When you jumped into your car this morning, you probably didn’t think much about the brakes.
You thought about dropping the kids off at school. Or maybe contemplating if you had enough time to get coffee before you head into work. Or the meeting you have later in the day.
Your car probably didn’t enter your mind. It’s a useful tool that gets you where you’re going. And outside of thinking about stopping to get gas, or scheduling an oil change here and there, your car is reliable. Why worry about something when there’s so much else going on in your life?
But if you’ve ever had a child or a dog jump out in front of you, you appreciate your brakes a little bit more. When traffic on the way home comes to a screeching halt, you thank your fully operational brakes one more time.
Brakes aren’t magic, they’re science-based. A car in motion produces energy. To stop, you have to release that energy, and you do so using friction to convert that energy to heat.
Pressing down on the brake pedal pushes a piston into the master cylinder filled with hydraulic fluid. This spreads hydraulic fluid into wider cylinders connected to the brakes on each wheel. This hydraulic process increases force enough to move the brakes into action, stopping your car.
Today’s modern vehicles have disc brakes. Disc brakes are made up of a disc, caliper, and a brake pad. When you apply pressure to the brake pedal, the hydraulic fluid causes the caliper to push into the brake pad, applying pressure directly to the brake disc. This rubbing action creates friction, which converts the energy into heat within the brake pad.
This process creates a lot of heat. That’s why brake pads are created out of high-quality material that withstands the pressure. If it melted under intense heat, they wouldn’t do you a lot of good. So they’re created from ceramics, alloys, composites, and more.
How to maintain car brakes
There are many parts on your car that add luxury to your vehicle, but aren’t a threat. If the air conditioning system goes out, it might get a little warm on a hot summer day. But you can still put down the windows and enjoy the breeze as you buzz down the road.
You can be inconvenienced by not having a radio. Or even adjusting to not having a side mirror if you bump it on the way out of the garage.
But you can’t live without brakes. If your brakes aren’t in great condition, they put you and your vehicle’s occupants at risk. If your brakes don’t work at all, your car is no longer operational.
That’s why it’s a good idea to maintain car brakes as a part of your regular routine.
- Have your brakes checked by a reputable service dealer every year. This will keep you better informed as to how many miles you can travel on your current brake system, what to watch for, and establish a replacement schedule as your brakes begin to wear down. Our staff is happy to work with you and keep you informed of how much useful life you have left. Be sure to check our shop specials to ensure you get the best deal when scheduling your appointment.
- Check your brake fluid. Just like you fill your car with gas as it moves towards empty, or change the oil based on mileage, your brake fluid should also be changed on a regular basis. Brake fluid is essential for the heat transfer process, and to help absorb condensation and water. Check the color of your brake fluid; a darker color means it’s time to have it replaced.
- Listen and be aware of any changes in the way your car stops. If you tap on the brake pedal and you hear a squealing, that’s a sign of worn down brake pads. If you have to push down harder on the brake pedal to make your car stop, that’s a sign you need to schedule an appointment. If you’re at all concerned with something you hear or see, don’t wait.
- Avoid unnecessary braking. By changing your driving patterns, you can put less wear and tear on your brakes. Leave more room between you and the car in front of you so you can coast while slowing down. Avoid being in situations where you have to ride the brakes, or pounce on them as traffic conditions bounce around.
- Do business with reputable mechanics. Safety isn’t something you should play around with. You might get a great deal from a fly-by-night operation, but will your car be safe to drive? When you select a reputable mechanic, you’ll be comfortable you’re getting the best deal possible, and you’ll drive away in a car you can trust.
Is it bad if your brake pedal goes to the floor?
In a word, yes.
While there can be several reasons why this is happening, one of the most common is lack of brake fluid. If your car is out of brake fluid, your brakes won’t work. That means as you press the brake pedal to the floor, nothing will happen. There’s possibly a leak within the system. If this happens, you can’t drive your car for safety reasons.
Another possible reason is a bad master cylinder. The master cylinder is where the brake fluid compresses. This is where pressure builds to apply friction between the brake pads and the wheels. If it starts to fail, you’re going to lose braking power. The more it builds, the harder it will be to stop.
It could also be you, the driver, that is causing a problem. If you can’t find a mechanical reason for failure, and yet you have to push harder on the pedal to apply the brakes, it could be the way you drive. The more brakes are used, the hotter the brake fluid becomes. As it heats, it thins. Thinner liquid needs more force to make the brakes work. Stop riding the brakes, and give yourself plenty of room to avoid pouncing on the brakes as traffic grinds to a halt.
Have more questions on how to maintain car brakes? Need to check out your brake’s current condition? Give us a call today.