Taking care of your Car Brakes

August 17, 2012

car tips

How to take care of your car brakes?

The braking system is your car’s most important safety feature. Just as brakes aren’t optional equipment, neither should their proper maintenance be optional. The brakes on your car should be checked at least every 20,000 km, or once a year, or whenever there’s a change in how they feel or the noise that they make.

How brakes work?

Brakes are basically a mechanism to change energy types. When your car is in motion, it has kinetic energy. When you apply the brakes, the pads or shoes that press against the brake drum or rotor convert that energy into thermal energy through friction. The cooling of the brakes dissipates the heat and the car slows down.

Signs of trouble

Here are some of the symptoms that something is wrong with your vehicle’s brakes:

● The brake pedal feels too soft or you need to pump your brakes for them to work;

● A hard brake pedal;

● A brake warning light that stays on;

● Squealing or grinding noises;

● Vibrations or clunking sounds when you apply the brakes;

● The car pulls to one side when you apply the brakes, or a tire is very hot after even a short drive, or you see leakage near a tire.

Brake pads

There are essentially two types of brakes: disc and drum. Disc brakes have a rotor that’s attached to the axle. Calipers straddle the rotor. Drum brakes are more common on back wheels. Several parts of the braking system require servicing. The brake pads or shoes wear out with use, and become too thin to function effectively.

If the brake pads wear out completely, that can damage the rotors. The calipers can grind grooves in the rotor. Then the rotor must either be resurfaced or replaced. This is an expensive proposition, but delaying is risky, because the car won’t stop as quickly. Sometimes rotors warp or crack and have to be replaced.

Brake pads have different grades – regular, metallic and ceramic. Higher grades are pricier, but provide better braking performance and smoother operation. Also, the premium grade of pads and shoes lasts more kilometers than the cheaper grades. It’s acceptable to upgrade the brake pads. But don’t ever use a grade that’s lower than the one that the manufacturer recommends.

Brake fluid

Brake fluid should be topped up monthly. When you apply the brakes, the pressure in the fluid activates the brake pads or shoes. If there’s insufficient fluid, there won’t be enough pressure to brake properly.

Also, water builds up in the brake fluid over time. This will result in corrosion, leaks and brake damage. With hard use, the brakes could severely fade or even fail. The brake fluid should be changed on the schedule recommended by the manufacturer.

It’s critical to look after your car’s brakes, and much less costly than a trip to the auto repair shop after an accident.

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