Your brakes are the most important safety system in your vehicle. Neglecting your brake system’s warning signs can cause increased repair costs or worse, no brakes at all.
Other trouble signs are:
pulling to one side while braking
a pedal that feels harder or softer than usual to depress
unusually sensitive brakes
illumination of a brake warning light
There are several signs that let you know that it’s time to bring your car into a repair shop for brakes. The most obvious on is a high pitched squeal upon braking. Brake pads come with a little piece of metal attached called an indicator. When the brake pad has worn down to a certain point, the indicator metal begins to touch the rotor, producing a cringe-worthy squeal. Depending on how hard you drive, this means you need to have your brakes serviced within the month. Occasionally low cost brake pads don’t come with an indicator, or the indicator can rust and fall off. If your car is taking longer to stop than it used to, or it feels like you can depress the pedal down farther than normal, get your car in for service right away.
Rotors can typically last through 2-3 sets of brake pads, but if your steering wheel wiggles and vibrates while stopping, your rotors are probably past due for replacement. These are good indicators that your brakes need service, but better is to have your brake system periodically checked by a professional to find issues before they start to affect your braking ability.
Your car is equipped with dashboard warning lights for your brake system. The number of these vehicle indicators vary. Some cars have one warning light for any brake issue, others have two or three separate lights. Check your owner’s manual to familiarize yourself with the indicators for your vehicle.
If the brake system warning light is your vehicle’s only brake indicator, it can mean the parking brake is engaged, there is a problem with your anti-lock brake system, you have very worn brake pads or shoes, or you are low or leaking brake fluid. You may also have separate indicators for the parking brake and ABS systems.
If you determine that the indicator is for possible low or leaking brake fluid, you should have your vehicle in for service before driving it again.
If you have an ABS light that is illuminated, there is a problem with your anti-lock braking system. Your brakes will operate as if you didn’t have anti-lock brakes, and assuming it is not icy you can safely drive it to a repair shop.
How old is your brake fluid? Brake fluid is often topped off when the brake system is serviced, but not everyone knows that most vehicles today require the brake fluid to be flushed and completely changed every 2-3 years or 30,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended schedule for your vehicle.
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Over time, brake fluid absorbs moisture from the air. Even a well-maintained system will have water migrate in over time. When the system is hot, the water can boil, greatly reducing your braking effectiveness. The introduced moisture can cause corrosion of the brake components as the rust inhibitors in the brake fluid break down and lead to a buildup of deposits in the lines and hydraulics. The result is sticking calipers and wheel cylinders and seal damage. Neglecting this preventive maintenance can result in expensive repair bills down the road.
Brakes go through normal wear and tear and eventually need replacing. Brake wear is affected by driving habits, weather and road conditions, vehicle type and the quality of the brake lining material.
We visually monitor the exterior portion of your brakes at every service as part of our courtesy inspection, but to ensure safe and worry-free driving we recommend that you have a full professional brake inspection performed on your vehicle annually. This involves testing and through inspection of your brake pads and shoes, brake fluid, rotors and drums, calipers, wheel cylinders, hoses and lines, master cylinder, and ABS system. Staying on top of brake maintenance is important for ensuring your safety, protecting the value of your car, and saving you from more expensive future repairs.
Your brake system is only as good as its weakest component. Call today to set up your appointment.
Sources: Auto Service Professional, Car Care Council
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