Christie's Car Keys


The Truth About Brake Repairs 

So who knows the answer to this question…how worn are your vehicle’s brakes? If you don’t know, you’re not alone. There are only a couple ways the average driver would have any idea how to answer this question, so I will help you with that below. But first, let’s talk about disc brake pads. At the risk of turning this into an engineering lesson, let me explain it this way. In most vehicles there are (2) brake pads for each wheel that are hydraulically driven against a rotor assembly. This pinching action restricts the rotor’s ability to rotate thus slowing down the wheel speed and stopping the vehicle. Just like hip hop DJs change the speed a record is playing by creating drag with their fingers, imagine that record spinning in midair with your hands on either side. When you squeeze the record between your hands, you stop the spinning.  So your hands would be the brake pads and the record would be the brake rotor. 

Now that you know a little more about brake pads, let’s go back to the original question of how you know when you need new ones. Using mileage as a measurement is no longer valid. The diversity of braking systems used today produces results that are all over the board. Performance vehicles may require brake pad replacement in only 15,000 miles while others may go as far as 200,000 miles on a single set of front brake pads! 

For this reason, many manufacturers include wear indicators. This is a thin strip of metal that rides near the contact surface. As the brake pads wear down this wear indicator makes contact with the rotor surface to produce a squealing noise. However, if you’re like most people and listen to your radio while you drive, you may never hear this warning, which can cause big headaches. Because when the brake pad lining material wears away the metal backing plate, it makes direct contact with the rotor causing damage that is very expensive to repair. 

Many vehicles now have brake light indicators on the dash that will signal your brakes need attention. If yours doesn’t, most service or repair facilities complete a visual brake inspection each time the wheels are removed to do a tire rotation. Just ask your service provider to measure the remaining brake pad lining and give you a report. To do it yourself, you may be able to visualize the lining if you can see it through the wheel cover, or you can remove the wheel.

Pads are not the only thing you have to monitor though. Brake rotors can be damaged and need repair or replacement too. And your brake lines need to be clear. So if you notice anything unusual in how much force it takes to stop your vehicle, the brakes seem mushy, or the car shimmies or pulls to the side, you need to have your brake system checked.

Here’s a word to the wise, if you think that you’re being told that you need brake pads too often, you probably are. Most service facilities will take a look at your brakes at no charge so don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. As far as deciding which brakes to buy, there are a multitude of choices. But in the matter of your brakes, having good brakes and being able to stop your vehicle is very important. And, as with most things, higher quality generally means higher price. And also important is that you have the brakes specifically designed for your vehicle. Having your brakes serviced by your car dealer ensures you get just that.