What’s one of the most crucial systems in a car? The brake system should be one of the first to pop into mind.
No matter how much you drive, your brakes are used over and over again throughout the trip. You use them to stop. You use them to slow down. And while you might not think of them much, you would if they ever started to fail.
Keeping them working their best is crucial. No matter what the Colorado weather throws at you, it’s important to be able to stop on a dime.
What the car experts say
Depending on what make and model you drive, your car will need to have new brakes installed every 25,000 to 65,000 miles. Of course, this is just a general rule of thumb. The number of miles you drive is only one of the determinants for how long your brakes will last.
A vehicle’s brake system is complicated. In contains multiple pieces that each need to be monitored separately, to ensure it works together as one complete system.
- Brake pads – these are replaced more frequently than any other part in the braking system.
- Brake rotors – these are the part of the brake system attached to the wheels. They are one of the most difficult to judge for lifespan.
- Brake fluid – it needs periodic checking to ensure it’s at its full level.
- Brake clamps and lines – these are designed to last the life of the car, barring no damage from accidents or rough driving conditions.
While parts wear down due to age and mileage, there are also a few other ways you can help keep your brakes working and extend their life, to ensure your safety no matter what the driving conditions.
One of the biggest enemies of your braking system is speed. The higher your speed, the more effort is needed by the braking system to bring your car to a stop. Think about it for a moment, and it becomes obvious that the brakes would wear more trying to bring a car going 65 or 70 miles per hour to a stop than it would a vehicle traveling at 30 miles per hour.
We’re not suggesting that you slow down on the highway to try and save your brakes. Instead, it’s a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and travel at the speed limit and for travel conditions. If you’re racing through town traveling at the highest speed possible, chances are you’re going to be pouncing on the brakes a lot to maneuver through traffic. Slowing it down means you’ll fit in better with the traffic around you.
Drive with one foot only
It used to require two feet to drive – one for the brake and gas pedal, the other for the clutch. Most cars have eliminated the need for a clutch, yet some people haven’t removed the need for wanting to drive with their left foot.
If you use your left foot for the brakes, you have a better chance of applying pressure – even the lightest pressure – to the brake pedal long before it’s needed. That means the two actions will counter each other. You’ll be applying gas to go while at the same time causing a dragging action by having the brake system engaged. This is known as brake riding, and it can significantly lower the number of miles between brake jobs.
If this is your new habit, find a firm place for your left foot far away from the brake pedal and leave it there. Your brakes and your gas mileage will thank you.
We get it; traffic can be horrendous on some days. A drive that would normally take you minutes can sometimes double or triple in the heart of rush hour. You’re in a hurry. You try and “push” the person in front of you to go faster. Guess what? It won’t work.
When you’re antsy, sitting in traffic, you tend to ride close to the car in front of you. That means you’re more likely to have to punch down on the brake pedal more often as you adjust to different road conditions.
Keeping your distance means you can apply pressure softer, which doesn’t wear onto the brake pads as quickly. Leave a little earlier and stop stressing about the drive.
Handle braking in the mountains the right way
Depending on where you live, you might face mountain driving on a regular basis. But even if you just head up into the hills for weekend ski trips, practice good mountain driving behavior to keep your brakes working the way they should.
As long as the roads are safe to drive on, no icy or wet conditions, use your gears to bring you down in elevation instead of riding your brakes. Most cars, even automatics, have the ability to shift into a lower gear. This slows the vehicle down through engine power rather than riding your brakes.
This is also a safety issue. If you leave the brake pads engaged for miles coming back down into the city, heat can build and possibly cause the braking system to fail.
Control your weight
Did you know that the average SUV weighs can weigh 5,000 pounds or more? That’s empty, without passengers or cargo.
The trouble with SUVs is they have a lot of cargo space. And that means you can throw in a variety of things for the “just in case” and leave it there as storage. All of that adds extra weight, which requires more from your braking system to bring the vehicle to a stop.
Follow the three-second rule
If you think back to your driving school days, you’ll recall the instructor telling you to leave three-seconds between you and the car in front of you. It’s still great advice.
Leaving space gives you a longer reaction time. It means you won’t be pouncing on your brakes in stop and go traffic, and can tap on the brake pedal lightly to slow down. This saves on the wear and tear of your entire braking system.
Drive smarter and keep your brakes working longer
Your entire braking system – brake pads, brake rotors, drums – it all needs maintenance and replacement eventually. Stick with manufacturers’ guidelines to determine what’s right for your vehicle. If you think something’s wrong, or nearing the dates in your owner’s manual, don’t wait for the problem to grow. Stop by today and get your brakes checked.