Need to get from Denver to Evergreen? On a good day, you can be there in under an hour, depending on where you’re coming from and going to. Many people do this drive every day to and from work.
Every time you make this drive, the elevation changes by 2700 feet. That’s just over 51 percent grade. If you’ve made the trip, you know your engine hums as it climbs. Your brakes get pushed to the limits as you come back down.
Are your brakes in good operating condition?
If not, the drive can be a harrowing experience.
Few drivers would argue the importance of a good braking system. Depending on your drive here along the Front Range, it’s literally a life-or-death situation. That’s why we prepare for it – ever seen braking ramps along the side of the highway?
But as a driver, you can prevent braking problems long before you notice them. With a few brake maintenance tips in mind, your brakes will always be in good condition, and be able to take on whatever your daily plans can dish out.
Why brake maintenance is even more important with mountain driving
Brake maintenance is always crucial, even more so when mountain driving is a regular part of your life. The challenging terrain and varying elevations pose unique demands on your vehicle’s braking system.
- You’re constantly in motion – steep ascents and descents. Descending long and winding slopes can generate significant heat in the braking system, leading to brake fade or reduced effectiveness. Regular maintenance helps ensure your brakes can handle the stress of elevation changes.
- Continuous braking while navigating downhill stretches can accelerate brake pad and rotor wear. The extended use can lead to overheating, compromising the overall performance of the braking system. Routine maintenance helps identify and address wear issues before they become more severe.
- Mountain driving often involves prolonged downhill descents, requiring sustained use of the brakes to control speed. This places additional strain on the braking components, making it crucial to have well-maintained brakes to ensure reliable performance and prevent overheating.
- Brake fade occurs when the braking system loses effectiveness due to overheating. This can be particularly hazardous in mountainous terrain where precise vehicle control is essential. Regular brake inspections and maintenance help mitigate the risk of brake fade and ensure optimal braking performance.
- Mountain driving can expose your vehicle to varying temperatures and environmental conditions. Regular brake maintenance includes checking and maintaining the integrity of brake fluid. Proper fluid levels and quality are essential for consistent braking performance, especially in challenging terrains.
Top brake issues to watch for
If mountain driving is a regular part of your life, staying vigilant about your vehicle’s braking system is essential. You have the possibility of facing more brake issues, sooner. Things to watch for include:
Worn out brake pads
Watch out for squeaking or grinding noises during braking, reduced braking responsiveness. Worn brake pads compromise the effectiveness of your braking system, especially during downhill descents where brakes are frequently used.
You may notice vibrations or pulsations felt through the brake pedal during braking. Warped rotors can lead to uneven braking, reducing your ability to maintain control, particularly in demanding mountainous conditions.
Brake fluid leaks
Puddles or wet spots beneath the vehicle may be a sign of a gradual decrease in brake fluid levels. Brake fluid is essential for optimal brake performance. Any leaks can compromise the system, leading to a potential loss of braking power.
Visible smoke or a burning smell from the wheels is never a good thing. Overheated brakes can result from prolonged downhill descents. Smoking brakes indicate a critical temperature level, and immediate action is necessary to prevent brake fade and potential failure.
Never ignore brake warning lights
Modern vehicles are equipped with brake warning lights that illuminate when an issue is detected. Ignoring these warnings can lead to severe consequences. Always address brake warning lights promptly by seeking professional inspection and maintenance.
Regularly checking for these brake issues is essential for your safety, especially when navigating the challenging terrain of mountain roads. If you notice any signs of brake problems or experience unusual braking behavior, it’s crucial to address them promptly to maintain optimal braking performance and ensure a secure driving experience as you move in and out of the hills.
Practical brake maintenance tips to help you address and prevent these issues
Maintaining a healthy braking system is key to ensuring your safety when driving anywhere in the city, including in and out of the Rocky Mountains. Your maintenance should include:
Regular brake inspections
Schedule routine brake inspections, especially before embarking on extended mountain journeys. Regular inspections help identify early signs of brake wear, ensuring timely replacement of brake pads and detection of other potential issues.
Monitor brake pad thickness
Monitor the thickness of your brake pads regularly. The good news is brake pads are built with an internal warning system, and will squeal as they approach end-of-life. Worn-out brake pads can compromise braking efficiency, particularly during downhill descents. Replace pads if they are approaching the minimum thickness.
Inspect brake rotors for signs of warping or uneven wear. Warped rotors can lead to vibrations and reduced braking performance. Address any rotor issues promptly to maintain optimal braking.
Brake fluid checks
Regularly check brake fluid levels and quality. Brake fluid is crucial for proper brake function. Low levels or degraded fluid can lead to decreased braking efficiency. Top up or replace brake fluid as needed.
Address brake fluid leaks immediately
If you notice brake fluid leaks, seek professional assistance immediately. Brake fluid leaks can compromise the entire braking system. Prompt repairs prevent potential brake failure.
Avoid prolonged braking
Use engine braking and downshifting on downhill stretches to reduce reliance on brakes. Prolonged braking during descents generates excessive heat, potentially leading to brake fade. Alternate braking techniques help mitigate heat buildup.
Allow brakes to cool down during long drives by pulling over and taking breaks. Cooling periods prevent brakes from overheating, reducing the risk of issues like smoking brakes.
Heed brake warning lights
Address brake warning lights promptly by seeking professional inspection. Ignoring warning lights can lead to more severe issues. Early detection and intervention are crucial for brake system health.
By incorporating these practical brake maintenance tips into your routine, you can enhance the reliability and longevity of your braking system, ensuring a safer driving experience through whatever you face during your daily commute.
How can we help you maintain your car’s brake system?