One of the most essential systems built into any vehicle is the braking system. But for a pickup truck, good brakes are critical.
Imagine flying down the mountain after a weekend of camping, only to find your brakes don’t work. That can be extra scary if your boat or camper is attached and trailing behind you.
Or maybe your sailing down the highway, a bed filled with building materials for your next project. All that extra weight adds strain to your braking system, and you discover they aren’t working quite the way you anticipated when traffic comes to a sudden halt. That can put you in a very messy and dangerous situation.
Pickup trucks that tow need better brakes
That might not come as a surprise, but let’s talk about why pickup trucks that tow need a different braking system.
Any time you add weight onto a vehicle, it changes the operating conditions of the vehicle itself. That large load you pile into the bed, the boat you attach to the back end, or even just adding a larger tire/wheel combination will change the vehicle’s dynamics. Because the pickup truck no longer operates as it was designed, it may also change the functionality of the braking system. When that happens, it’s a good idea to have the entire braking system evaluated to determine if it’s reacting well to the conditions it’s put under on a daily basis.
One of our mechanics can help you select brakes for:
- Better stopping power
- Noise reduction
- Lower brake dust residue
- Reduce vibration
- A faster break-in time frame
- Longer life overall
The other reason brakes are important
A small pickup will have gross weight of anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 pounds. If you have a heavy duty pickup, gross weight can move up to 7,000 to 12,000 pounds. While manufacturer specs are needed to properly define actual weight, in any case you move a lot of mass around every time you sit behind the wheel.
Compare that to the average sedan on the road today, weighing in at 3,350 pounds, or the average SUV that weighs 4,800 pounds.
That makes the braking system on any pickup truck, especially if they are towing and adding weight to their load, even more important. You’re putting more than the risk of your passengers and load at risk every time you drive.
Maintain your pickup truck brakes properly
Whether your pickup truck uses disc pads at every wheel, or uses drum shoes in the rear, ensure they are working well by scheduling regular inspection and replacement. Depending on how you use your vehicle, your brakes may wear faster and not have as long a useful life as listed on the brake’s guidelines. Unlike motor oil, there isn’t a specific service guideline you should follow.
Brake pads come with wear indicators. They are designed to provide safety tactics built into the pads themselves. Just like on your family car, as the brake pad wears, it will reach the indicator, touch the rotor, and squeal when enough material has worn away.
Some brake pads used on pickup trucks may also have a wear bar that allows you to visually see how much material has worn away. Check this periodically to ensure there is plenty of pad left for normal driving conditions.
Keep in mind that brake pads are only part of your braking system. The rotors themselves can eventually wear down and need to be replaced. This can be more difficult to see, which is why it’s important to schedule regular maintenance visits with your local mechanic.
Is it important to buy the best brakes on the market?
As consumers, we often learn the “good, better, best” approach to purchasing often means we choose the product that costs the most to get the best product. With your pickup truck brakes, that’s not always the case.
According to Consumer Reports, the average stopping distance for compact pickups is 136 feet going from 60 mph back down to zero. Full sized pickups take approximately 140 feet. Compare that sports cars that can stop on average at 120 feet, or even a small luxury car that will stop at 131 feet.
While these are averages, it still brings into question the importance of being able to stop your vehicle easily, to avoid tragic consequences when maneuvering in day to day traffic.
Cheap brakes can have a host of problems. Pull up Youtube and you can search and find all sorts of videos showing you the consequences of installing cheap brake pads. Budget brake pads can experience glue failure. The material can break down easily under stressful situations. The material can separate from the brake pad plate with high amounts of heat – something that can quickly happen if you’re towing a large load and sailing down a mountain pass.
That being said, you don’t necessarily have to go to the other extreme and search for the most expensive brake pad you can find. Instead, it’s best to stick with a brand name with a proven track record, and rely on regular inspections to ensure your brakes are working fine.
Is it time for brake replacement?
Consider what you do during the year. Do you use your pickup truck for work? Do you carry heavy loads? Do you use it regularly to haul boats, campers, and other recreational equipment on your weekend getaways? Do you put hundreds – or thousands – of miles on your truck each season?
Then think for a moment how you drive. Are you slow and careful at every turn? Would you describe your driving as aggressive?
If you push your brakes and use them regularly while driving, your brake pads will have a shorter lifespan.
On the other hand, if you apply the brake pedal gradually, leaving plenty of space around you in all driving conditions, your brakes may last the lifespan suggested by the manufacturer.
This can help you decide how often to bring your pickup truck in for an inspection.
It can also help us make better recommendations for keeping you safe.
Good brakes are vital for any vehicle, but especially a pickup truck. For the safety of your passengers and the vehicles around you, be sure to get your braking system checked regularly.