Getting new brakes on your vehicle? Be sure to break them in the right way as you drive shortly after installation. It’s the only way to ensure performance over the life of the brakes.
Breaking in new brakes is also known as bedding-in the brake pads and rotors. If you don’t properly bed in brakes, you may experience problems with the braking system down the road, such as warped discs, uneven brake pad wear, or noise brakes every time you tap on the brake pedal.
Every time you install new brakes, the bedding-in process should be performed slowly for maximum effect. Most brake pads take 300 to 400 miles to fully break in and remove the transfer film from the rotors.
For most drivers, this simply means driving at your normal pace. But being aware of the process from the moment you drive out of the service station will ensure maximum results.
What is bedding-in?
If you’re getting new brake pads and rotors, take a look at the surface area of the old equipment. You’ll notice that old rotors have a shiny grayish-blue glaze on the surface. This is known as pad transfer. It comes from brake pads pushing up against the rotor many times over the life of the equipment. Brake pads create high friction to slow down and stop a vehicle. The material from the brake pad deposits onto the rotor over time, creating friction and helping your vehicle come to a stop. Pad transfer lays the foundation for a good braking system.
When you install new brake pads and rotors, this process hasn’t occurred. Brake pads and rotors are still two separate pieces of equipment. They need time to come together and function well.
Why you should break in car brakes
As you drive away from the service station for the first time after having new brake pads and rotors installed, the two start working together every time you slow down or come to a stop. The brake pad connects with the rotor, and starts leaving traces of pad transfer on the surface.
If you pounce on the brakes and perform this process too quickly, the pad can transfer quickly onto the rotor. This can cause an uneven surface area of pad transfer on the rotor. As you drive and this process continues to build, new pad material will build on this surface, creating an uneven texture on the rotor. In most cases, this will eventually be diagnosed as a “warped rotor”. The entire thing can be avoided by spending a little extra time after installation driving carefully to allow this process to occur.
Breaking in your brakes: the bed-in process
While many drivers bed-in new brakes through everyday driving, it’s important to understand the process if you wish to ensure proper breaking in of your car’s brakes. It requires Quickly heating and cooling the brakes in repeated movements to ensure proper pad transfer. It looks like this:
Find a safe place to drive – you’ll need space to reach up to 45 to 50 mph, and be able to quickly stop without impacting drivers around you. Ensure your safety and those around you first.
Warm-up – start with four normal stops. Bring your vehicle up to 30 mph or so, and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.
Bed-in – perform eight more aggressive stops where you bring the vehicle up to around 45 mph, and bring it to a controlled stop. Be firm and aggressive with the braking, ensuring the wheels don’t lock up.
Cool-down – park your vehicle and allow it to completely cool down for at least an hour.
Then drive your vehicle as you normally would. Your braking system is ready to go.
Other maintenance items to do when installing new brakes
Now that you know how to break in new brakes, you should also know that to keep your braking system in good condition, there are a few other things a technician will do as they install new brakes.
Check the brake fluid
Brake fluid is a chemical solution used to keep the hydraulic brakes working correctly in all modern vehicles. It is designed to boost your foot’s power every time you step on the brake pedal, increasing the pressure of your car’s brakes. Without brake fluid, you would need a lot more force to slow your vehicle and bring it to a stop.
When you work on the brake system, it’s always a good idea to check the brake fluid and ensure it’s clear. When brake fluid is in good condition, it’s a lighter, clearer color with a thicker viscosity. The darker and thinner it becomes, the more compromised it may be. It will be replaced if necessary.
Brake system check
Ensure the entire braking system is working well. From the brake pedal to brake fluid, calipers, and brake pads, each piece of the braking system is important to ensure safety while driving. Things like caliper guide pins can become rusty over time. They can also tighten, needing lubricant to ensure proper movement once again. A reputable mechanic will ensure every piece in the braking system is operational and working well before driving away.
Slotted or drilled rotors
Improvements are made continually in the world of automotive. With technological advances come better ways to maintain your vehicle. Are you running with the best brake pads and rotors for your car and the way you drive?
Rotors come in slotted and drilled format. While slotted rotors don’t improve heat transfer, they can enhance brake output by removing dust and debris that can sometimes become stuck between the pads and rotors. This dust reduces friction force, which prevents the pads and rotors from flush contact. Drilled will give better with normal city driving, while slotted may be better with high performance vehicles.
Your brakes are one of the most important safety systems in your vehicle. Without brakes, you wouldn’t be able to slow down and stop, and keep your car under control.
For a well maintained vehicle, be sure your brakes are in good working condition. And when you get new brakes, break new brakes in properly for a full, long life.
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