The brakes on your car are one of the most important mechanisms for safety. If you’re driving on the road, entrusting your family’s safety as you drive around the city, dependable brakes are a mandatory part of car safety.
Yet nobody likes to make frequent trips to a mechanic. If you can stretch out the time in between visits, all the better. How do you know if your brakes are working correctly? Is there a way you can make brakes last longer?
The more aware you are of how brakes work and the potential problems, the more you can ensure they are working at their optimal level, and possibly gain more wear from your brake system.
Brakes, and how they work
You don’t have to be a mechanic to understand how your brake system works. Without getting into the intricate details, it’s important as a car owner to know your car has two parts to concern yourself with: the brake pads, and the rotors.
Your brake pads are exactly as the name implies; they are made of a hard material that uses friction to stop the car.
Brake rotors are the round plates that the pads clamp down onto, slowing it, and eventually stopping the car.
With most cars on the road today, they use disk brakes where the brake pads are contained within calipers. Every time you push the brake pedal, pressure is applied to the rotor, and the car slows down. You use this process over and over again, every time you drive. So it’s not surprising that replacement of both brake pads and rotors will occur at some point in the future, depending on how much you use your car.
What causes brakes to wear?
Brakes wear out from day to day use. The more mileage you put on a car, the faster your brakes will wear out. Of course, it depends on personal use too. Someone who drives more highway mileage will get more wear than a person that does a lot of city driving. If you “ride the brakes” and always have your foot on the brake pedal, you’ll see more wear on your brake pads than someone who isn’t as aggressive with their driving habits. If you want to make your brakes last longer, become a less aggressive driver.
Speed also plays a factor in brake longevity. Applying the brakes when you’re at lower speeds requires less momentum than applying brakes at higher speeds. This is one of the reasons you’ll find your brake pads wear quicker if your daily commute involves highway driving. At rush hour, you’ll have a lot of speeding up and slowing down, sometimes with very quick action.
You may also notice that your front brakes wear faster than the rear pads. That’s because the front of your vehicle has a lot more action in the braking process than the rear, causing them to wear faster. Over time, heat and friction wear until there is little left to do the job effectively.
It’s also important to know that brake wear isn’t an exact science. Manufacturers can’t list it in their guidelines to have brake replacement based on mileage. Some brakes will last up to 75,000 miles, while others may need replacing at 25,000 miles. It depends on the make and model of your car, your driving habits, and many other factors.
How to make brakes last longer
What can you do to make your brakes last longer? The answer is surprisingly simple.
One of the easiest ways to increase the wear on your brake pads is to change the way you drive. Even a few simple changes can increase brake life, and make you a safer driver too. Change your driving by doing the following things:
- Start by following the flow of traffic instead of fighting it. If you find yourself continuously creeping up on the car in front of you, slow down. If you stay with traffic, it will require less heavy braking.
- Lighten your vehicle if at all possible. Clean out your trunk or backend space instead of leaving heavy objects in place.
- Keep your speeds low in heavier traffic. Give yourself plenty of time to get to your final destination, so you aren’t pushing the limits of what traffic will allow you to do.
You can also spend an extra couple of minutes giving your brake rotors a cleaning every time you wash your car. As you drive, brake dust settles in on the pads and rotors. This increases the amount of friction whenever they brake, which shortens their life. By keeping the brake dust to a minimum, you’ll give your brakes the longest life possible.
Brake inspection and servicing
There are several simple steps you can take to ensure your brakes are properly maintained.
Check your brake fluid regularly. You need to make sure it’s in good condition, and is at the appropriate level. If brake fluid has a milky color, it means condensation has accumulated in the fluid, and it’s time to change out the brake fluid.
Pay attention to any noises you hear while you’re driving. That squeaking, squealing, or grinding noise is trying to tell you something. And while noises may start for various reasons, it is a good indicator that you have a problem.
Of course, you can also rely on the brake light coming on. Depending on the age of your car, today’s modern vehicles have sensitive electronics that are very accurate when a problem arises. When the pads get below 25 percent of their total thickness, you’ll be alerted, and you can have them replaced before they become a big concern.
Schedule your service with Express Car Care today
At Express Car Care, we offer you full service on everything your car needs, from brake pads, rotors, drums, brake shoes, calipers, hoses, and more. If you suspect your brakes aren’t working the way they once did, don’t delay. Stop by today and keep your car in top working condition, safe for you and your family.