Brakes are one of the most important parts of a vehicle. One should never take them for granted, and if there is a possibility they are not working as they are supposed to, the car owner has to eliminate the problem. Brake parts might be expensive, but it is not a good reason to delay. Remember, good brakes are what keeps the driver and passengers safe!
Everybody can make a basic check-up on the brakes to be sure they look, feel and sound all right. It is recommended to pay closer attention to them every six months; however, it is better to be constantly aware of your car’s brake situation.
Here are the things to inspect visually:
1. Brake rotors (discs) have to be checked all the way around the surface. There should be no defects on either side of the discs, otherwise they have to be replaced. Lately such companies like Brembo offer extremely strong brake rotors made out of composite materials. The color of the discs is also important. If you notice discoloration, it might be a sign of overheating. In this case, a consultation with a specialist is required.
2. Brake pads can be worn unevenly, cracked or have other defects, so they should be inspected as well. As a rule, they last as long as rotors do, so check them on a regular basis. Some vehicles have brake pad sensors which give warnings just in time. Damaged brake pads should be replaced immediately. If the car has sensors, they should be replaced along with the pads.
3. Brake drums also require inspection: they should not have deep notches or big holes where the shoes ride.
4. Brake shoes do slowly wear out, but ensure that they have even wear, without the rivets sticking out to the friction surface.
Not every brake system is equipped with drums and shoes, so points 3 and 4 are optional for various models. Besides the bigger components of the system, one should check such things as brake liquid and its leakage, calipers, wheel cylinders and hoses.
When a driver applies the brakes he or she can definitely feel how they work. The more gently you apply the brakes, the longer they serve you. However, sometimes emergency stops happen. If you are not sure that the car can be stopped quickly in such a situation, check the hydraulic fluid. If the brakes are pumped often, hydraulic problems will be the first ones to appear.
Another thing that driver’s can feel is a “spongy” brake. If the brakes cannot be applied firmly or they “stick”, then there is a problem that needs to be solved. Worn pads, sticking calipers, and low fluid levels are the main items to consider.
Healthy brakes are quiet, so it is easy to determine brake damage by sound. Every time you stop, listen for unusual sounds. When the brakes are applied gradually as they are supposed to be, a slight brushing sound of the pads touching the rotors can be heard. This is perfectly normal. The sounds to be worried about are squeaking or other constant unpleasant noises.
Squeaking happens when there is dirt or dust on the brakes. However, it might also be a result of worn or loose pads.
Constant brake noise is a sound of trouble. Visit an auto service center as soon as possible to fix the problem.
Rhythmic noise usually indicates a damaged rotor. Instead of constant noise, this one pulsates. Sometimes you can feel rhythmic shaking of the pedal too.
Always remember how important brakes are for your life’s safety. “Never put off until tomorrow what can be done today” can definitely be said about a car’s brake system. Do not risk your life, keep your brakes healthy!