You don’t have to be a mechanic to be well-informed about your brakes. You can, of course, let the mechanic do the inspecting, but it’s important to have a basic knowledge of brake failure and replacement.
Brake failure can be found by inspection— removing the wheels and checking the rotors for drums. If you have less than 2 mm of friction material left on your brake pads or brake shoes, it’s usually a good idea to have your brakes changed at that point. If brakes wear down and become thin, they don’t dissipate the heat as well. As brakes wear down because of friction, heat builds up and can cause premature failure or even immediate failure, which would eliminate your stopping ability altogether. It can also warp brake rotors beyond resurfacing tolerances, which could end up costing you more money if you continue to drive on them.
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t want to wait until your brakes stop working to find out there’s a problem. Fortunately, car manufacturers have created ways to help indicate that brakes are starting to go. Some manufacturers equip vehicles with wear indicators, which are small, metal clips that are mounted on the outside edge of the brake pad, and when these wear down to 2 mm, these contact the rotor and make a squealing sound. When you press on the brakes, the noise should either change or go away. If your brakes are squealing while you are driving, it’s a good indication that they are getting low. Other manufacturers install electronic wear indicators, which are wired to indicators located on your dashboard, which light up when your brake pads are getting low.
Squeaky brakes do not necessarily indicate needing new ones. You can compare your brakes to a record player, with the pad being your needle and the rotors as your track.. If you have a rough surface or lines on your rotors it can cause the “needle” to jump around, it can cause it to squeal or it may simply be low on the insulating factors or lubrication, your brakes might squeal. The brakes on many cars will make noise when wet because of their ability to capture moisture, but it’s also because the grease becomes cold and stiff, so as it warms up it becomes more pliable, filling in the gaps and helps to insulate the noise.
Most common “driver observed” indicators that your brakes may be failing:
- shaking in the steering wheel when you apply the brakes and are coming to a stop.
- squeaking/squealing that doesn’t go away when driving but does when you apply the brakes.
- vibration felt in the seat of the vehicle.
- shaking of vehicle as you come to a hurried stop, such as from 55 mph to a tollbooth.
- light on the dash says “ABS” (anti-lock braking system) or “brake”.
If you notice any of the above, it is best to have your brakes inspected right away to prevent both accidents and further car damage.
Bottom line? Get your breaks inspected regularly, such as when you get your oil changed.
If you have questions about your cars braking system please visit Keith’s Car Care at 78 Stonehill Road in Oswego, Il or call us at 630-554-8911.