A car’s braking system is one of those elements that many drivers take for granted, expecting them to work flawlessly every time for years. However, as with any other component, your vehicle’s brakes need care and maintenance to keep them in good condition and avoid failure in an emergency. Given their huge importance, you should make sure to check them regularly.
How Does a Vehicle’s Braking System Work?
Before discussing why you should regularly check your braking system and how to do it, you should first understand how brakes manage to bring your car to a full stop. Each wheel of your car has its own brake, and they’re all operated by a hydraulic system. Most modern cars have disc brakes on all four wheels. Here’s how the system works when you hit the brake pedal:
- Once you press the pedal, a piston presses a cylinder and squeezes out the hydraulic fluid.
- The fluid is pushed to all four wheels via a network of hoses and brake lines.
- It then pushes the brake pad against the brake disc, creating friction and making the car slow down.
Given the huge force required to slow down a car, it’s natural that both the brake pads and brake discs will inevitably wear down over time, making them gradually less effective.
How Often Should I Check My Braking System?
There are several opinions regarding how often you should check the brakes, with car manufacturers usually having slightly different recommendations for their customers. However, given that you should rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, it is a good idea to use that opportunity to also check your brakes. In the meantime, you should be on the lookout for any sign of deterioration and take your car in for an inspection immediately if you notice anything not working as it should.
How Can I Inspect My Brakes?
Although it’s a good idea to let the professionals inspect your car’s braking system, you can look for a few signs that might indicate brake problems. The first thing you should check is your brake discs: They should be shiny and only have a few minor lines on them from regular wear. However, if you notice any irregularities on the surface, you should seriously consider replacing them. If you do, make sure to replace all four brake discs, as having different quality discs may affect your car’s overall braking performance. It’s important to have your
The brake pads are also an integral part of your braking system, and you can check them occasionally to determine their condition. The easiest way to tell a brake pad’s condition is by checking its thickness. If the pad is abnormally thin compared to a new one, consider replacing the pads immediately for all four wheels. You can also check the brake lines for any rust spots or signs of leaks. If you discover any sign of excessive brake system wear, schedule a visit with our technicians at Huffines Chevrolet Lewisville to have it checked right away.
How Can I Prevent Premature Brake Issues?
There are a few steps you can take to prolong your braking system’s life so that it runs optimally for many years. Some of them are:
- Avoid sudden stops. Constantly putting a large amount of pressure on the braking system can cause premature wear. While driving, if you see a traffic jam or a red light in the distance, consider allowing the car to slow down naturally or gently apply the brakes early, instead of hitting the brakes at the last second.
- Regularly clean the braking system. Besides checking its integrity, you can also clean your braking system from time to time. You can clean the pads and discs with a dry cloth and cleaning fluid.
- Use a lower gear when driving downhill. When driving down steep hills, you can keep your car in a lower gear to avoid putting too much pressure on the brakes. Constantly braking for several minutes can heat the entire braking system and wear it out prematurely, but relying on your engine to slow your vehicle has no adverse effects. However, this is only a safe practice when road conditions are good.
What Are the Initial Signs of a Failing Brake System?
Even without physically inspecting your braking system, you can still be on the lookout for signs that it’s time to have it professionally checked. The biggest and most obvious indicator that there’s something wrong with your brakes is reduced responsiveness, meaning that you have to press harder on the pedal to get the same results. This may not be easy to notice, however, as it’s a gradual process. Also, if the brakes on one side are in rougher shape than the other side, your car will tend to veer left or right when you hit the brakes.
Vibration in the steering wheel is also a clear sign that it’s time to check your brakes. The vibration is often caused by two components within the braking system not being perfectly aligned, and it tends to manifest itself when braking from higher speeds. Finally, if you hear a growling or grinding sound when applying the brakes, take it as an obvious sign that you need to have them checked immediately. The reason is often related to metal from the worn-down brake hitting another component and creating local damage.
Regardless of how modern and sophisticated vehicles have become, we should remember that the main three elements that make a car safe are its tires, steering, and braking system. Luckily, any sign of significant wear on any of them is usually fairly easy to spot, as long as you know what to look for. To make sure your brakes are as effective as they can be, make sure to regularly check them for minor faults and have them inspected by professionals at regular intervals. If your brakes need an inspection or it’s time to replace them, our service department here at Huffines Chevrolet Lewisville is ready to help.