with this information for quick
checks in the future.
Brake fluid attracts water and can absorb water molecules
from the surrounding area. This can occur no matter how tightly you screw the
cap onto the reservoir, running the risk of creating rust along your brake
lines, leading to potential ruptures over time. To help avoid this, ensure your
reservoir’s cap remains tightly closed, and it’s generally best to replace the
brake fluid once every two years, or for approximately every 25,000 miles.
Is Your Master Cylinder Working As It Should?
The master cylinder is at the heart of your entire braking
system, so keeping it in the best possible condition is very important. How do
you know when to check this if you don’t already on a regular basis? Usually, the
brake pedal itself will start to feel different, kind of spongy, when you apply
pressure, or the ‘oil” or “oil can” light on the dash will come on.
When checking your master cylinder, examine it, and the
surrounding area, for any signs of leaks. Any escaping fluid means it’s time
for a replacement, though this may be a little complicated; anyone but the most
experienced drivers would be advised to contact professional mechanics for this
job. It may cost more, but it’s best to avoid any potential errors with your
master cylinder, no matter how small it may seem.
Are Your Bake Pads in Good Shape?
As the brake pedal is depressed, the brake pads make contact
with the rotors (brake discs) to bring the car to a safe, steady stop. If the pads
start to wear and go unchanged, you can find yourself facing one particularly
dangerous side-effect; the vehicle’s inability to stop when needed.
Certain cars allow you a clear sight of the brake pads
without needing to remove the wheels, but in most cases, each wheel will need
to be taken off the vehicle. Healthy brake pads will have at least 5mm density,
with balanced wear across both. Check the brake pads once every 5 to 7,5000 miles,
but pay attention to common warning signs: a sudden high-pitched or grinding
noise when the brake pedal is depressed is an immediate clue. Struggling to slow
down normally when the pedal is pushed, or an unstable steering wheel are
equally telling. If you find yourself being pulled more to the left or right, one
brake pad could be more worn down than the other. Worn-out brake pads may also
create an unusual vibration in the pedal.
Given the tremendous heat generated as pads and rotors press
together, it’s not surprising that these components wear down over time, and
brake fluid may actually start boiling in the calipers. If this happens,
braking may be more difficult than it should be, potentially leading to
complications or, at worst, accidents. Some manufacturers do produce pads
designed to better handle high heat, though these tend to under-perform when
driving in lower temperatures, or when you have little need to use your brakes
much during your trips.
You can make your brake pads last longer by avoiding high
speeds, thereby minimizing needing to brake quickly and heavily; this puts
incredible pressure on the pads and the rotors alike. Stay focused on the
traffic ahead and around you too, to help reduce sudden braking from other
drivers’ unexpected behavior.
Have You Inspected Your Rotors?
As mentioned earlier, your rotors (brake discs) are integral
to your car’s braking system: these metal disks are what your brake pads need
to press against to bring the car to a stop. Check your rotors for any
indentations or grooves, and be sure they’re not broken. If they’re not
completely rounded, invest in replacements. However, this should always be done
in pairs: get new front or back ones together, never one of each.
Why? Because then you can rest assured that your new rotors
will wear with balance, keeping an even grip on both sides of the vehicle. This
stops you from being pulled to one side or another when applying the brakes. As
with brake pads, try to extend your rotor’s life by keeping your driving at a
measured pace, so you’re not slamming on the brakes more often than is
necessary. Heavy braking for a sudden stop again and again will lead tp your
entire braking system wearing down faster than if you take things a little more
Though the responsibilities of everyday life can make it
hard to find time for checking your car’s brakes, make the effort to do so as
recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Stay on top of your maintenance,
either by doing the work yourself or taking it to a qualified professional. In
short, take care of your braking system and your braking system will take care
At Eden Autos, we
encourage our customers to stay up to date with basic vehicle maintenance and
repairs that can keep their vehicles in good running condition and that can
save them money. We hope you find this information helpful.